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Thursday, July 3
Updated: July 22, 4:10 PM ET
Deal worth almost $13 million in first three years

Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James has signed yet another multimillion dollar deal, but this one isn't for anything he'll drink or wear on his feet.

James signed his three-year, $12.96 million rookie contract Thursday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected the 18-year-old Akron high school phenom with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

Not So Fast ...
Although LeBron James' contract was slotted, based on the NBA's rookie salary cap, his agent said contract negotiations with the Cleveland Cavaliers were slowed by discussions over how the Cavs will promote James.

"Our philosophy is that we are a team," Goodwin said. "It just makes sense for the us to work with the Cavs and the NBA to make sure that we are on the same page as far as the synergy we've established for LeBron as an individual."

Last week, Goodwin and James met with NBA officials to discuss, among other things, the possibility of structuring endorsement deals with league sponsors.

James already has signed a seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike and a five-year, $6 million deal with Upper Deck. His next endorsement deal figures to come in the sports drink category.

Goodwin is negotiating with Pepsi and Coca-Cola for worldwide endorsement rights to James. Pepsi owns Gatorade and Coke owns Powerade.
-- Darren Rovell,

"I'm thrilled that he signed,'' general manager Jim Paxson said. "It will start his journey of being an NBA player, and that is exciting for us.''

James, who already has signed endorsement deals worth more than $100 million and will soon add more to his bulging business portfolio, will be paid $4.02 million next season.

As per the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Cavaliers will pay James $4.32 million in 2004-05, and $4.62 million in 2005-06.

The team has a club option for a fourth year at $5.8 million.

James' contract represents a 20 percent increase on the deal the Houston Rockets paid center Yao Ming, last year's top pick.

Getting James signed quickly was a priority to the Cavaliers, who want him to play on their summer league teams in Orlando and Boston.

The team will leave for Florida on Saturday to begin practicing for Orlando's six-team instructional league. James is expected to make his exhibition debut July 8 against the Magic.

The Cavs will play in the league through July 12 before heading to Boston for games from July 14-20. Cleveland is scheduled to play the Celtics on July 14.

James' participation in the summer leagues was one of the few obstacles his agent, Aaron Goodwin, and the Cavaliers had to overcome during their contract talks.

James may have to miss time during the team's stay in Boston if he accepts an invitation to attend ESPN's "ESPY'' award ceremony in Los Angeles on July 16.

That night, James is scheduled to make his TV debut as a pro against New Jersey in a game that is being televised by the NBA's 24-hour network.

Paxson said James will miss one or two games at the end of the team's stay in Orlando to attend a family member's wedding in Akron. However, Paxson would not say whether James would miss any of the six scheduled games in Boston.

"There are a lot of games,'' Paxson said. "To me, the practices are more important than the games.''

The Cavaliers would prefer James to play as much as possible this summer. Coach Paul Silas has said he wants to try the 6-foot-8 James at point guard, the weakest position on Cleveland's roster.

"We want to get LeBron acclimated to the system Paul wants to play,'' Paxson said.

Goodwin had phone conversations with the Cavaliers on Tuesday before coming to Cleveland for face-to-face negotiations with Paxson and the club's lawyers Wednesday.

The sides finalized the deal Thursday morning at Gund Arena.

Goodwin has had talks with sports-drink giant Gatorade about an endorsement deal for James, who signed a $90 million contract with Nike in May and has an exclusive trading card deal with Upper Deck.

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