Ryan Lochte strolls around a Midtown rooftop in New York City. He has no drink in his hand, no girls on his shoulders, no cameras in his face. He wears a suit and mingles with some middle-aged executives from one of his sponsors, Airweave. They talk about sleep.
You miss the old Lochte.
"I think everyone pretty much knows how big of a party boy I was, how much of a playboy I was," Lochte says. "I was just carefree. Just the only thing that really mattered was swimming, but now everything's changed. There's a lot more than swimming."
Lochte is 31, a year older than Michael Phelps. In 2012, he arrived in London already with six Olympics medals, including three gold, from 2004 and 2008. But his fame really popped that year with five medals -- two gold -- as his extravagant personality and questionable quotes turned him into a cultural phenomenon, for better or for worse. Jezebel called him "America's sexiest douchebag."
"I never care what people think about me," Lochte says. "It goes in one ear and out the other. As long as I'm happy, that's all that matters, but I hear it. It's just like ... whatever."
In 2012, Lochte was the social chair of the Olympics. After competing the first week of the Games, he spent the second week out on the town in London. His mother told the media he only has "one-night stands." His simple speech mannerisms gained a following. He trademarked his catchphrase, "Jeah!" He was cast in an E! reality series, What would Ryan Lochte Do?
You thought you knew Ryan Lochte.
You knew the old Lochte.
"I'm more mature," Lochte says. "I'm not partying as much anymore. I'm actually watching what I eat. I'm settling down. Everything's just a complete 180 since 2012. I'm not sure if I'm trying to change my image. I'm just more mature. I'm making the right decisions now."
You don't know Ryan Lochte.
Lochte's idol is American swimming legend Pablo Morales. Morales won his first three Olympic medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Lochte was born in Rochester, New York, on Aug. 3, Day 7 of that Olympics. Morales won his lone gold in the 4x100 m medley the next day.
Lochte obviously does not remember the 1984 Games, but he remembers 1992, Morales' comeback in Barcelona after missing the 1988 Olympics. Morales again won gold in the 4x100 m medley, but he added an individual gold in the 100 m butterfly, an image that stuck with Lochte, days before his 8th birthday.
"He's the reason I wanted to become an Olympian," Lochte says. "Just seeing him, after he won, congratulating all the other swimmers, signing autographs, taking pictures with the fans, that's what I wanted. Just seeing how he put a smile on everyone's face, I was like I really want that, I want to be like him."
Lochte veered off course four years ago. Swimmers never expect to become celebrities. Lochte did not get into competitive swimming for the night clubs. He got in to inspire fans, the same way Morales did.
"I think it was just me," he says of his current commitment to maturity. "It was just me growing up. Stop doing all this little kid stuff and start becoming a man and start evolving into the person I want to be for the rest of my life."
You wish you was Lochte.
The Rio Games will be Lochte's fourth Olympics. There was a time Lochte could maneuver through towns -- Athens and Beijing -- without being recognized. That is no longer the case.
Lochte is asked who he would like to meet in this year's Olympic Village. "I think I've met pretty much everyone," he says. "Maybe the basketball team. They always come to the village to meet the swim team. They love the swim team for some reason."
Lochte plays basketball an estimated three times a week before going in the pool. He calls it "good activation."
"Basketball's my favorite sport," he says. "Whoops. More than swimming. It really is. No, I'm just kidding, but basketball is one of my favorite sports. I love it. I play it."
Stephen Curry is brought up. Lochte backtracks on knowing everyone. "That's a good one," he says. "I'd definitely like to meet him."
If Lochte is serious about maturity, Curry is the example to study. The best in his world at his craft, Curry is a publicist's dream boy. He is a man of talent, family and faith, but above all, like Morales, he puts smiles on fans' faces.
Lochte admires Curry's stroke on the court, and he ponders whether he had similar potential.
"I was pretty good. I could drain threes," Lochte says of his high school career. "I'm going to have to go against Steph Curry real quick."
Could Lochte beat him in a three-point shooting contest?
"No, not even close!" Lochte says. He starts chuckling. "He can shoot full court and I could shoot three-pointers and he'll still win."
Lochte could have stuck with the shtick, acting like he could actually beat Stephen Curry in a shooting contest and doing with some hilarious quotes.
Man, that would be so Lochte.
But that's the old Lochte.
"His character is very straight and I like that," says Motokuni Takaoka, CEO of Airweave, Lochte's mattress partner. "He likes this. He doesn't like that."
That new persona will be put to the test in Rio.
— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) March 9, 2016
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.