MONEY Sports

How College Football Sacked the NBA and MLB

Houston football fans singing the National Anthem
Dave Einsel—AP

With the college football season upon us, it's time to take stock of just how valuable this "amateur" sport has become.

Want to know how rabid fans have become for college football?

Well, the season kicks off in earnest tonight when the South Carolina Gamecocks (ranked 9th in the country) take on the Texas A&M Aggies (ranked 21st).

The game will be played in Columbia, South Carolina, in front of 80,000 screaming fans — an amazing feat given that Columbia has a population of just 133,000. The Aggies, for their part, play in Kyle Field, which in 2015 will be able to hold almost every single College Station, Texas, resident.

Last year, the Gamecocks opened with a game against the University of North Carolina, and 3.7 million people across the country tuned in. That may not sound that impressive, but consider that Columbia is just the 77th largest television market in the U.S., behind cities like Omaha and Toledo.

There’s no doubt about it. Americans love football.

More people watched the NFL Sunday Night pregame show last year than watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. In fact, professional football games comprised all but four of the 50 most-watched sporting events of 2013. The National Football League is the most popular spectator sport in America.

What’s No. 2? Not the NBA, not Major League Baseball—but college football. And with college football introducing a new-fangled playoff system this year, expect America’s infatuation to only grow.

Here are a few measures of its influence.

Ratings

The 2013 NBA finals featured perhaps the most popular athlete in the world, Lebron James, as his super team battled against the San Antonio Spurs for seven unforgettable games. An average of almost 18 million viewers saw James secure his second NBA title. A few months later, 15 million baseball fans saw the Red Sox win their third championship since 2004.

How many viewers watched Florida State beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS title game? Twenty-six million, per Nielsen ratings.

This isn’t a one-off event. On average, 2.6 million people watched NCAA regular season football games last year, according to Nielsen. Take Saturday, October 5, 2013. Both the University of Georgia and Tennessee were enduring less than stellar seasons. Nevertheless, 5.6 million people tuned in to see the two Southeastern Conference schools play each another on CBS.

Viewer demand is only likely to increase. Starting this year, college football will institute a four-team playoff to decide the national champion, and rejiggered rules allow the biggest football programs more control over their finances. According to USA Today, these developments will lead to the biggest schools earning 71.5% of the $470 million annual television revenue for the playoff.

Baseball and basketball simply don’t attract as many eyeballs. About 700,000 people watched an MLB regular season game on television in 2013, and 1.4 million watched a non-playoff NBA game in the 2012-13 season. (All are based on nationally televised games.)

The total attendance for 835 NCAA Division I football games was a little more than 38 million, with a per-game attendance of 46,000. The NBA, which has almost 400 more total games in its season, drew 21 million people, while the MLB attracted 30,500 per game. (Major League Baseball has almost three times as many games and brought in a total of 74 million fans.)

Reach

Part of college football’s popularity might be its reach. While the NBA and MLB have 30 teams collected mostly around large metropolitan areas, college football programs exist where there are colleges – which is everywhere. Consider that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have 15 professional baseball and basketball teams. That’s a quarter of all the teams in only four cities.

Now look at NCAA football. The top five teams play in Tallahassee, Tuscaloosa, Eugene, Norman, and Columbus. While it’s true that a number of the West Coast schools play in big cities (UCLA, Stanford, and the University of Washington), most of the big-time schools are the only game in town. If you live in Boise, Idaho, do you really care about anything else the way you care about Boise State Broncos football?

Riches

There is something a bit unsettling about college football’s popularity, and corresponding affluence. A college football coach is the highest paid public employee in 27 states – including South Carolina and Texas. Alabama’s Nick Saban made more than $5.5 million last year, despite the fact that his and every other team’s players weren’t paid anything. (Many were given athletic scholarships, but those can be taken away if a “student-athlete” becomes injured. Just for some perspective: the University of Texas’s football program earned $82 million in profit last year.)

