- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

LeBron James now has more time to watch one of the three television sets in his Hummer H2 after being ruled ineligible by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
With the 18-year-old James, it always gets back to the three television sets in the Hummer H2.
The three television sets in the Hummer H2 indicate a variety of things to a variety of people, none of it encouraging. Believe it or not, some people actually go through life with only one television set, and the one television set is in the home.
The leap from three television sets in the Hummer H2 to two retro sports jerseys valued at $845 is not great. It is just more stuff to fill space and soothe an empty core. It is a kind of out-of-control materialism, induced by Madison Avenue. We need this or we need that, because we are told a zillion times a day that we need this or that.
James needed two free jerseys, just as he needed the Hummer H2 and the three television sets and the other extras, and now he probably needs a good agent to weigh the offers of Nike and Adidas. James is not inclined to see beyond the next moment, being a high school senior with a strong sense of entitlement.
The latest development was almost predictable, and the mealy-mouthed know-nothings in Ohio contributed to it. They wanted it both ways, these school administrators and members of the Ohio athletic association. They wanted an amateur athlete who labored as a professional, as it is done in the NCAA with the quasi-professionals toiling in Division I football and basketball.
The Ohio officials moved the games involving James into larger arenas and cut a deal with ESPN and delved into the pay-per-view market. Meanwhile, they patted James on the head, told him how special he was, and then apparently expected him not to notice that he gradually was becoming something of a pseudo-celebrity.
You know how it goes with celebrities. People are always doing things for them.
Can we buy you a drink? Want to check out our VIP room? How about a free membership to our workout club? Great. It is done. You show up to our club, and the working stiffs will follow to be among the fashionable. People give things to celebrities, because you never know. You invest in a celebrity, and maybe down the road, the celebrity will invest in you with his name or presence.
That undoubtedly was the motive of the clothing-store owner. James received the jerseys in exchange for his mug being put on the store's walls. Sounds like a fair deal. Haven't you heard? James is a somebody who is going to be fabulously wealthy in a few months, and a clothing-store owner just might benefit from a nebulous link to James.
Wasn't this an element in the goings-on between the bank loan officer and the unemployed mother? You need about $70,000 to purchase the Hummer H2 with the three television sets? Not a problem. Let's be friends. Do you need some walking-around money, too?
It is all kind of pathetic in a way, and the high school officials who presided over it are just as pathetic as all the rest. They wanted a teen to practice restraint, while they practiced just the opposite. They refined the art of commercialization with James and let his tale become a national soap opera.
They just could not resist fame's intoxicating vapor. Guess what? It seems James could not resist it, either, only he has a plausible defense. He probably is as shallow as the next high school kid. That is what is so cute about high school, remember? It is not the real world, with all its real-world complexities. James found himself caught between the two this season.
Who knows how many things are being thrown in his direction, and with seemingly little guidance about him? You say the mother? Right. This is the mother who is unemployed, lives in public housing and then goes out and purchases a Hummer H2 as an 18th birthday gift to her son. There seems to be a disconnect there. Hello, anyone home?
In the end, the peculiar arrangement between so-called educators and James broke down because of an improper "gift," however that is defined in Ohio. What if, in an attempt to be one of the player's new best friends, you gave James a satellite dish to stick on the roof of his Hummer H2? Is the modest cost of a satellite dish a violation of the rules? How about if you bought James a Big Mac? That, too?
The yo-yos in Ohio should have made their announcement with a laugh track.

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