LeBron will make decision on ESPN

Published 2:15 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

AKRON — LeBron James’ dramatic and historic free agency will have a fitting conclusion — on TV.

ESPN reported Tuesday night that James will announce his future NBA plans during a one-hour special on its network at 9 p.m. Thursday. ESPN’s Chris Broussard said James’ “representatives” contacted the network and asked for the unusual arrangement.

It is not known which team James will join or where the announcement will take place.

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The two-time MVP and marquee name in a stellar free-agent class also featuring Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, recently met with six teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets.

Both James’ publicist Keith Estabrook and ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment to The Associated Press.

Citing anonymous “independent sources,” Broussard reported James’ group requested they be allowed to sell sponsorship for the special with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

James’ agent Leon Rose and business manager Maverick Carter did not return phone calls and e-mails from the AP seeking comment.

Earlier, all his fans got was a tweet out of James.

With the Summer of LeBron trudging along, James opened a Twitter account and posted his first message on the social networking site. Although he provided no information about his future plans, he offered something as the NBA awaits the decision on where he’ll play next.

“Hello World, the Real King James is in the Building,” said the tweet from KingJames, which by 11 p.m. EDT had more than 187,000 followers.

After arriving for the second day of his skills academy on Tuesday four hours later than expected, James spent six hours at Rhodes Arena in meetings and playing ball with several Cavaliers teammates against high school campers before heading home. He didn’t speak to reporters before pulling away in his customized Dodge pickup.

“That’s the question,” Cavs teammate Daniel Gibson said when asked what he thinks James will do. “I don’t know. I’m here with the hanging-out, having-fun LeBron. I’m not out here with the business LeBron.”

Estabrook confirmed the superstar joined Twitter, a place where Wade and Bosh often post details about their public lives off the floor.

In the past, James poked fun at athletes for giving details of their daily routines on Twitter and Facebook, but at the prodding of New Orleans guard Chris Paul, his U.S. Olympic teammate and closest friend in the league, the two-time MVP decided it was time to join the fun.

Now, if he would only announce which team he’s going to.

James arrived at his Nike-sponsored skills academy at the University of Akron at 3:15 p.m. for the second day of the camp hosting many of the nation’s top high school and college stars.

James did not speak to reporters before walking into Rhodes Arena with former Cavs teammate Damon Jones. James wasn’t dressed for a workout, and was not visible when organizers cleared the media from the school’s arena at roughly 4 p.m.

James’ plans still are a closely guarded secret. Until his announcement, other teams are positioning themselves to make a run at the 6-foot-8, 260-pound All-Star — or Bosh or Wade, or maybe a combination.

There have been various reports that Toronto was working on a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland for Bosh, and that James is trying to convince him to join the Cavaliers.

However, a person familiar with the talks said the Cavs have spoken to the Raptors and several other teams but that no players have been discussed and nothing is close to being finalized. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Cleveland can offer James a maximum-length deal worth $30 million more than any other team. But if they re-sign him, the Cavs would have no more money to sign a player of Bosh’s stature unless they open room under the salary cap. Teams can not sign players before Thursday, one day after the new salary-cap figure is announced.

Miami and Chicago could be interested in making a similar deal with the Raptors.

With all this swirling around him, James seemed as cool as ever when he arrived for his camp as outside temperatures hit 94 degrees.

Dressed in a white Nike T-shirt and orange shorts, he entered the building just as the college players were finishing their second session of the day. He shook a few hands and plopped down on a sideline table before moving to a courtside chair. Shortly after he arrived, his two young sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, came in with former high school teammates Dru Joyce III and Romeo Travis.

As their dad was in meetings with Nike executives, the two boys wrestled for the basketball and took shots on the floor.

Later, one of James’ bodyguards brought in a bag believed to contain the star’s workout gear, and Gibson arrived looking as if he was ready to play some ball. And that’s exactly what he did, teaming with James and Cavaliers Jamario Moon, Jawad Williams and Christian Eyenga in some full-court scrimmages against high school players.

The prep stars won the first game against the pros.

While James is the star attraction in this summer’s stacked class of free agents, other players have either stayed home or found a new one. On Monday, Amare Stoudemire agreed to a five-year deal with the New York Knicks and said he would continue to recruit James to join him.