CLEVELAND -- Already the city's most famous citizen, LeBron James has never been bigger in Cleveland. He's 10-stories tall.
As a way of acknowledging the All-Star forward's impact, Nike
has hung a billboard of James on the side of a building near
Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers, that is 110 feet high
and 212 feet wide.
On the massive mesh banner, James soars toward an unseen basket
with his right arm extended over his head, ready to deliver one of
his signature slam dunks. Next to the sprawling reproduction of the
photograph taken during his rookie season are the words: "WE ARE
"It's simple, but it says it all," said Chris Marsh of Avon
Lake, one of several people to pause and look at the banner, which
has quickly become Cleveland's newest tourist attraction. "Just
like with Michael Jordan, we are witnessing the same thing, just in
a different era. It's awesome."
Nike's intent was to honor James for his work on and off the
"The idea was to let Cleveland fans have the opportunity to say
that we are watching the growth and development of LeBron and the
Cavaliers, and not just on the court but in the community," said
company spokesman Rodney Knox. "We are watching LeBron and this
team grow and grow."
The photo used for the billboard was taken on Nov. 15, 2003. It
captures James in mid-flight on a breakaway in a game against the
In only two seasons as a pro, James has blossomed into one of
the game's best players while becoming a global marketing icon,
following in the shoes of Jordan, the 20-year-old's boyhood idol.
Knox said the billboard, which features the omnipresent Nike
swoosh, is not tied to a marketing campaign for James' new sneaker
line, Zoom LeBron III, which will hit stores later this month.
As motorists craned their necks and pedestrians stopped to view
the 2,700-pound banner, Victor Darby stood below giving directions
over a cell phone to his friend, Tyler Newell, who was about to
drive back to Washington, D.C.
"I told him, 'Man, you got to come back and see this,'" Darby
Moments later, Newell pulled up, got out of his truck and soaked
in the larger-than-life LeBron.
"Whoa," Newell said. "Now that's big. It should be. He's the
When James was a rookie, Nike promoted his first sneaker by
placing a four-story billboard of his likeness on Seventh Avenue
just a block from Madison Square Garden. The apparel giant had been
looking for the right location in Cleveland, and settled on the
Landmark Building next to Terminal Tower, the city's best known
When he was still a senior at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High
School, James signed a seven-year $90 million endorsement contract
with Nike, the richest initial shoe deal offered to an athlete.
As of Thursday afternoon, James had still not seen the giant
"Where's it at?" he said, peering through a window outside the
club's practice court. "I'm going to drive over and take a look at
it. I heard it's pretty big."