LeBron's new ride raises eyebrows - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

LeBron's new ride raises eyebrows

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James is traveling like a professional player these days. And not just on the court.

James, the nation's most hyped player and expected No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, is driving a Hummer H2, a sports utility vehicle popular with many pro athletes, around Akron.

James' ride -- with a base retail price of nearly $50,000 -- has state high school officials wondering if the 18-year-old has jeopardized his amateur standing.

"We have some concerns," said Clair Muscaro, commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. "The thing I'm concerned about is that it was gift from the outside. ... When our schools see something like that, it throws up a red flag. It's different than a parent buying their son or daughter a small vehicle."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that James, a senior at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, was given the vehicle (pictured, above) as an 18th birthday present by his mother, Gloria.

The SUV is outfitted with three televisions and a hookup for computer games. Gloria James obtained a bank loan to finance the purchase, the paper said quoting anonymous sources close to the team.

Gloria James declined to comment Sunday after her son scored 30 points to lead the top-ranked Fighting Irish to a 76-41 win over 18th-ranked Detroit Redford at the Cleveland Convocation Center.

"I've got nothing to say about that," she said.

Muscaro said the athletic association is interested in hearing what the 600-student private Catholic school has to say about the young superstar's vehicle.

"We have not yet talked to the school," Muscaro said. "We plan to follow up with a phone call. We'll see if they know anything about it. We would like to find out what they know. I think it is important for our member schools to know what's going on."

According to an athletic association bylaw, an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."

"If he has violated any of the rules, he would have to give up his amateur eligibility from the time the car was delivered," Muscaro said.

St. Vincent-St. Mary athletic director Grant Innocenzi said the school plans to comply with the athletic association's inquiry.

"Our school officials will fully cooperate and expect our coaches, as well as the family, to act similarly," he said.

If ordered by the athletic association, Innocenzi said the school would provide documentation on how the car was purchased.

"If they said they wanted it to prove his eligibility, we would do that," Innocenzi said before Sunday's game.

Innocenzi said he has not seen James' SUV, and he would not comment on whether he was concerned that James had jeopardized his amateur status.

James' coach refused to answer questions about the situation.

"We're just talking basketball," Dru Joyce said. "I'm a basketball coach, and he's a basketball player."

But not just any basketball player, which is why his choice of personal transportation has caused an uproar with some of the athletic association's 823 members.

Muscaro said he has received phone calls, letters and e-mails since the beginning of the season from parents and coaches questioning St. Vincent-St. Mary's travel to out-of-state games and ticket prices for James' games.

"It has been one thing after another," Muscaro said.

Because of James' popularity, he and his teammates have played in 10,000-plus seat arenas around the country and many of the school's games are available on television for a fee in northeast Ohio.

"I've heard from parents who have had to pay $12 to $15 to see their son play just because they were playing against St. Vincent-St. Mary," Muscaro said. "They're used to paying only $3 or $4, and now it's like they're going to see a big-time college. Is that fair?"

Muscaro said St. Vincent-St. Mary has cooperated with previous OHSAA inquires about James.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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