CLEVELAND - The Browns' practice facility was loaded with star power Thursday morning.
LeBron James, arguably the most-known athlete on the planet, watched about one hour of practice. He was there with his two sons and a few friends on the eve of a homecoming celebration planned at InfoCision Stadium tonight in Akron.
Looking a bit on the thin side, James spent several minutes talking with Browns coach Mike Pettine. Safety Donte Whitner, who was given the day off, also talked to James on the sideline.
James' appearance was planned, although not all of the players were aware of it until he walked on the field about one hour into practice. The players seemed excited to have him on the scene.
"We have one of the biggest athletes in the world at practice," Whitner said. "I think there has to be a lot of buzz. A lot of guys never met LeBron before."
Several players went up to James after practice for photo opportunities. Pettine and his daughter Megan posed with James for a photo.
"I do know that I'm going to be father of the year now," Pettine said. "I got my daughter a picture with LeBron. She could care less about a picture with me."
James' appearance, coupled with quarterback Johnny Manziel being on the field, put two of the world's most known athletes together. Manziel didn't approach James immediately after practice, but the two talked briefly near a door to the facility several minutes later.
Manziel and James have developed a friendship through a business arrangement. Manziel recently signed a deal with the marketing firm LRMR Management, which is owned by James and close friend Maverick Carter.
Having both athletes in the area has turned on the sports fans of Northeast Ohio like nothing in recent memory. The Cavaliers, who are reportedly about to add Kevin Love to their roster in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, will be favored to win the NBA title and bring the first major-sports championship to the city since the 1964 Browns won the NFL title.
At the same time, there's a sense the Browns are on the rise. Pettine believes the synergy that has developed could be a positive.
"It's hard to explain when it happens," Pettine said. "I think it kind of gets fed through the fans. When the city gets revved up, I think you can have momentum from season to season."
It's likely that James will begin spending more time with Manziel now that he's living in his Bath Township home after playing the last four seasons for the Miami Heat. That could be a good thing in Manziel's development when he's in the public eye off the field.
"I'm sure he could (have a positive influence on Manziel)," Pettine said. "He's such a big star in the city and knows the city as well as he does and has the fame that he has earned over the years. I'm sure it can be nothing but a positive for Johnny."
James walked off the field after practice with his sons and spent a short period of time talking to players in the locker room. His appearance left an impression on most - but not all - of the players.
"I didn't want to be that guy that bothers him with everybody else over there," running back Ben Tate said. "I know how that feels. I'm not on his level, but I know how that feels."
Does anyone really know what it's like to be LeBron?