Universities to wear LeBron James gear under sponsorship deal: Miami, UK… and Ohio State

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This should go over well.

LeBron James, in his continuing quest to become the most powerful brand in sports, has struck a deal for his Nike brand to sponsor three universities. Players at the University of Miami (the U) will wear the brand, which makes sense, given not only they share of the city with the Heat, but there is closeness with new head coach Jim Larranaga and LeBron’s business manager Maverick Carter. Kentucky will also sport the gear, which again makes sense given James’ closeness with John Calipari (a connection through World Wide Wes) and his frequent stops there during the season.

Oh, and Ohio State will also sport the gear.

…Yeah. From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

The University of Miami men’s basketball team will be sporting LeBron James-branded Nike gear this coming season thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Miami Heat superstar, two sources said Friday.

James will also be sponsoring Ohio State and Kentucky.

UM players were told the news by Coach Jim Larranaga on Thursday.

James’ publicist, Keith Estabrook, said he wouldn’t comment on the matter and directed all questions to Nike, which didn’t immediately return an email from the Sun Sentinel.

via LeBron James sponsors Miami Hurricanes: Heat star’s logo will be on men’s basketball team’s gear – South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

So The Ohio State University, the most popular university in Ohio, will wear the branded gear of the most hated man in the state, who abandoned his home-state Cavaliers, leading to the longest losing streak in NBA history.

This should go over extremely well.

But it’s a big deal for James’ brand as it attempts to reach the kind of heights it has targeted. That kind of exposure is phenomenal and only makes him more of an icon to the players coming up through those ranks. Still, it’ll be weird for Cavaliers fans in Columbus to realize they’re cheering on young men wearing the mark of the man they so despise.

It’s been a year since The Decision and James is still finding ways to cause outrage in Ohio.

Update:Turns out OSU has had gear which was tied to James since 2007, but this marks the first official branding of their gear under LeBron’s specific brand. HT: NorthCoastKid on Twitter.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.

Kobe is the Lakers’ all-time leader in steals (and other trivia rookies don’t know)

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“He played 20 years … I mean, yeah I guess.”

That’s what Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball had to say in this video after learning that Kobe Bryant was the all-time leader in steals for his franchise. You have to hand it to him, it is a little surprising. Even more surprising is that Bryant has 220 more than Magic Johnson at No. 2.

In a video posted to YouTube by Complex on Saturday, rookies tried to answer questions similar to the one Ball pondered over, like what team drafted their head coach, who the NBA all-time leading scorer is, and what day the first game of the season starts on.

A lot of the responses were pretty funny, including the guys getting wrong what year Adam Silver became NBA commissioner. Poor David Stern has already been forgotten about!

Meanwhile, Ball looked the sharpest. He’s going to come in handy when the Lakers play pub trivia.