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LeBron James: Keeping a billion-dollar body in shape

Everyone knows about LeBron James and his fanatical workouts, but not many people know about the guy entrusted with k...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 11:22 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 11:22 AM

Everyone knows about LeBron James and his fanatical workouts, but not many people know about the guy entrusted with keeping his billion-dollar body in shape.

Mike Mancias would like to keep it that way.

Mancias has worked with James for 14 years

Previously teamed with Michael Jordan's trainer

Mancias entrusted with James during offseason

The Cleveland Cavaliers' athletic trainer has been working closely with the NBA's four-time MVP and global icon ever since he joined the team 14 years ago.

Along with overseeing drills, Mancias' duties encompass everything from keeping tabs on James' diet, to preparing his recovery fluids, to flushing out lactic acid from his body after big games.

Over the years, Mancias has become inseparable from James, who once dubbed him "one of the best trainers in the world." He has shadowed him during All-Star breaks, Olympic duties and, crucially, his grueling offseason workouts.

"He's family, and so it goes beyond basketball and beyond anything on the hardwood," Mancias, 40, tells CNN of their relationship. "He trusts me and I trust him, so it's all good."

Communication is key

Mancias, who completed degrees in health education and kinesiology before being certified as an athletic trainer, is primarily employed by the Cavaliers with responsibilities towards the entire roster -- a point he repeats often during this rare interview.

But the fact that he works with James outside of club duties can be a tricky situation for all parties if mishandled -- especially given the enormous stakes involved.

"I think the number one thing is communication," he explains.

"These teams, these owners, these general managers, they are the ones investing millions upon millions of dollars in these players' contracts, and so we want to make sure that they are in the right hands of someone with knowledgeable credentials."

During James' annual summer workouts in Los Angeles, Mancias often reports back to the Cavaliers' strength and conditioning coach, head athletic trainer and general manager on their star's progress, explaining that "all three of those people need to be in the loop."

"This relationship is 14 years in the making," says Mancias. "(The Cavs management) know that we are tight, we're close, and they know that he's in good hands."

READ: Eat, sleep and work out like an athlete of the future

'Everyone wants individual attention'

Not so long ago, the concept of a player hiring a workout guru was reserved for superstars like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, both who worked with Tim Grover as their personal trainers.

Mancias, in fact, got his start as a summer intern for Grover, who was hired by Jordan to get the then-38-year-old in shape for his comeback from retirement with the Washington Wizards.

At that point in Jordan's career, the familiarity and trust he had established with Grover during his six-title run with the Chicago Bulls -- which encompassed a brief switch to professional baseball and the death of his father -- led him to seek assistance outside of the Wizards organization.

"He was there through the ups and downs," Mancias says of Grover, who was not available for an interview for this article.

"A lot of times players feel like, 'Hey I'm an individual, I'm not your property, I can do what I want,' so they feel comfortable with someone, that's fine," he explains. "That someone just has to be great at communicating, that's the bottom line.

"I think all teams, to be honest with you, would prefer that players stick to their own strength coaches or athletic trainers, but we're in a day and age where every player on the bench can hire a personal trainer for the summer basically to be on call 24/7.

"It's a lot easier, and there is a comfort level as well when you have your own guy," he adds. "Everyone wants individual attention, individual care, and I don't blame them."

Mancias would know.

When James famously bolted from Cleveland to Miami in 2010 there was no immediate opening for Mancias on the Heat's staff, and in the interim he worked directly with the player on the superstar's payroll.

Nervous of being seen as a distraction, Mancias called the Heat's head athletic trainer once he became aware of the move.

"I'm not here to be a sideshow," he said. The gesture was appreciated, and the Heat hired Mancias the following season.

"Things went really smoothly because we all communicated, and I was on the same page," he recalls. "It was about winning championships for him, not for me."

After James and the Heat earned two titles in Miami, he returned to Cleveland in 2015. Mancias, of course, went with him and the Cavs welcomed him with open arms.

A season later James would lead the Cleveland to its first championship in 52 years in a seven-game Finals classic against the Golden State Warriors.

James completed the most statistically dominant performance in Finals history, posting series highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, block and minutes played, with Mancias overseeing his intricate recovery process between games.

During flights after particularly grueling games, Mancias has reportedly used a combination of an electro-stimulation machine, air-pumped compression sleeves, and manual soft tissue massage to quicken James' recovery process.

The routine is sandwiched between a pre-flight ice-bath and, once James' has gotten some sleep, a post-flight stationary bike spin.

READ: The doctor transforming elite athletes with her all-seeing eye

A throwback in the Instagram era

Unlike Grover, who has authored a series of books, patented his own system and is available for speaking engagements, Mancias says he keeps a low profile "out of respect to my coworkers and the other athletic trainers who work hard as well."

"It's not about me," he explains. "I'm a chef at a restaurant, I don't own my own restaurant."

It's also a way of preserving the unwavering trust between him and the NBA's No. 1 superstar. Simply put, Mancias is loath to draw attention to himself based on James' achievements.

In the era of social media, he is nothing short of a throwback.

Although James regularly posts clips of his workouts to his 34 million followers on Instagram -- provoking good-natured ribbing from his NBA cohorts -- Mancias doesn't appear in them, is not on Instagram, and rarely tweets.

Though many in his place would salivate with a few selfies with King James to promote their business, the thought never crosses Mancias' mind.

"Frankly they have to sell their brand," he says of the so-called "Insta-trainers" who have proliferated online. "Without doing all the social media and pictures, I still get attention.

"My brand, if you will, is making sure we're in the right position to win championships," he says, "not just make me famous."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
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