The King and his courtship: Nets billionaire owner, Jay-Z arrive to sell LeBron on New Jersey

By Tom Withers, AP
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nets owner, Jay-Z making pitch to LeBron James

CLEVELAND — The New Jersey Nets are on the clock in their courtship of LeBron James.

Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov and rap mogul Jay-Z are in Cleveland to make their pitch to the two-time MVP, who became the most celebrated free agent in history at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Prokhorov, who intends to give James a global pitch during New Jersey’s expected two-hour presentation, was accompanied by new Nets coach Avery Johnson and club president Rod Thorn. Jay-Z is a part owner of the Nets and a longtime friend of James.

After landing at Hopkins International Airport at 10:36 a.m. the Nets’ contingent made the short drive to Cleveland to meet with James at the office of his business manager, Maverick Carter. James arrived about eight minutes before New Jersey’s delegation.

James was driven from his home in Akron in a white SUV and was quickly escorted through a side door at the IMG Building, where dozens of reporters and photographers were waiting. Wearing a gray Nike T-shirt and sunglasses, he made a brief stop in the lobby before heading up to Suite 823, the headquarters of LRMR Marketing, the company James began with Carter and two other longtime friends.

When Jay-Z strolled through the lobby, several customers in a cafe adjacent to the lobby applauded and yelled his name.

The Nets will be followed by the cross-river rival New York Knicks, who will attempt to sway James into leaving home for the league’s largest market. New York’s group will include owner James Dolan, president Donnie Walsh, coach Mike D’Antoni and former Knicks guard Allan Houston.

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are expected to meet with James on Friday, with the Cavaliers scheduled to visit with him Saturday.

Cleveland’s hoping that James’ loyalty to home will keep him in Ohio. The team gave him something to consider as free agency opened by offering Byron Scott their coaching job. Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, told the AP that Scott has accepted the position.

James is not believed to have played any role in Scott’s hiring, which ended a drawn-out search by the Cavs. However, Scott’s background as a 14-year player and 10-year head coach in the league is certainly appealing to James. Scott took the Nets to the finals twice and built a strong relationship with New Orleans star guard Chris Paul, who is one of James’ closest friends.

James is being courted by teams — and cities.

New York launched a “C’mon LeBron” campaign, featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of high-profile celebrities, to woo the 25-year-old to Madison Square Garden and the Big Apple. Not to be outdone, Cleveland, a city which would lose untold millions if James leaves, is banking on him staying put.

Large banners reading: “Home: More Than A Player” have been attached to the sides of buildings and hung over downtown streets.

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