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All Access At The NBA Finals: A CNN Bleacher Report Special. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 6, 2015 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:04] RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS HOST: Welcome to Oakland, California. We're in the heart of the Bay Area at Oracle Arena, home to the Golden State Warriors, and this weekend home to one of the most exciting events in sports. This is all access at the NBA Finals, a CNN "Bleacher Report" special. And in the next half hour you'll get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at this marquee matchup featuring basketball's two most popular stars. This is the end of a journey a year in the making start when LeBron James staged sport's most epic homecoming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the news we've been waiting for for weeks. The king is going back home.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I'm the dude that makes my city and my state happen. And that's why I came back. I love you. I'm back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the back, fires a three. Oh, he puts it in!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Warriors win 67 games!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it one more time for this year's MVP, Steph Curry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBA playoff basketball is back in Cleveland. Cavs are thinking championships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to the NBA Finals!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goes to the rim, Thompson with the block.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about two rookie coaches in the NBA Finals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all fine and dandy, the rookie coaches, but I think I want to see Steph versus LeBron.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NICHOLS: We'd like to welcome our viewers around the world, and of course all of you watching in the U.S. We are literally in the center of it all, right, guys? I'm Rachel Nichols. I'm here along with Grant Hill, seven-time all-star, and Steve Smith, who won the NBA championship in 2003. Welcome.


NICHOLS: You guys have been to a lot of NBA Finals. But just being in the building so far in this series, the energy in this one, it feels a little different, right?

HILL: It has been. This place has been just unbelievable, the energy, the passion, the excitement. Some of the best sports fans here in the Bay Area, here game one, Golden State-Cleveland. The best fans, or one of the best fans in the NBA. So it's been fun to be a part of and witness and experience the excitement and magic of Oracle Arena.

STEVE SMITH: Grant definitely has to talk about that, and I definitely have to echo him. I have some goose bumps when you get a chance to be at the finals, but you have to have headliners. And we're talking about the reigning MVP in Stephen Curry, and then you're talking about arguably the best player on the planet going head to head.

NICHOLS: Yes, absolutely. And they took very different paths to get here, right, because, LeBron is Mr. All Everything, and Steph is everyone's favorite underdog. Can you be an underdog and an MVP? How did he pull that off, because he has managed it somehow?

SMITH: You said it best, Rachel. I think his path totally different from LeBron James. I mean, LeBron James, we knew about when he was 13, 14-years-old, and obviously Stephen Curry because of his dad, but the path Stephen Curry took to get here versus LeBron, and now these two are meeting.

HILL: They're meeting here on the stage, the two most exciting, the two most dynamic, two very different superstars leading their teams to the NBA Finals, getting a chance to watch them go at it. I'm excited.

NICHOLS: Of course there is going to be more pressure on LeBron James now. On Friday, we found out that Kyrie Irving, the guy the Cavaliers team who is Robin to LeBron's Batman, right, broke his kneecap in this collision in game one, left the arena on crutches. This was hard to watch, right? He's now out for the next three or four months.

This means LeBron will be under the spotlight now more than ever, although as he told me before this series when we sat down back in Cleveland, he's more ready to handle anything now because he feels more grounded with where he is. Take a look.


(CHEERS) NICHOLS: To be at this point in the playoffs, because it means a lot to you just because I know how much you care about basketball. But you also have your family here --


NICHOLS: -- in Cleveland for the first time in a long time.


NICHOLS: How has that made this different?

JAMES: Just a sense of security and comfort. For me, when my home is happy, taken care of, it makes my job a lot easier.

NICHOLS: And you're in the community here. We were setting up this interview and you were shopping in Bed, Bath & Beyond, with your wife.


NICHOLS: I don't think people would believe that you actually go out and do that yourself. You don't have someone do that for you. You're out there picking out, what, sheets?

JAMES: I was picking out pillows and getting some new glasses and forks and knives and things of that nature.

NICHOLS: And you feel comfortable doing that here?

JAMES: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. These people here have seen me grow from the knuckleheaded kid all the way to the well-rounded, you know, father and husband of this city. And, you know, without the city itself, I wouldn't be who I am today.

[14:35:09] NICHOLS: You came into the NBA right out of high school.


