- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

AKRON, Ohio LeBron James can put his high school jersey back on for at least a few more games.
The basketball superstar was cleared to play yesterday by a judge who blocked a ruling that had stripped him of his eligibility for accepting two sports jerseys worth a total of $845.
"It confirms our belief that he never should have been suspended," said James' attorney, Fred Nance.
The 18-year-old senior, who is expected to be the No.1 pick in this year's NBA Draft, still must sit out at least one more game, and his eligibility remains in question pending another court hearing Feb.19.
Summit County Judge James Williams issued a temporary restraining order to the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruling last week. Williams said James would suffer "immediate and irreparable injury" without the order.
St. Vincent-St. Mary was allowed to decide what game James will miss, and it picked one Feb.23, four days after the hearing when Williams will grant a permanent injunction or go to trial.
James already has missed one game after Clair Muscaro, commissioner of the athletic association, ruled Friday that he broke an amateur bylaw "by capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."
The association found that a Cleveland clothing store gave James the Gale Sayers and Wes Unseld retro jerseys in exchange for James posing for pictures to be displayed on its walls.
The Fighting Irish, No.1 in the USA Today rankings for the fourth straight week, have four games left before the playoffs. They play Saturday in Trenton, N.J.
"I look forward to getting the final hearing behind us so that LeBron can focus entirely on his schoolwork, basketball and his friends, just like any other teenager, as much as possible," said James' mother, Gloria.
Lawyers for the athletic association and James presented their arguments to the judge during a one-hour hearing.
Muscaro was at the hearing but did not immediately comment on the ruling. James did not attend.
"He wants to finish what he started," Nance told the judge. "He didn't want to let himself down. He didn't want to let his team down. He didn't want to let his school down."
Nance pointed out that James could have taken advantage of his celebrity long ago. Nike, Adidas and other companies are in a bidding war for the 6-foot-8 star, often compared to a young Michael Jordan.
"If he was about capitalizing on his fame, he would have been in Los Angeles or New York last weekend signing multimillion-dollar contracts instead of sitting on the bench," Nance said.
Nance accused Muscaro of not properly investigating before ruling. The lawyer said James was given the jerseys by a store employee, Joseph Hawthorn, as a reward for making the honor roll.
Hawthorn is a friend of Eddie Jackson, James' father figure who is serving a three-year sentence for mortgage and mail fraud.
Athletic association lawyer Steven Craig disagreed with Nance's assertions and said James should have known better than to accept the jerseys for free.
Craig said Muscaro called the school to get the player's version of how he got the jerseys and was told, "He won't talk to you, you have to talk to his mother."
The association's ruling Friday came four days after it cleared James for accepting a $50,000 sport utility vehicle as an 18th birthday gift from his mother.
Craig argued that although James is a special basketball player, he doesn't have special privileges.
He concluded his remarks by quoting a line from the movie "Spider-Man."
"With great power comes great responsibility," the lawyer said. "LeBron James, through his athletic ability, his charisma and the like, has amassed considerable power, and with that, considerable responsibility."

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