LeBron gear windfall in Miami, in free fall elsewhere

Fans enter the American Airlines Arena wearing a

Fans enter the American Airlines Arena wearing a Dwyane Wade and LeBron James masks for a Miami Heat's welcome celebration in Miami. (July 9, 2010) (Credit: AP )

If LeBron James chose the Knicks instead of the Heat, there figured to be many more people making money off his name in New York than the guys selling $10 vuvuzelas bearing his likeness outside Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

Jerseys, T-shirts, sneakers, hats, license plates, bobbleheads, the list of tchotchkes seems infinite when it comes to the LeBron brand. New York merchants are aware of how much they could have cashed in.

"Hundreds of T-shirts and hundreds of jerseys were on order," said Jim Root, vice president of Gerry Cosby Sporting Goods, which is across the street from the Garden. "It was like preparing for a world championship that didn't happen. It's been tough the last 10 years for the Knicks. Luckily, we have eight other teams in the area."

The same can't be said for Cleveland. Reaction there ranged from outright disgust to a woe-is-us attitude that has permeated the city's sport sentiment for years.

"Just the same old thing, everyone got punched in the gut again," said David Torquato, a manager of Champs Sports in Cleveland. "That's the most disappointing part."

Torquato's store, which is just outside Quicken Loans Arena, marked down LeBron's Cavs jersey 50 percent, to $40, on Saturday. He said they had been on sale since the Cavs' playoff run ended, but not to this extent. At Dick's Sporting Goods in Westlake, Ohio, they were marked down to $29.99.

Forty dollars is highway robbery compared with the going rate on eBay. On Friday, a large Cavs No. 23 LeBron jersey could be had for $4.99. On Saturday, some up for auction were still at the minimum bid of cents.

But one man's loss is another's gain. Just ask Fermin Cabal, a manager at Midway Sporting Goods in Miami.

"We've already had about 20 calls asking for LeBron jerseys," he said. "It's all James right now. It's like they won the Super Bowl here. It's been the only thing on the news for days."

James modeled his No. 6 Heat jersey - the same number he wore the last time he was teammates with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on Team USA in Beijing - at the Big Three's coming out party at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Friday.

"Sales have been flat the last six or eight months," Cabal said. "This thing's going to inject some money into the city."

For the people of Cleveland, that's a tough pill to swallow. But at least there's a place they're able to drown their sorrows with LeBron's help.

At McNulty's Bier Markt, Clevelanders can exchange their LeBron memorabilia (jerseys, T-shirts, etc.) for a free beer. The apparel is then torn up by a pair of oversized garden sheers. Those wearing the gear of another Cleveland team get two free beers.

"The way that I look at it is, it's like breaking up with your longtime girlfriend and then being forced to go on vacation with her another week," said Matt Stipe, an assistant general manager at the bar. "It really rips your guts out.

"Overall, he seemed like an upstanding guy. He's not one of those guys out getting a DUI. But what really tears me up is just the way that he went about this with a great big narcissistic prime-time special. Almost since high school, he's been deified here. He could do no wrong. So instead of quelling that anger, we wanted to ramp it up."

LeBron's Godlike status could have soared in New York. Alas, they'll have to settle for Amar'e Stoudemire. "Amar'e? He's not even a drop in the bucket compared to LeBron," Root said. "There hasn't been much to get excited about."

Well at least the vuvuzela guys made a few bucks.

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