NICHOLS: So you were definitely the kid for a long time. And you go to Miami, you're sort of in that middle ground, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh. They're more your peers, that kind of thing age-wise. You come here, Kyrie Irving is 23.

JAMES: Right.

NICHOLS: Tristan Thompson is 24.

JAMES: Right.

NICHOLS: You are firmly in the older brother role.

JAMES: Yes, I am.

NICHOLS: How has that changed your leadership?

JAMES: It changes a lot. And, you know, in Miami, it was myself and D-Wade. We kind of shared that leadership, you know. And I knew coming here that I would have to be the sole leader. I knew one thing I had to work on and I'm always working on every day is my patience, all the time.

NICHOLS: You told me that a few weeks ago. I said what has been the story for you this season, and you said patience.

JAMES: Yes, my patience.

NICHOLS: And you're not known as a patient guy, I've got to tell you, over the years.

JAMES: I'm not. I'm not a very patient guy. But being in this situation and these guys, they haven't had much experience. So a lot of things that was coming at us that was frustrating me earlier, I had to understand that these guys didn't know what was handed to them. So I almost had to go back to having my first child, you know, and understand, OK, this is a kid and they have to learn and you have to be patient with them. And then at some point, you know, they start to get it, you know. It's repetition.

NICHOLS: Is this easier for you because you are a dad?

JAMES: I think so, because obviously, you know, being a parent, it tests your patience for sure.

NICHOLS: I got to ask you about a couple other random things in your life. You are freezing yourself on a regular basis.



NICHOLS: People who have not seen this, you walk into a tank that is 230 degrees below Fahrenheit?

JAMES: Yes. Yes.

NICHOLS: And freezes your skin.

JAMES: Don't try this at home, people. Please don't.


NICHOLS: Why are you doing this?

JAMES: I take my body very seriously. And the amount of pounding and contact that my body has endured the last few years, I try to find ways that would help me just recover faster. And we found out about this particular treatment that doesn't give you 100 percent life back, but it just helps the body recover.

NICHOLS: We also have to talk about your Hollywood career, because after the finals are over, after the playoffs are over, you have a movie coming out. JAMES: Sorry to interrupt. Are you watching "Downton Abbey" later?

I'm watching it tonight because I'm not going to practice and all the guys are talking about it, and I'm left out.

It's different than walking on the NBA floor. I have much bigger nerves walking on set.

NICHOLS: Really? Come on.

JAMES: It's my first time. I've done commercials. I've done PSAs, but I never stepped on a movie set in my life. But it was extremely fun to be around those guys.

NICHOLS: Most people want to be a movie star because they want to be rich and famous. You are already rich and famous.


NICHOLS: Why do you want to get into all this?

JAMES: I always talked about it as a kid. I was, like, I would love the do an action movie, you know, either be like a cop or something or be like Batman and be a superhero and be able to save people and save corruption and all that mess. I always had it in my head. Hopefully I can do some more things maybe. We'll see.

NICHOLS: Goal number one, win an NBA championship for Cleveland.

JAMES: Absolutely, absolutely.

NICHOLS: Down the road, goal number two, be Batman?

JAMES: Yes. Not bad at all.


NICHOLS: You know, what's funny about that movie role it was originally a cameo. But when he got on set, guys, the director found this guy's so relatable we can actually weave into the story. You kind of get that sitting and watching that interview, right?

HILL: Without a doubt. I'm sure it will be a great movie. It will show that he's a great actor. But what I loved about that interview, LeBron doing normal things, going shopping, buying pillows, demonstrating that, OK, he's the most recognizable athlete in the world, but the most recognizable athlete also does little things like you and I. And people like that. It's endearing to the public and to the audience.

SMITH: Rachel, I got a chance to sit down in an interview with LeBron James, and we got a chance to talk about him being a dad, going to his kids' games. And I asked him, I said, what kind of dad are you? He said, you know what Smithy -- I also asked a question, Rachel, if you saw your son doing the --

NICHOLS: Do you step in? SMITH: Do you step in? He said, you know, Smithy, I'm balancing and

juggling, and I can relate because I'm that dad knowing whether you step in, especially in the game of basketball, where do you sit, you go all the way up or down there behind the coach and the coach saying that's LeBron James behind me. So, yes, it is. And obviously he lit up started talking about his kids.

