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Drive time

James jokes about toy car before breaking school record

Posted: Tuesday January 14, 2003 9:55 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 14, 2003 10:28 PM
  LeBron James LeBron James plays with a remote control Hummer before donning a uniform and scoring a school-record 50 points. AP

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- LeBron James drove his Hummer toward the basket, made a hard left near the baseline, spun around some cheerleaders and brought it to a screeching stop.

Under the bench.

While his teammates warmed up two hours before Tuesday night's game, James, whose recent acquisition of a luxury sports utility vehicle has led to a state investigation into his eligibility, toyed with the controversy spiraling around him.

Sitting on the floor at midcourt, the nation's top high school basketball player, smiled as he steered a remote control Hummer around the floor of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena.

"OK," he said. "Here's my real Hummer."

When a basketball nearly crushed his four-wheeled camouflaged gadget, James yelled, "Hey, you almost hit my truck."

Guess he's not too worried about things.

On Monday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association began an investigation into how James, the expected No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, acquired a 2003 Hummer H2 vehicle.

State officials are concerned that James, a senior, might have violated his amateur status by accepting an improper gift.

Clair Muscaro, commissioner of the OHSAA, said Tuesday that the inquiry was continuing and that he was still in the process of gathering information.

James certainly had his game in overdrive Tuesday night, scoring a school record 50 points to lead the nation's No. 1-ranked team to a 92-56 rout of Mentor.

Beside breaking his own school record for points, James made a school record 11 3-pointers before sitting out the final 6:27 just a few seconds after draining his final 3.

"I was in the zone," said James, whose lone flaw could be his outside shooting. "I felt like I was at practice. When I'm in the zone there's nothing anybody can do. I don't need to show anybody anything. I got the whole package."

James, who finished 19-of-25 from the field, didn't answer any questions regarding the Hummer or the state's investigation during his postgame interview.

St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce was asked if he's worried James may have violated his eligibility.

"I'm not concerned," Joyce said. "That's out of our hands anyway."

Muscaro said the OHSAA, which is conducting its inquiry from its office in Columbus, had been in contact with St. Vincent-St. Mary on Tuesday and that the school was in the process of sending him documentation.

The OHSAA has asked the school to provide written evidence about how the SUV was bought and financed. If it is shown to be an improper gift from an outside source, James could forfeit his amateur status and his school would have to forfeit its games from the time the 6-foot-8 sensation acquired the extravagant vehicle.

James, a senior, reportedly got the Hummer -- with a base retail price of $50,000 -- as an 18th birthday gift from his mother, Gloria, who has told school officials that she obtained a bank loan to finance the vehicle.

Gloria James has refused to comment on the situation.

One of the OHSAA's bylaws says an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."

"We have parents buying cars for their kids all the time," Muscaro said. "We just need to know that everything was done properly and within the rules."

Muscaro said he'd like to have the case resolved by the end of the week.

St. Vincent-St. Mary athletic director Grant Innocenzi was hopeful it could be done Wednesday.

James' case is believed to be unprecedented in Ohio, which has made enforcing any rules more difficult, OHSAA spokesman Bob Goldring said.

"It's been a challenge," he said. "This is new ground for us."

James' SUV is reportedly outfitted with three televisions, has seatbacks embroidered with "King James", and hookups for computer games.

License plate tags on the platinum-colored Hummer show it was purchased at 310 Motoring Automobile Specialists of Los Angeles, which caters to a celebrity clientele.

On its Web site, www.310motoring.com the dealership boasts to have among its customers actor Denzel Washington, singers Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, NBA superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Gary Payton and NFL stars Ray Lewis, Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp.


 
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