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James gets $90 million, while Nike strikes it rich

May 29, 2003|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Rarely has a collective gasp been more audible than the one which swept the sports world shortly after Nike signed LeBron James to a $90 million shoe deal. It went something like this:

I must have misheard you. Did you say $90 million? For a high school kid?!?

At least, that's the reaction I had. You know what I would do with $90 million? I'd take my wife-to-be on a 50-year honeymoon.

Surely, no high school kid is worth that much money, right?

Think again.

The truth is Nike hit the jackpot here. They just signed the top basketball name in the nation. Not the top player, mind you, but the top name.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, got as much attention over the past six months as LeBron. He was everywhere. He was criss-crossing the country with his St. Vincent-St. Mary teammates on a national tour that sold out arenas on both coasts. He was on ESPN. He was on the front page of almost every sports section in the nation, including ours. The Cleveland Cavaliers will make him the top pick in the NBA Draft. He's the most talked about high school athlete in this country's history.

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My bet is, LeBron's contract pays for itself the first week his mega-hyped shoes come out.

Nike's market is driven by kids and young adults, especially basketball fans. If you're hooping it up in D.C., Philly, New York or Chicago - and now, especially, Cleveland - it's gonna be a sin not to have a pair of LeBrons the second they hit the stores.

Nike didn't pay LeBron $90 million to be the best basketball player on the planet. They paid him $90 million to sell truckloads of $200-plus pairs of sneakers, and he will. Trust me, he will.

- In case you didn't do the math, of the eight baseball teams which made the Md. state finals, three of them were from the Monocacy Valley Athletic League. South Hagerstown beat Catoctin for the 1A title on Tuesday, and Walkersville is scheduled to play Eastern Tech today for the 2A crown.

MVAL schools have met in the 1A title game each of the past two seasons. Boonsboro beat Catoctin last year.

"What does that tell you about this league?" Rebels coach Ralph Stottlemyer asked me last week.

What it tells me is there's some pretty good prep baseball being played real close to home.

- Words can't do justice to how blown away I was when my father - not the world's biggest sports fan, mind you - showed up at the Charles Town Races and Slots on Sunday wearing an Anaheim Mighty Ducks cap.

Like any loving son, I immediately ragged him for bandwagon jumping, to which he said, "I'm rooting for Jiggy."

I swear, it got 10 degrees colder. How my dad knew the nickname of Anaheim's sensational goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is far beyond my comprehension.

I guess Jiggy fever really is sweeping the nation. Unbelievable.

n Still looking for a place to put my (ahem) hard-earned long-drive "trophy" (think soft, blue lunch thingamajig). I have only one requirement - that it be in full viewing range of colleague Tim Koelble's desk.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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