NICHOLS: He is a dad just like you guys.

And LeBron not the only dad on display in these finals. Don't go anywhere, guys. After this break, we are going to see Steph Curry and his two-year-old daughter, Riley. She may actually be the biggest star of these NBA playoffs. Stick around.


[14:43:31] NICHOLS: Welcome back to Oracle Arena, where game two of the NBA Finals are going to be played on Sunday. They're all going for this, by the way. This is my friend, Larry O'Brien. Larry, I'm going to let Grant Hill and Steve Smith just sort of run around the arena with this trophy later after the show, so we'll try to post pictures of that.

The Warriors now lead this best-of-seven series 1-0, and while there has been no shortage of love for Golden State star Steph Curry, this real breakout may be his daughter. She is two-years-old, her name is Riley. And check her out stealing the show during her dad's press conferences.


STEPHAN CURRY, NBA PLAYER: I've never done this before. Ready? We're both supposed to --


CURRY: I know. Hold on one second.

RILEY CURRY: Be quiet.


CURRY: There's obviously story lines throughout the playoffs. I think she's taking advantage of the moment for sure. She's way too comfortable.



NICHOLS: I think she is adorable, but there has actually been a little controversy about Riley. Some people saying she does not belong in this environment. Well, on set here, we have an expert on being the kid of a famous athlete. Grant's father, Calvin Hill, was an NFL all-pro running back with the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins. And, guys, we have a little picture here of little adorable Grant.

SMITH: Oh, wow.

NICHOLS: Do you remember this?

HILL: Going way back, Rachel.


[14:45:02] SMITH: Look at those little cheeks. Those little cheeks.

HILL: That was Smithy. That was Steve Smith.


NICHOLS: Now, when you think back to that time, how much did you happening out with your professional athlete dad? Were you in the locker room? Were you on the sidelines? Were you doing little press conference dances?

HILL: I wasn't doing the press conference dance, but a lot of my fondest memories of my upbringing were times with my dad in the locker room, on the sidelines. See, what people don't realize is to be a professional athlete is a huge sacrifice on your family. And so to be able to bring your kids in the locker room and have them be a part of your success and what you're doing is big, it's priceless. And so it was for me. I know it was for my dad. And I know it is for Steph and his daughter as well.

NICHOLS: For Steph, this is just natural since his father was NBA star Dell Curry, and Steph was often courtside himself as a little kid. Now, earlier this week our Matt Winer sat down with Steph and talked about the old days.


MATT WINER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What would kid Steph think of MVP western conference champion Steph and where he is right now?

CURRY: I don't even know, man. I still haven't wrapped my mind around all that's happened this year. And I think it's a good thing just to stay in the moment, but probably think with a scrawny little 6'3" kid is doing trying to make his name in the NBA. So, like I said, it's hard to kind of wrap my mind around all that's happened this year, good and bad, and hopefully in a couple weeks I'll able to decompress with a championship trophy and my team and celebrate and be able to look back and appreciate all that happened this year.


NICHOLS: All right, we'll see if that happens. has more on Steph Curry. Is he the greatest shooter of all time? Many of the NBA's all-time marksmen are weighing in. And I wonder if you guys weigh in on that, too. I noticed during the video these guys were echoing the shots going in. What is it about the way Steph Curry shoots basketballs that makes even not really big-time sports fans go, oh?

SMITH: I think, Rachel, just to sum it up quickly, it's the accuracy from distance. You talk about the three-point line and then there's the Stephen Curry line. I think for me, he goes back and still keeps that accuracy. And then the little spice with his dribble in there. So I think for me, that accuracy from that distance.

HILL: And Smithy, for me, every time he shoots the ball, I expect it to go in. I'm surprised when he actually misses. The most important thing, when you see all the greats at the finals watching him they're all in awe. No one has ever done it like Steph Curry.

NICHOLS: When you guys are impressed we know you should be impressed. And Steph not the only one trying to write his name into NBA history. No matter which team wins the championship, it's going to be the first time a rookie coach wins the title in 30 years. Stay tuned. We're going to take you from center court to inside the locker room with Steve Kerr and David Blatt. "All Access at the NBA Finals" continues.


