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  1. #1

    Source: James got $1M signing bonus from Upper Deck

    Source: James got $1M signing bonus from Upper Deck

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    By Darren Rovell
    ESPN.com


    LeBron James, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, has signed what is believed to be the largest trading card and memorabilia deal for a rookie in sports history.

    James signed a five-year contract with Upper Deck, one of the leading sports memorabilia companies in the world, Wednesday for at least $1 million per year, according to one source who had knowledge of the deal.

    Upper Deck also agreed to give James $1 million for signing the contract, the source said.

    James' agent, Aaron Goodwin, declined to comment on specifics of the deal.

    "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 The Upper Deck Company 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."

    Competitor Topps, whose basketball business isn't as strong as Upper Deck's, put up a fight to land James during the three-week bidding process, but in the end Goodwin said James' family was most comfortable with Upper Deck.

    "We're looking forward to being good business partners over the next couple years," Goodwin said. "When terms of this contract are over, LeBron will still be in his early 20s." Goodwin would not say if both parties had the option to extend the deal past the initial life of the contract, though a source said there is an option to do so.

    Although every trading card company with the NBA and the NBA Players' Association license will have the right to make James' cards once he signs a player contract, Upper Deck has been granted exclusive rights to make memorabilia cards featuring James' game-used items. Upper Deck, which has endorsement deals with such high-profile athletes as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, will also be the exclusive retailer of all memorabilia bearing James' name and image.

    The hype surrounding James, the 18-year-old from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, was unprecedented throughout his junior and senior seasons. In February 2002, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which dubbed him "The Chosen One." In his senior season, several games featuring James were broadcast nationally, two of which aired on ESPN's networks.

    Although James has been a hot commodity in the collectibles world, he had not authorized the use of his name and image for any product prior to the Upper Deck deal. Still, for the past few months, between 800 and 1,000 items bearing James' name or likeness -- ranging from replica high school jerseys to custom painted figurines to autographed basketballs -- are up for bid on eBay.

    James cards were made by SAGE Collectibles, which signed a deal with the promoter of the Pangos Beach Classic -- a tournament James' team played in in January -- but Goodwin said the cards were not authorized. The most limited edition of the sheet of cards that was distributed at the game have been selling for about $200.

    "All the licensed memorabilia is coming and everyone knows this guy is going to be huge," said Tony Fay, basketball editor for Beckett, a sports collectibles publisher whose 96-page "Tribute to LeBron James" hit major bookstores two weeks ago. "Anything collectors can get their hands on, they have and will snap up."

    In the book, Beckett values signed copies of the James SI cover at $100 to $200, with signed basketballs ranging from $200 to $300.

    "He's as big as any athlete I've ever seen outside of Jordan and I'm talking about right now," said Fay, who worked in public relations for the Dallas Mavericks for more than a decade.

    With the Upper Deck deal, SAGE -- as well as competitor Press Pass -- will be excluded from featuring James in their autographed pre-draft cards, which are not licensed by the NBA but have become very popular in the last couple of years. In the past, both SAGE and Pass Pass have signed individual deals with athletes before the draft, but Upper Deck has locked up James and Darko Milicic and Topps and Upper Deck are in the race to sign an exclusive deal with Carmelo Anthony.

    "Once every 10 years, there's an extraordinary draft," said Marc Cornstein, the agent for Milicic. "I think the trading card companies realized this and a company like Upper Deck was extremely aggressive in going after the top guys."

    "LeBron's the surest bet yet, but that's until he plays a game," Fay said. "Collectors are conditioned to give him time, but if he doesn't do well on the court his staying power won't be that great."

    Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com.

  2. #2
    wow, money is just growing on trees for Lebron.

    Remember the hype Grant Hill got? Remember the $100M contract the Orlando Magic gave him?

  3. #3
    right, this is sick and he just signed a 7 year deal with NIKE, terms undisclosed.

    James' first trading card will be available July 29, the company said.
    Last edited by gioperation; 05-22-2003 at 03:34 AM.

  4. #4
    I'm not the biggest fan of exclusive card deals. It doesn't benefit the collector much at all IMO. I would like a Topps Chrome Auto rookie of LeBron but I guess that isn't going to happen unless I get that auto myself.

  5. #5
    It should boost BKB card collecting as a whole, drawing in collector newbies. I'm sure there will be plenty of James fans who may have never collected cards before and may be interested now that he's going pro.

  6. #6
    RaiderNation8180
    Guest
    Maybe it's just me, but now that he's going pro...I'm giving up Basketball card collecting. Actually I already have, but now I don't even wanna touch it. If I did start again and got a James card...I'd probably end up trading it here or selling it. Too much hype. Hasn't proven himself. He's no T-Mac, Bryant, or Garnett. I really don't think he'll be all that great. Probably end up more like a Darius Miles.

