Nets, Knicks meet with LeBron

Updated: July 2, 2010, 11:27 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CLEVELAND -- As they made their exit, the New Jersey Nets passed the New York Knicks in the driveway of the parking garage.

Everyone came to see LeBron James.

Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, rap mogul Jay-Z, coach Avery Johnson and other team officials spent more than 90 minutes making a presentation Thursday to James, the two-time MVP and budding global icon who became the most celebrated free agent in history at 12:01 a.m. ET

[+] EnlargeLebron James
AP Photo/Jason MillerLeBron James, left, met with representatives of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets on Thursday at the IMG building in downtown Cleveland.

Prokhorov left with a few members of the Nets' entourage at 12:43 p.m. Lagging a few minutes behind them was Jay-Z, a close friend of James', sitting in the back seat of a black sedan leaving the garage as the Knicks' motorcade -- two sedans and two SUVs -- pulled in.

And so went the initial hours of James' courtship, which has turned into his personal recruitment and has captivated the much of the sports world.

"It went well," Johnson said before the Nets' congregation headed to Chicago to meet with free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Knicks spent more than two hours speaking with James and his closest advisers and came away feeling they did all they could.

"I think it went well," coach Mike D'Antoni told The Associated Press. "But obviously everyone that gets the chance to talk to him will probably say the same thing."

Former Knicks guard Allan Houston said D'Antoni made a strong presentation but couldn't tell if James was impressed.

"He didn't give us much feedback," said Houston, now an executive with the team.

James followed the Knicks out the door. He didn't say anything to reporters as he left in a Range Rover, presumably to return to his home in Bath, Ohio. As he left, a pack of photographers and reporters chased after his vehicle, hoping for one signature shot or perhaps a sign from him.

After landing at Hopkins International Airport at 10:36 a.m. ET, the Nets' group made the short drive to Cleveland to meet with James at the office of his business manager, Maverick Carter. James arrived about eight minutes before New Jersey's delegation.

"Meeting went well," outgoing Nets president Rod Thorn told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor in a text message. "You can't tell what [LeBron's] reaction is at this time. We told our story and we will see what happens."

James was driven from his home in a white SUV and was quickly escorted through a side door at the IMG Building, where dozens of reporters and photographers were waiting. Wearing a gray Nike T-shirt and sunglasses, he made a brief stop in the lobby before heading up to Suite 823, the headquarters of LRMR Marketing, the company James began with Carter and two other longtime friends.

When Jay-Z strolled through the lobby, several customers in a cafe adjacent to the lobby applauded and yelled his name.

The Nets were followed by the cross-river rival Knicks, who will attempt to sway James into leaving home for the league's largest market. New York's group included owner James Dolan, president Donnie Walsh, D'Antoni and Houston.

Walsh was brought into the building in a wheelchair following recent neck surgery.

The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers were expected to meet with James on Friday, with the Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers scheduled to visit with him Saturday.

According to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Heat president Pat Riley and assistant general manager Andy Elisburg had a casual meeting for nearly 45 minutes with James' agent, Leon Rose, late Thursday at about midnight in a Ritz-Carlton Hotel lounge.

Cleveland is hoping James' sense of loyalty to home will keep him in Ohio. The Cavaliers gave him something to consider as free agency opened by hiring Byron Scott as coach Thursday.

James is not believed to have played any role in Scott's hiring, which ended a drawn-out search by the Cavs. However, Scott's background as a 14-year player and 10-year head coach in the league is certainly appealing to James. Scott took the Nets to the NBA Finals twice and built a strong relationship with New Orleans star guard Chris Paul, who is one of James' closest friends.

James is being courted by teams -- and cities.

New York launched a "C'mon LeBron" campaign, featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of high-profile celebrities, to woo the 25-year-old to Madison Square Garden and the Big Apple. Not to be outdone, Cleveland, a city that would lose untold millions if James leaves, is banking on him staying put.

Large banners reading: "Home: More Than A Player" have been attached to the sides of buildings and hung over downtown streets. Later Thursday, hundreds of hometown Cleveland fans held aloft 20,000 posters with the word "Home" written across them at Cleveland's annual July 4 weekend concert by the Cleveland Orchestra.

James' decision, which isn't expected to be announced for at least another week, has many fans in Cleveland fearing the worst. After all, this is where sports heartbreak has taken up permanent residence. Ask Clevelanders to recite the local teams' misery since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964, and they'll roll their eyes before rattling off nicknames given to the most gut-wrenching losses by the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers.

Losing James might top them all.

"They'll be heartbroken here if he leaves, but we're used to it," said Eric Riley, a Cleveland native and former NBA player.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor was used in this report.