Sports / BasketballLeBron a hot commodity in China(Agencies)Updated: 2007-10-17 11:23SHANGHAI — LeBron James looms large in Shanghai. LeBron James shows off his new sneaker with Nike CEO and president Mark Parker in Shanghai. [Agencies]
He hovers over a basket in billboards around the city leading to Wednesdays NBA exhibition game between his Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic and another game Saturday in the former Portuguese territory of Macau.”For me, growing up, I never thought about having a billboard anywhere,” James said Tuesday, slipping off a white NBA headband and replacing it with a Cleveland Indians cap.”You see them [billboards] locally, and then you start seeing them a little bit nationwide. And now worldwide. Its like, wow. Its like extra credit. Its unbelievable. You would never think that you could have your face somewhere else where you dont even live.”James shoe sponsor converted a Shanghai art gallery into a LeBron James showroom. Dubbed the “LBJ Museum,” the promotion this week includes a freshly shellacked basketball court, aimed at pitching James in China, where 300 million people — the population of the United States — play basketball.Nike also unveiled the latest version of James signature shoe on Tuesday. Its the second time its picked China — ahead of the US — to show off James newest offering. The “limited edition” shoe was selling Tuesday for almost $200.Nikes newest TV spot featuring James also kicked off this week in China, several weeks ahead of its US premiere.James is a hot property in basketballs most dynamic marketplace. And the NBA and Nike know it, both looking toward next years Beijing Olympics, where James would surely capture world attention if he leads the beleaguered American basketball team to a gold medal.Several hundred Chinese reporters and photographers showed up for Tuesdays practice at the Lu Wan Stadium. They engulfed James at the far end of the floor when he stopped shooting. He squatted on a low-slung bench, back against the wall, and stared up to answer questions, cutting deep furrows across his forehead.”Every time Im here its the same response: Its great, the fans love us, the kids are great,” James said. “The spirit the Chinese have for the game of basketball is great. Nothing surprises me now.”He was asked whether the Cavaliers will reach the NBA finals again and the pressures facing him as another season awaits.”I dont believe in pressure,” he said. “So its not hard to reduce it when you dont believe in it.”James is one of the four most popular NBA players in China. Kobe Bryant is probably No 1, with China-born Yao Ming, James and Allen Iverson jousting for the next spots. At 22, James is the youngest and — get this — might be more popular than Yao.”The Chinese are looking for individual heroes,” said Huang Risheng, a reporter with the Chinese-language Titan sports newspaper. “We are not open enough, not extroverted enough. We like the individual effort, just one man saving the whole team like James.”  1 2     1 2   Top Sports News
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