  7. #7
    and kobe, t-mac or kg wasn't kobe, t-mac, of kg's either when they were drafted,the only only player to come out with this type of hype has 3 rings on his fingers and he name is shaq daddy. I wam going to tell you that if he lives up to at less half the hype he is getting if will be worth every penny they are giving him, you got to understand economics, it is buy low sell high and in business you have to take a risk sometimes, now say you don't lock him down now and he becomes the next biggest star in the NBA, everyone will be saying he got robbed on his contract just like they did with jordan. Trust he is young and he is has serious potential to be a star and alot of charisma and that is all that counts.

  8. #8
    Originally posted by BGray
    I'm not the biggest fan of exclusive card deals. It doesn't benefit the collector much at all IMO. I would like a Topps Chrome Auto rookie of LeBron but I guess that isn't going to happen unless I get that auto myself.
    It does really suck for the collectors. Its better to have many rookies because some people like some products better than others.
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  9. #9
    Originally posted by gioperation
    and kobe, t-mac or kg wasn't kobe, t-mac, of kg's either when they were drafted,the only only player to come out with this type of hype has 3 rings on his fingers and he name is shaq daddy. I wam going to tell you that if he lives up to at less half the hype he is getting if will be worth every penny they are giving him, you got to understand economics, it is buy low sell high and in business you have to take a risk sometimes, now say you don't lock him down now and he becomes the next biggest star in the NBA, everyone will be saying he got robbed on his contract just like they did with jordan. Trust he is young and he is has serious potential to be a star and alot of charisma and that is all that counts.
    Gioperation --- I will have to respectfully disagree with you.
    Kobe came out with a lot of hype, and has lived up to it, same as Shaq.

    Shaq never won anything until Kobe and Phil jackson came along. Remember Shaq's infamous quote, "...I've won everywhere except in the NBA Finals..."


    The reason no one picked Kobe #1 was b/c he was only the 2nd high school player to come right into the NBA (Garnett was the 1st, and did so 1-2 years before Kobe) since 1970s.

    Garnett wasn't as good by the time Kobe was available for the draft, so no one knew about Kobe's potential, except for the marvelous Jerry West.

    Nowadays, things are very different, b/c teams have seen what high schoolers like Garnett, Kobe, McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal can do......hence, all the hype over Lebron.

    Had Kobe just come out this coming year, he'd have been as hyped up as well.

    I wonder who was picked #1 in the year Kobe was drafted #13 by Charlotte and promptly dealt to Lakers

  10. #10
    I know you are a lakers fan, but I will tell you there has been no other guy hyped since shaq came out of LSU and shaq dominated with the magic, it wasn't just phil, adn shaq doesn't need kobe either, kobe needs shaq, thrust me, remember penny and shaq together, they would have won in orlando in they didn't have to go though chicago to get there.

    I repeat no one has had the hype that lebron is getting out of high school in the last 15-20 years not even grant hill/jordan/bird/magic/ I don't know if moses malone or dawkins had this type of hype but I would doubt it. And the dude is as good as they say he is, ask your LA boys bill walton, the coach from ucla can't call his name, I think those guys know basketball talent than any of us, and bill walton never has good things to say about anyone, and when he does they are good.

    remember this, this is the best time for him to make a move, what if he isn't as good and went to college and his stock drops a litle, you go now while your stock is the highest, I remember a statement from casey jacobsen, he said "college doesn't prepare you the pro's, auctually it can weaken you, cause they are 2 different types of games. Why go 4 years and learn how to get to the pros, when you can go into the league learn in 4 years and be a mega star is 4 years.

    Believe me you know numbers and those people and companies that are dropping this money on him must be the dumbest people on earth, come on NIKE, Upper DECK, the nba, they don't knwo how to make money do they, they know what they are doing. they are getting lebron cheap, cause if he blows up in the first year he is going to want more, now that we know a an hs'er can win ROY amare stoudemire, the sky is the limit for lebron and the reason why amare doesn't all the hype he deserves is that his freaking games are on @ 1130 pm (est or cst) so we never get to see unless it is on sportscenter or ont he weekend....


    it is a wait and see game, those companies didn't get rich by being stupid, they will make enough money off lebron the money they spend will pay off in the 1st or season year of the contract. The gym shoes is all profit it cost what $3 to make a pair and they charge $150, what a markup they can afford to pay him, and every kid on the playground is going to want a lebron shoe.

    The nba contract, think about this it cost the same amount of money to have 1 person or 20K people in the arena, why not have 20K in there everynight to see the highlight reel. How much is a beer, uh 5.50 that is a almost 2 six packs around here. and forget about a hot dog and soda, a drink is $3.50 and it cost around .10 and the cup .05 and the min wage to pay the person pushing them it is all profit they know it and it is a cash cow.

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