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: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10409104
Hinds10279202
Harrison7313112
Jackson6566128
Rankin5887106
Lee529496
Madison5014107
Forrest389786
Jones369088
Lauderdale3594147
Lafayette338253
Washington3246108
Lamar297850
Oktibbeha252362
Lowndes247064
Bolivar244384
Panola232653
Neshoba2249121
Marshall222851
Leflore208591
Monroe206778
Pontotoc204231
Lincoln197366
Sunflower192655
Warren180258
Tate177751
Union171926
Copiah167940
Pike165359
Yazoo160140
Scott159430
Itawamba157635
Alcorn155628
Pearl River155368
Coahoma152743
Simpson152653
Prentiss151331
Adams144752
Grenada143345
Leake139744
Holmes133461
Covington128639
Tippah128430
George128325
Winston125526
Hancock124341
Wayne121323
Marion119446
Attala119334
Tishomingo112443
Chickasaw109432
Newton108229
Tallahatchie98127
Clay94727
Clarke93653
Jasper85223
Stone80615
Calhoun78713
Walthall77629
Montgomery76926
Carroll74115
Lawrence73814
Smith73216
Yalobusha73128
Noxubee72717
Perry68326
Tunica62619
Greene61522
Jefferson Davis59017
Claiborne58916
Amite56615
Humphreys54719
Benton50018
Quitman5007
Webster46714
Kemper45018
Wilkinson40522
Jefferson37112
Choctaw3617
Franklin3555
Sharkey32417
Issaquena1204
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 252900

Reported Deaths: 3638
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33526501
Mobile20103365
Madison13723151
Tuscaloosa13366154
Montgomery12552236
Shelby1079677
Baldwin9051137
Lee787266
Morgan696451
Calhoun6598121
Etowah656167
Marshall647357
Houston541038
DeKalb498137
Cullman462443
St. Clair441956
Limestone440445
Lauderdale426754
Elmore421164
Walker3735111
Talladega370157
Jackson340423
Colbert332042
Blount306140
Autauga281842
Franklin257434
Coffee250015
Dale239054
Dallas231532
Chilton228939
Russell22663
Covington225034
Escambia202331
Tallapoosa187291
Chambers182750
Pike161514
Clarke161019
Marion144736
Winston137523
Lawrence133436
Pickens126518
Geneva12508
Marengo123424
Bibb120418
Barbour118911
Butler118642
Randolph105522
Cherokee105124
Hale98131
Fayette94616
Washington93219
Clay92824
Henry8896
Monroe83011
Lowndes80929
Cleburne78814
Macon75522
Crenshaw72230
Bullock70119
Lamar7018
Conecuh70014
Perry6916
Wilcox64818
Sumter58622
Greene43518
Choctaw43114
Coosa3664
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 33°
Columbus
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 37°
Oxford
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 38°
Starkville
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 36°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather