LeBron chooses Nike in megamillion deal - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

LeBron chooses Nike in megamillion deal

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James has always idolized Michael Jordan right down to his shoes. Now the high school star will begin his NBA career just like Mike.

Only with a lot more money.

James (pictured, right) will go into the league with a swoosh after agreeing to a deal with Nike worth more than $90 million, The Associated Press learned Thursday.

James, the high school star expected to be the No. 1 pick in next month's draft, agreed to terms on the largest shoe endorsement deal ever, choosing Nike over Adidas and Reebok.

James was expected to sign the contract Thursday morning. A source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP the deal was worth more than $90 million.

Nike spokesman Mark Shapiro confirmed that an agreement had been reached with James. ESPN.com, citing unidentified sources, said it was a seven-year deal.

James' publicist, Alexandria Boone, would not confirm the deal but said a formal announcement would be made Thursday.

Recent published reports predicted that the 18-year-old from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School star might get a $100 million deal, which would be unprecedented in the history of sneaker endorsements.

When Jordan signed his first contract with Nike in 1984, it was for $2.5 million over five years.

Aaron Goodwin, James' agent, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last weekend, James, his mother, Gloria, and Goodwin spent two days at Nike's corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where the company made its final presentation.

Adidas appeared to drop out of the running earlier this week, just days after it put up billboards and placed messages on buses in Akron directed at James.

James also signed an exclusive multiyear contract with Upper Deck trading cards Wednesday.

The 6-foot-8 James' selection of Nike over Reebok and Adidas ends a nearly two-year battle among the shoe companies to land the dynamic player, whose game has been compared to that of Jordan and Magic Johnson.

James has received unprecedented media coverage the past two years. He has appeared on the cover of national sports magazines and this past season two of his games were televised nationally by ESPN.

The shoe deal came less than a day before James was to learn where he'll be wearing his Nikes as a pro.

The NBA will hold its draft lottery Thursday night, and the winner gets the right to select James, a three-time Mr. Ohio in Basketball and the consensus national player of the year the past two years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, who tied for the league's worst record this season, have the best chance at getting the top pick.

Terms of the deal with Upper Deck were not immediately available, but company spokesman Jake Gonzales said James' contract is on a level with previous agreements signed by Jordan, Tiger Woods and soccer star David Beckham.

Boone said the trading card deal included a $1 million signing bonus.

"Every kid who plays sports aspires to be the best and be part of a winning team," James said in a statement. "Today's deal with Upper Deck not only means that I've joined a team that is the leader in the collectibles industry, but also allows me to be part of a team of world class athletes representing their products."

Gonzales said James is the youngest person ever signed by Upper Deck, whose other spokesmen include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.

Upper Deck said James' trading card and memorabilia agreement prohibits any other company from using his autograph or his likeness on its packaging. It also stipulates that James can only promote for Upper Deck.

"Upper Deck is known for producing the most collectible and innovative trading cards and memorabilia in the world," vice president Tim Muret said in a statement. "It is fitting that LeBron James and Upper Deck join forces in an exclusive relationship that will bring exciting products to fans and collectors worldwide."

James' first trading card will be available July 29, the company said.

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

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