Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
I'm a huge fan of locally grown stuff. For example: fruit, vegetables, dairy products, athletes, etc. LeBron James, also known as "King James," is a fine example of what a locally grown athlete can do for an area.
After an 18-year-old James was selected as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, he truly made Cleveland "rock" (ref. "The Drew Carey Show"). James' arrival gave the Cavs their first playoff appearance since 1998, their first trip to the NBA Finals, their all-time best regular-season record and a new look – jerseys and swagger. The King's arrival boosted more than the basketball team – it boosted the greater Cleveland area.
Before James was a Cav, there were tons of empty seats in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, but now practically every game is sold out. Downtown Cleveland bustles when the Cavs are playing. Fans and tourists now regularly visit the area to watch Cavs' games and check out local landmarks – like his former high school – that pay homage to the NBA phenom.
Now that James is an NBA free agent, he has the option of going to another team. The Cavs have a slight advantage in that they're able to offer him the most lucrative contract, but some other teams offer a better shot at an NBA title. As good as the Cavs have become since James' arrival, they haven't won an NBA title.
Like James, Miami's Dwyane Wade and Toronto's Chris Bosh have been shopping around as free agents. With the two NBA superstars reported to have committed to play for the Miami Heat, all eyes are now on James. If James were to sign with Miami – or any team other than the Cavs – Cleveland would lose its King and at least some of the kingdom he helped create.
James' departure could cause the Cleveland area to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, some state and local public officials – including Gov. Ted Strickland – have been doing all sorts of things to try and keep the superstar in Ohio.
The 25-year-old is scheduled to officially announce his decision on Thursday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. I'm sure tons of NBA fans – especially those in the Cleveland area – will be watching with bated breath.
Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr CC
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.