Plus, football is a dangerous game, and it’s an open question whether an institution of higher learning should even be in the business of promoting a sport that causes severe head trauma. (Google: Owen Thomas.)

College football, though, is inexorably linked to American history. The first intercollegiate game took place four years after the end of the Civil War, and the college game itself was saved by then President Teddy Roosevelt.

Otherwise normal, hard-working Americans revert to 20-year-old fanatics every fall Saturday afternoon and cheer on their alma maters. Tonight’s game in Columbia is just another page in the never-ending story of America’s love with her second-favorite sport.

TIME Basketball

Get Ready for NBA 3.0

Is India the next international basketball hot spot?

India is renowned as a country of cricket fanatics. But that hasn’t stopped the top brass of the NBA from hoping that basketball will sink deep roots into the South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.

The Sacramento Kings’ interest in rookie Sim Bhullar, whose parents emigrated from India to Canada, may very well prove to be the game changer the NBA is looking for. Although the 7-ft. 4-in. center is not currently on the team’s 15-player roster, owner Vivek Ranadive — the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA team — says he’s placing big hopes on the 21-year-old.

Officials and owners are hoping that Bhullar will boost the sport’s popularity with Indians, just as the entrance of Yao Ming into the NBA in 2002 led to the meteoric rise of basketball’s popularity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“What Yao Ming did for China, we hope players like Sim will do for India,” said Ranadive during an interview at an NBA summer league game in July. “I have this vision — I call it NBA 3.0 — where I want to make basketball the premier sport of the 21st century.”

According to the Kings’ website, Ranadive is planning to take NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a trip to India in the near future.

However, local sports journalists say several things must fall into place before basketball reaches the level of popularity envisaged by Ranadive. At present, the majority of the nation’s domestic basketball players are semiprofessionals.

“As of now, we can’t think of basketball as a profession,” Roshan Thyagarajan, a columnist for cricket bible Wisden India but also an avid basketball fan, tells TIME. “The boards, the associations are not well-oiled. Everything is out of place. So that needs to be addressed immediately.”

Nevertheless, there’s a ton of potential, with India already proving to be a formidable opponent. China might be considered the power to be reckoned with in Asia, but the Indian national team beat the PRC squad 65-58 during a historic win at FIBA 2014 in July.

Photographer Cathy Scholl has been working in India and taking an intimate look at the growing excitement around basketball and the hoop dreams of the men and women who play it. Her images, above, capture a sport making tentative steps in a nation forecast to become the world’s most populous in less than 15 years.

TIME NBA

NBA to Raptors: Drop Drake As Official Ambassador

2014 ESPYS - Backstage & Audience
\ESPYs host Drake with NBA player Kevin Durant with the award for best Male Athlete at the The 2014 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. \ Kevin Mazur—WireImage

The team was fined after the rapper lobbied Kevin Durant to come to Toronto during a concert

The NBA is none too pleased that Drake took time out from a recent concert in Toronto to ask one of the audience members, reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant, to join the Toronto Raptors—a team for which the rapper is an official ambassador. The league says that Drake was tampering by trying to publicly recruit the Oklahoma City Thunder player.

“You know, my brother Kevin Durant was kind enough to come to the show tonight and watch us,” Drake said at the concert. “I just want him to see what would happen if he came to play in Toronto. Let him know what would happen.” The crowd cheered in response.

The NBA has fined the Raptors $25,000, but according to The Globe and Mail the league said it would drop the fine if the team strips Drake of his title. Toronto reportedly refused the offer.

[The Globe and Mail]

TIME Basketball

Steve Ballmer Now Officially Owns the Clippers

Microsoft Opens New Center In Berlin
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer speaks at the opening of the Microsoft Center Berlin on November 7, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The deal closed shortly after a court struck down a challenge from former owner Donald Sterling

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer closed a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, the National Basketball Association announced Tuesday, ending a months-long legal battle to pry the team away from disgraced former owner Donald Sterling. The deal is reportedly worth $2 billion.

