Photo Credit: © Sports Illustrated Kids / Photo by Peter Read Miller Peter Read MIller photographed Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player LeBron James for a Sports Illustrated Kids cover.
LeBron James’ entourage: young, smart, loyal
By MICHELLE KAUFMAN
MIAMI — Sonny Vaccaro, the mastermind behind the million-dollar sneaker deal, pioneer of summer all-star basketball camps, the “Godfather of Grassroots Basketball,” is working for adidas and holding court with a couple of big-time college coaches in an Indianapolis hotel suite. It’s late March 2000, during the NCAA Final Four.
There’s a knock at the door, and in walks a sharply dressed, smooth-talking 17-year-old named Maverick Carter. The kid’s a basketball player, a 6-foot-4 guard from St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, but he’s not there to promote himself. He’s there to show Vaccaro a grainy home video of his 15-year-old friend and teammate, LeBron James.
“I’ll never forget it, Maverick giving me the sales pitch, telling me his buddy LeBron was ‘The Next Kobe’ and how he really wanted me to see him play,” Vaccaro recalled last week. “At the time, I ran the ABCD Camp, and all the kids wanted my validation. Maverick was smart enough to know it would be good for LeBron if I saw him.
“I would have made a bet that very day that Maverick Carter would become successful because he was so poised, so aware of who the star was, and it wasn’t him, it was LeBron. He knew that, was OK with it, and was grooming himself to help LeBron. The big payoff came later.”
Boy, did it.
$110 MILLION DEAL
Fast forward 10 years to July 2, 2010. Carter is holding court in a Cleveland boardroom, sitting across from Miami Heat President Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison, one of Forbes’ “World’s 100 Richest People,” negotiating a $110 million deal for his buddy James at the headquarters of LRMR Marketing. He has the Heat, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Cavaliers and Clippers in the palm of his 28-year-old hand, groveling for the services of the most coveted free agent in NBA history.
The company’s initials stand for LeBron, Randy (Mims), Maverick, Rich (Paul) – James’ management team, his innermost circle, three of the few people he truly trusts in a world where everybody wants something from him. The new Heat star was born to a 16-year-old single mother and moved 12 times between the ages of 5 and 8, so when he finds stability and people he can count on, he hangs on for dear life.
They used to call themselves “The Four Horsemen,” a moniker that came complete with customized matching logo jackets and sneakers. Their logo was a knight from a chess set, which made perfect sense. They were planning their moves while James was still in high school.
On April 3, 2003, two months before the Cavs made James the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, the foursome registered King James, Inc. with the Ohio Secretary of State, laying the foundation for the enterprise to come.
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