NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION - SEASON PREVIEW ; All Hail King James: LeBron Rules NBA

By Withers, Tom | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), October 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION - SEASON PREVIEW ; All Hail King James: LeBron Rules NBA


Withers, Tom, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


CLEVELAND - His shirt soaked with champagne after winning his fourth title in 2007, Tim Duncan had one more move before celebrating further with his Spurs teammates. He pivoted in a hallway inside Quicken Loans Arena, pulled 22-year-old LeBron James close and delivered a message. "The league is going to be yours soon, Duncan told James.

Seven years later, there's no denying the power and influence James holds over the NBA.

It's his league.

Beyond being the world's most complete player, a multifaceted, once-in-a-generation megastar, James is the undisputed face of his sport. Both iconic and inspirational, James transcends the game like Michael Jordan before him.

Whether it's adding a new wrinkle to his offensive repertoire, signing a shorter contract to give himself more options or his choice of headphones, James sets standards on and off the floor. He recently passed Tiger Woods as the athlete with the top brand value, according to Forbes, with endorsements worth more than $50 million last year alone.

"We have tons of stars in this league, Mavericks center Tyson Chandler said. "But that's another level and a different magnitude of a player.

Two months shy of his 30th birthday, James already has a lifetime's worth of accomplishments: Two-time NBA champion, four- time MVP, double Olympic gold medalist, A-list celebrity, philanthropist, businessman, husband and father.

"And, Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said with a sigh, "he's still young.

His decision this summer to return to the Cavs - revealed in a touching essay -helped Akron's favorite son win over fans who felt swindled when he signed with Miami four years ago.

By coming home, James boosted Cleveland's image and economy, turning a city already on the rebound into a sports hotspot and attractive destination for future free agents.

LeRoy Brooks, a finance professor at John Carroll University, estimates James' return will produce nearly $500 million in revenue in the city. The Cavs sold out season tickets, bars and restaurants are expanding staff and downtown hotels are filling up with out-of- town guests for the winter, when cold winds off Lake Erie keep locals inside.

Teamed with All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, James and the Cavs are a must-see attraction.

"Everybody is getting a piece of him coming back, Chandler said. "Clearly, he's the big dog.

And as he approaches his 12th season, James faces greater pressure than ever. Every move draws comparisons to Jordan and other legends. If he can deliver Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964, he'll boost his argument as the game's all-time best.

The latest chapter in his campaign launched with his essay: "I'm coming home. …

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