[14:51:22] NICHOLS: Welcome back to "All Access at the NBA Finals," a CNN "Bleacher Report" special. I'm Rachel Nichols here with Grant Hill and Steve Smith. And, guys, usually when you hear the term "rookie" you're thinking about the youngest players on the team. This time the word is being used to describe the head coaches here. They're both in their first year.

Of course, these guys didn't come out of nowhere. Cavaliers coach David Blatt has had quite the journey coaching in Israel, Russia, Italy, Turkey, and Greece. His team won the Euro League championship just last year. Last year Steve Kerr was on our side of the camera, right guys, working as a television analyst. Of course, there's also the three NBA championships with Michael Jordan's Bulls, and, oh, those two more he won with your Spurs teams. So we know Steve Kerr also. And you might not know him in the locker room. Let's go all access with these guys, see what happened after that intense, emotional game one.


STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS HEAD COACH: It takes time. It's not just the course of the game. It's the course of the entire series. But it's a great job, great way to start the series.

DAVID BLATT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS HEAD COACH: That's one game, fellas, that's one game. We had our chances to win that game, too. We can't have small lapses, fellas. I know there were fewer than even in a normal game, all right? We can't forget the little things.


NICHOLS: All right, so, guys, two first-timers but very different paths to get here, and we saw different coaching styles. Who do you think had the tougher path here and has the tougher job now as a first-year coach? HILL: I would say Steve Kerr. Steve Kerr had never coached before at

any level, came to a team that had a special relationship with last year's coach, Mark Jackson, won them over in the locker room and really built championship aspirations. This team was not thinking about a championship at the start of the season, but he built that in them. They started to believe, and now here they are --

NICHOLS: They're thinking about it now.

HILL: -- knocking on the door for a championship.

SMITH: Grant, I'm going to disagree. I'm going to go David Blatt. The reason why is you're talking about he was hired as a Cleveland Cavaliers coach, never had any experience in this type of setting, in this league, in the NBA.

NICHOLS: In this league.

SMITH: And then you get LeBron James. You have one team and next thing you know you acquire LeBron James. You had a trade throughout the season. And then who does he call when he wants to lay it off? Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Lenny Wilkins? Who does David Blatt call?

NICHOLS: All his former coaches are hall of famers. Must be nice.

All right, we've got plenty more still ahead. If you live in Ohio or California, you already know about the suffering Cleveland and Oakland basketball fans have had to go through. If not, we will explain. You are watching "All Access at the NBA Finals," a CNN "Bleacher Report" special.


[14:58:07] NICHOLS: Welcome back to the CNN "Bleacher Report All Access" look at the NBA Finals. I'm Rachel Nichols here with Steve Smith and Grant Hill.

And guys, we've got Cleveland, which hasn't won a title in any major sport, not just basketball, any major sport in 50 years plus. And then Oakland, the last time the Warriors won a title, that was 40 years ago. He's got some nice afros there in that picture. The team they beat, the Washington Bullets, they don't eve haven't the same name anymore. That's how long it was. So what does it mean to a city or just the kids in that city, Steve, when they finally get that title?

SMITH: I was a kid in 1984 when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series. I remember that feeling to this day. And me and my friends talk about how we were jumping around and hugging each other and feeling prideful, being from Detroit and have the Detroit Tigers win the World Series.

HILL: When your team wins a championship, it galvanizes a community, an entire city. It can lift the spirit. Everyone feels good. And one of these cities here soon is going to get that feeling. NICHOLS: Finally, finally.

All right, so as we wrap up here, let's take a look at both sides. What do you think it's going to mean to each team and to these superstar players we keep talking about for their legacy if they're the ones who win?

HILL: For Steph Curry and Golden State in the era of the point guard, a little guy leading his team to a championship, becoming a legend here in the Golden State area, wow, it will be unbelievable for Steph Curry.

SMITH: Grant, Rachel, no Kyrie, no Kevin Love. If LeBron James can take this team --

NICHOLS: If he does this.

SMITH: -- and elevate the Cavaliers to a championship, that conversation, the greatest ever.

NICHOLS: We got to start having it. All right, we know either way a lot of folks are going to be watching. Ratings for game one, they were the highest since Michael Jordan's Bulls were on their run 17 years ago. And we thank you for watching this show today. For Grant Hill, for Steve Smith, I'm Rachel Nichols. Enjoy the game.