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LeBron James jumps into a trap built by friends, family



Published: Sat, February 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



There was reason to believe that the high school basketball career of LeBron James was not going to come to a good end when he started driving to school in a $75,000 Hummer H2 with three TVs and a video game system. James responded to an Ohio High School Athletic Association inquiry into his mother's purchase of the car by showing up at his next game with a remote control model of the car, which he drove on the court before warming up.

The public still doesn't know how James' mother, who is unemployed and lives in federally subsidized housing, managed to buy the car for her son, but whatever method she used to get a bank loan had been adequately vetted by James' lawyers and the OHSAA found no violation of its rules.

Had James only consulted his lawyers before accepting two sports jerseys from a Cleveland clothing store valued at $845 last week, he would still be a member in good standing of the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball team.

Instead, his future with the team -- and, by extension, his team's future in the state basketball playoffs -- rests with a Summit County Common Pleas Court judge. It's a lot to hope for, but let's hope the judge has the guts to tell James that it is time he recognize that the rules apply to all Ohio high school athletes, even exceedingly talented ones who will be going directly from high school into the National Basketball Association draft.

Weak excuses

In a softball interview on CBS' "The Early Show" with Deion Sanders, former NFL star turned commentator, James claimed that he thought he was being given the shirts in recognition of his academic accomplishments. In a suit seeking an injunction against OHSAA's disqualification of James, his lawyer claims that James had no idea of the value of the jerseys. Both claims strain credulity.

The OHSAA has a rule that athletes are not to trade on their status as athletes for anything of value exceeding $100. Perhaps in today's hearing. James will not only be able to explain the latest jersey acquisitions, but how a lad of limited means pays for the insurance and the prodigious amounts of gasoline his Hummer consumes. How does he pay for the obviously expensive clothes he's wearing every time he's seen in a news clip or photograph -- he's boasted of owning eight other expensive throwback jerseys. What about the pagers and cell phones he carries? The jewelry he wears? How does he pay for the lawyers and a public relations agency? Where does it all come from?

It is difficult to feel sorry for James, given his recent lifestyle and the fact that in a matter of weeks or months he will be signing multimillion-dollar shoe-company and NBA contracts. But he has not been served well by those around him. Certainly not his mother, his posse, his coaches or his school.

Together they have convinced him not only that he is special -- he's known for years that his ability on the basketball court sets him apart from the crowd -- but they have convinced him that he is above the rules.

The OHSAA has stepped in to say he isn't.




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