Early July marks celebrations for our nation’s independence. In Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Cavaliers fans hope to celebrate LeBron James’ independence from any other team than the one with which he began his career.
NBA free agency starts on July 1. Although fellow NBA stars Carlos Boozer, Yao Ming and Dwayne Wade are also eligible for free agency this summer, all eyes seem to be on King James. Will he stay in Cleveland, near his hometown and a huge fan base? Or will he be lured by the come-hither enticements of other NBA teams who’d give just about anything to have him on board?
There are those in Northeast Ohio who also are willing to show how much they’d give to keep James in the area, and they’re pleading their cases this week, just as free agency gets into full swing.
* On Thursday, July 1, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers will hold a “LeBrown James Stay in Cleveland Rally” during a 7:05 p.m. game against the Jamestown Jammers at Eastwood Field in Niles. The Scrappers, a minor league baseball team, will offer a rally towel giveaway and a free lower-box seat to anyone wearing Cavs or James apparel. According to the team website, admission to the game will be denied to anyone wearing Chicago, New York or Miami gear. Fans will also be able to sign a giant card for James, which will be sent to the Cavaliers.
If James remains a Cavalier, the Scrappers say they will name a seating section after him and donate 23 tickets per game in that section for the remainder of the season to local community and youth organizations.
* Michael Symon, owner of Cleveland’s Lola and Lolita restaurants and one of the “Iron Chefs” on Food Network, has said he will go to James’ house once a month to prepare a special meal if James stays in Cleveland.
* A Facebook fan page, “If LeBron Stays in Cleveland, I Will Donate $50 to a Charity He Chooses,” currently has 289 fans, who have pledged to contribute to whatever fund LeBron suggests as long as he remains a Cavalier.
* The “witness mobile” has been touring around Northeast Ohio, complete with a Nike swoosh and the number 23 (James’ jersey number) emblazoned on the side. Also on the car is the website for Please Don’t Leave 23, a campaign started by Kent State students Austin Briggs and Brittany Neal to show support for James. Fans can sign the car, a kind of traveling petition asking James to stay with the Cavaliers.
With the variety of organizations, local celebrities and ordinary citizens offering rallies, campaigns and tributes, it’s clear that James’ fan base in Northeast Ohio is vast. They’ve made their decision; now the ball is in King James’ court.