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CLEVELAND – Barber Nick Castemanos has grown tired of getting asked over and over again about the hairline of his most famous client, LeBron James.
"There is no dye. No additives. No preservatives," Castemanos told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview Thursday. "Everyone thinks he's dying his hair using [temporary hair colorings] Bigen or Black Ice. It's all his hair. They still don't believe me. I get Bigen comments all the time.
"I've become numb to it. It used to bother me. It's not easy to hear that."
Castemanos has one of the cooler jobs as James' new personal barber.
Castemanos first began cutting the hair of NBA players in the early 2000s in Miami. Former Miami Heat swingman Dorell Wright initially introduced Castemanos to Heat guard Dwyane Wade. Through Wade, Castemanos said he often landed private jobs cutting players from teams visiting Miami. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and film producer Spike Lee are some of his past customers. While Castemanos' celebrity list grew, so did his reputation as an elite barber.
James' four-year tenure with the Heat began when he signed as a free agent in 2010 after departing from the Cavaliers amidst chaos. In October of 2010, Wade set up James with Castemanos for a haircut. Castemanos quickly hit it off with James and has been cutting his hair all over the United States ever since.
"I was a little star struck at first," Castemanos said. "But LeBron was very cool and welcoming. And this was after going through a lot of scrutiny for coming to Miami."
Of all his customers, Castemanos says James is the most challenging and meticulous with his hair and beard. A typical haircut for the NBA's most heralded player takes nearly an hour.
"LeBron is very tedious about how his hair is cut," said Castemanos, who has been a professional barber for 11 years. "The beard is the No. 1 thing. He leaves the top up to me. I leave him less bald. He's my guy.
"He's my hardest haircut. He has good hair. You have to cut it right. He just has a few fat patches around the chin that you have to take your time with. You have to have patience. It usually takes about 50 minutes."
Since 2014, Castemanos has gone to Portland, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Cleveland to cut James' hair. Castemanos was summoned to a Sprite commercial shoot in Akron, Ohio, last August when James made him a life-altering offer, asking him to move to Cleveland to become his private barber – while also allowing him to take clients on the side when he was available.
"LeBron said, 'Hey Nick, I really think you should come to Cleveland to work for me,' " Castemanos said. "I didn't give him an immediate yes or no. But his mom said, 'You better take it.' "
Castemanos, 29, eventually said yes, opting to leave his friends, family and clients in the warm Miami suburb of West Kendall, Fla., for the cold winter of unfamiliar Cleveland.
"My friends and family are happy for me," Castemanos said. "My clients are sad to see me go."
So what is James paying Castemanos?
"It's not as crazy as everyone thinks, but it's cool," Castemanos said. It's a real good opportunity."
Popular Cleveland barber Jav Vasquez of downtown's Frank Chop Shop admitted to being a little surprised that an outsider got the private barber job from James. But after getting to know Castemanos and his work, Vasquez understood why he was the chosen one for James.
"When I met him I kind of felt like, 'Who is this dude who came out of no where?' " said Vasquez, who has clients from the Cavaliers and the NFL's Cleveland Browns. "One of my biggest dreams is to be a celebrity's personal barber. But Nick is cool. We feed off of each other. I learned off of him. He learns off of me.
"He deserves it. I give him mad props."
If you want a private cut from Castemanos, he typically does house calls starting at $75 per hour when he's available. Per request from James, he was in San Francisco during the start of the NBA Finals to cut the players' hair in a private hotel suite courtesy of Beats By Dre. One perk of the new job was attending the first two NBA Finals games at Golden State.
"The only two Cavaliers that I haven't cut are Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Harris," Castemanos said.
Castemanos said veteran center Kendrick Perkins once paid him $800 to cut his hair and that of his friends. "Big Perk, I thought he might be an [expletive]," Castemanos said. "But he's the biggest, coolest dude in the world."
Castemanos began looking for an apartment in Cleveland last November and finally found one in February. He moved into his new place on Tuesday, which was also Game 3 of the NBA Finals. After getting to his new home late after the Cavs' win, the reality of Castemanos' job with James began to sink in, even as he slept on the floor because his furniture had not arrived.
"With LeBron, you got to earn it," Castemanos said. "If he likes you, that means you've earned it. He's seen it all. He's my toughest client. But it's a challenge and an opportunity that I wanted.
"We get in little arguments here and there. He nicknamed me, 'Sucka.' He's like a big brother to me."
Castemanos said he cut James' hair early Thursday morning, hours before the Cavaliers' loss to the Warriors in Game 4 . James suffered a cut in the back of his head when he fell into a TV camera during the game. Afterward, he received stitches to close the gash. Castemanos is confident the stitches won't stop him from giving James the haircut he desires when he returns from the Bay Area after Sunday's Game 5.
"It's just another hill to climb," Castemanos said. "He'll be as good as new in no time."
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