Now that's posterization: James much larger than life
CLEVELAND -- Already the city's most famous citizen, LeBron James has never been bigger in Cleveland. He's 10-stories tall.
As a way of acknowledging the All-Star forward's impact, Nike has hung a billboard of James on the side of a building near Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers, that is 110 feet high and 212 feet wide.
On the massive mesh banner, James soars toward an unseen basket with his right arm extended over his head, ready to deliver one of his signature slam dunks. Next to the sprawling reproduction of the photograph taken during his rookie season are the words: "WE ARE ALL WITNESSES."
"It's simple, but it says it all," said Chris Marsh of Avon Lake, one of several people to pause and look at the banner, which has quickly become Cleveland's newest tourist attraction. "Just like with Michael Jordan, we are witnessing the same thing, just in a different era. It's awesome."
Nike's intent was to honor James for his work on and off the floor.
"The idea was to let Cleveland fans have the opportunity to say that we are watching the growth and development of LeBron and the Cavaliers, and not just on the court but in the community," said company spokesman Rodney Knox. "We are watching LeBron and this team grow and grow."
The photo used for the billboard was taken on Nov. 15, 2003. It captures James in mid-flight on a breakaway in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
In only two seasons as a pro, James has blossomed into one of the game's best players while becoming a global marketing icon, following in the shoes of Jordan, the 20-year-old's boyhood idol.
Knox said the billboard, which features the omnipresent Nike swoosh, is not tied to a marketing campaign for James' new sneaker line, Zoom LeBron III, which will hit stores later this month.
As motorists craned their necks and pedestrians stopped to view the 2,700-pound banner, Victor Darby stood below giving directions over a cell phone to his friend, Tyler Newell, who was about to drive back to Washington, D.C.
"I told him, 'Man, you got to come back and see this,'" Darby said. "
Moments later, Newell pulled up, got out of his truck and soaked in the larger-than-life LeBron.
"Whoa," Newell said. "Now that's big. It should be. He's the King."
When James was a rookie, Nike promoted his first sneaker by placing a four-story billboard of his likeness on Seventh Avenue just a block from Madison Square Garden. The apparel giant had been looking for the right location in Cleveland, and settled on the Landmark Building next to Terminal Tower, the city's best known building.
When he was still a senior at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James signed a seven-year $90 million endorsement contract with Nike, the richest initial shoe deal offered to an athlete.
As of Thursday afternoon, James had still not seen the giant billboard.
"Where's it at?" he said, peering through a window outside the club's practice court. "I'm going to drive over and take a look at it. I heard it's pretty big."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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