|Monday, February 3
Updated: July 22, 5:19 PM ET
Unauthorized LeBron James jerseys a hot item on eBay
By Darren Rovell
The value of the authentic Gale Sayers throwback jersey that got LeBron James into hot water was $395, just $45 more than the going price for unauthorized LeBron James jerseys that were being sold on eBay over the weekend.
So it is not without irony that replicas of James' high school jersey were being sold in the wake of his suspension. Since he emerged as the top high school basketball player in the country, James has been on the cover of major magazines, been the subject of intense media scrutiny and had his high school games broadcast nationally and on a pay-per-view. His popularity created such a demand for game tickets that his team plays its home games at nearby Rhodes Arena, the University of Akron's home floor.
"There's obviously demand for his jersey because people know he can be the next biggest star to hit basketball," said Tom Fu, a resident of Long Island, N.Y., who was one of two bidders who purchased the unauthorized jerseys on Sunday. Fu bought his James jersey 1½ hours after the item was posted on the Internet auction site for $350.
It appears that neither James, his high school nor the apparel maker is making a dime on the sale of the jerseys. "I don't understand how everyone around him, including myself, is able to profit from his success but he is unable to," said Greg Nichols, a Maryland man who says he has sold about two replica James jerseys a day the past few weeks at an average price of $200 apiece.
Although James' NBA jerseys have yet to hit the online auction site, Nichols, who says he buys the jerseys in bulk, is currently auctioning off a USA Olympic jersey with James' name and number. Adidas made three sets of uniforms for St. Vincent-St. Mary's basketball team, but a spokesperson for the shoe and apparel company said it has no plans to bring the team's official jerseys to the market.
"We don't have the rights to sell St. Vincent-St. Mary's replica jerseys," adidas' Travis Gonzolez said. "They are a partner of ours, but we have never discussed selling them at retail, and we don't plan on discussing it."
James' attorney is expected to file a temporary injunction to allow the projected No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft to play again before an appeal can be heard on Feb. 13. James reportedly returned the two throwback jerseys to the store that gave them to him.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org