CLEVELAND, Ohio - LeBron James has reneged on his contract to play NBA basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers and instead has signed a three-year deal to be a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers.
Not even a month ago, King James signed a two-year, $42.1 million deal to play for the Cleveland NBA team, according to reports. A couple NBA World Championship rings ago, along with sundry years' water flow down the Cuyahoga River, LeBron James was a longtime Wine & Gold jersey wearer, mighty Number 23.
"He played a little bit of baseball in little league and midget league when he was a child. He said he wants to get involved with other things - he's mastered the game of basketball and wanted to give MLB pitching a throw - and we could definitely use some help," said Ron Washington, Texas Rangers manager.
"He's the consummate athlete," Washington said. "I have no doubt that having him on the team will really turn our luck around."
At 45-69, the Rangers' .395 winning percentage has them on the bottom of the American League West division. It's a little late in the season for LeBron to turn things around for any chance of the Texas team playing in the World Series in '14, "But there's always next year," Washington said with a hopeful grin. "And there's only so much a relief pitcher can do, but I have no doubt that by this time next season, we'll have him as one of our leading starting pitchers."
News of the career shift didn't take long to spread like wildfire throughout Cleveland. At morning rush hour today, people were stymied by James' decision to again leave Cleveland, before basketball season even has gotten underway. Holy Smokes! Even Exhibition NFL football hasn't kicked off yet!
"LeBron, you ratted out on us again!" said Jim Duncan, a criminal lawyer who said the first thing he was going to do when he got to his law office was to "Try to find some kind of criminality in all this. There's got to be some kind of law against doing this to us again!"
Julie McQuade, who works as a CPA in a downtown accounting office, McGrath, McGrath & McGrath, said, "I knew he'd do something like this to us. He's just got that Traveling Jones syndrome. Anyhow, I hope he likes Texas. After this, there's no way he'll ever come back home. He can just stay down there. I don't know much about sports, but do baseball players get rings if they win the World Series? I know that guy's just crazy about rings."
Jose Montesado, who said he played midget league football with LeBron, added, "He's always been that way. Even as a kid, he would always want to be somewhere else. If we were at an ice cream truck after practice ended, LeBron wanted to go to a soda machine and buy pop - we call soda pop up here, you know.
"And if we were walking down the sidewalk skipping stones after practice, LeBron would always say we should pick up the stones, find a lake and throw the stones into the lake. Titus and Bubba would say 'LeBron, the only lake around is Lake Erie and we just had practice and man, we're tired, and it's at least twelve miles one way just to get there. And we all have curfews and we can't stay out all night, walk all the way to Lake Erie and back, not to mention spend a couple of hours on the lake throwing stones into the lake,' and LeBron would say, 'I don't care, I don't like kicking stones. I like picking them up and throwing them into the water.'"
"And so what did we do?" Montesado asked. "We went to Lake Erie, of course. Not because we wanted to, it's because LeBron made us go since he was a lot bigger than the rest of us and even back then, man, he could really look ugly when he got mad. And none of us liked the 'Evil LeBron' look.
"When we got to Lake Erie, LeBron threw a few stones into the lake, got bored and said, 'I think we should swim across the lake. Isn't Canada on the other side?' And man, oh man, we all ganged up on LeBron then, and we made him leave the lake and walk us home. There was 21 of us and only one of him, and after a while, he backed down.
"He was a lot younger then, you see. He was only 8 or 9 when we walked to Lake Erie that night. Now I know LeBron most likely would've swam to Canada and made it okay, but the rest of us - we were all just little kids, little runts - and the rest of us would've drowned," Montesado said.
"Of course, even then, we weren't too scared walking around in Cleveland with all the werewolves and vampires out at the wee hours of the morning - that's what my grandma used to call the night crowd - God rest her soul, she died a long time back - don't you see how LeBron was, way back when we were just kids?
"Even in 4th grade, LeBron was six-foot-five and was bigger than any guy on the street," he added. "And he didn't look like a tweenager then, either, he looked about as old as he is now. Maybe even older. We was all really, really, really tired and all, but we had no fear with LeBron leading the way. When some mean bunch of guys approached us on the sidewalk, LeBron just gave them that mean & nasty look and those guys, they scuffled away right quick. Even as a kid, LeBron was the biggest badass in Cleveland," LeBron's boyhood chum said.
So much for guys that LeBron James grew up with. Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers owner, said, "I'm very disappointed, but if LeBron decides to play basketball later on this year, he's always welcome to come back to Cleveland. I hope he doesn't decide to play hockey this winter, that'd really be a shocker, but that Stanley Cup is really a nice-looking trophy. I don't think he's won one of those yet. I'll have to call ESPN and get the stats on that one. He's crazy about trophies. I don't think the money's even an issue anymore with Mr. James."
The Texas Rangers gave James a $12,500 contract for each of the three years he's signed on to play, with a raise up to $13,111 if he finishes into the third year.
Jon Daniels, President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Texas Rangers, said he's going to keep the Rangers' salary cap around a small Minor League team's current ratio.
"If they win some games, maybe fall into the middle of the AL West early on next year, they might get a couple hundred bucks extra. I don't know, we'll have to see," Daniels said.
According to James' publicist, Lucy T. Grimes, "Money isn't an issue anymore. LeBron's just playing to play nowadays, that's all. He'll probably bank the twelve grand every year of these ongoing Rangers' contracts and spend the other $500 on his kids. He's crazy about his kids - they mean the world to that guy.
"He can make a dollar stretch like a rubber band. He's got enough money already, anyhow, he says, and he's even thinking of playing hockey with the Detroit Red Wings this winter. He's a cold-weather guy, growing up in Akron and all. He likes the snow and cold. He's a bit of an odd duck. He'll probably feel really free skating around on that ice with one of those nasty sticks with the big crook at its bottom.
"Of course, nothing's been finalized, and the Red Wings better come up with some pretty hard, cold cash. Hockey's a rough contact sport and LeBron says he wants some real loot if he's going to put on the skates and swing a stick around on the ice," Grimes said.
"The last time I went to a boxing match, a hockey game broke out," Grimes laughed. "You know what I mean?"
"Stay in sports-celebrity management. You'll never make it as a stand-up comic," this reporter quipped and had hot coffee dumped all over him by Ms. Grimes.