“The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team,” the NBA said in a brief statement.

In an effort to block the sale of the Clippers, Donald Sterling had challenged his wife Shelley Sterling’s authority to transfer ownership of the team. But that argument was struck down in court, clearing the way for Tuesday’s transaction.

Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life after TMZ leaked recordings of a private conversation in which he is heard urging his girlfriend at the time to avoid associations with black people.

The Los Angeles Times reports that NBA also filed a counterclaim against Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust on Monday, demanding compensation for the “incalculable harm” the controversy has caused to the league as well as the legal costs of the subsequent investigation into Sterling’s conduct.

TIME Basketball

ESPN Suspends Radio Host For His LeBron James-Trolling Billboard

A new billboard was spotted in Akron, Ohio today. Jeremy Powell

Adding insult to injury, it was written in Comic Sans

ESPN suspended a Miami-based radio host after he erected billboards throughout Ohio to troll LeBron James.

Dan Le Batard, host of the Le Batard Show, told Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote that he was merely wreaking “fun anarchy” on James for never thanking Heat fans when he recently announced he was heading back to the Cleveland Cavliers. Le Batard put up billboards — paid for by his dad and co-host Gonzalo Le Batard — showing two championship rings under the text, “You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami.”

Adding insult to injury, the message was written in Comic Sans.

But, as Le Batard texted to Cote Thursday, “I guess ESPN didn’t find it all quite as funny as I did.”

ESPN released the following the statement: “Dan LeBatard will be off the air for two days, returning Monday. His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”

Before posting the billboards, Le Batard attempted to buy a similar full-page ad in local Ohio paper The Plain Dealer, which “politely declined” the offer. He also tried The Akron Beacon-Journal, which also said no.

This is a mock-up of the rejected newspaper ad, which leaked on Twitter:

TIME Sports

What It’s Like for a Woman to Coach Men’s Professional Basketball

Becky Hammon #25 of the San Antonio Silver Stars shoots a free throw shot during the WNBA game against the Phoenix Mercury at US Airways Center on August 20, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Silver Stars 87-81. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Becky Hammon #25 of the San Antonio Silver Stars shoots a free throw shot during the WNBA game against the Phoenix Mercury at US Airways Center on August 20, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Silver Stars 87-81. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Christian Petersen—Getty Images

Advice to Becky Hammon from the first female to coach a professional men's team

In the NBA, there are head coaches, assistant coaches, strength coaches, player-development coaches, conditioning coaches, mind coaches and many others. Until this week, they all had one thing in common: they were men. Why not a female coach? Women have a special way of communicating to players. We can help disseminate the message of the organization’s philosophy to the players, and we can deliver the message of the head coach in a different tone, a different soundtrack. As a female coach in what is perceived as a man’s world, I feel unique, but no different than my colleagues in the way of the expected outcome. I, too, want to win. Many of the guys in college or the NBA have had strong, dominant women in their life, so many of these guys are used to taking advice and direction from women. And in my experience, the players respond to me just as they would to the men with clipboards that I sit next to. I love basketball, and I love to coach. My players have always known that my methods are for their betterment; therefore, the creation of trust and bond that I share with them supersedes my gender.

I recall clearly the day my coaching career began. I met with Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson at a Starbucks in Plano, Texas. We said hello and he greeted me with a hug that was tighter than his normal embrace. “We need to talk,” he said. Those talks became discussions about becoming the first woman to ever coach in a men’s professional basketball league. Donnie’s career had taken a huge leap, as he had just purchased the Development League team the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.

When Donnie was getting ready to announce that I would be the coach of the Texas Legends, he said to me: “No matter what happens, you’re my coach. We’re going to have a press conference, and we’re going to tell people about the Texas Legends.” People knew who I was, and they knew I had been around basketball for many years. They knew I was successful as a player and a coach in the WNBA, but this coaching position was new. This was historic. I was aware and prepared for people to judge that I’d be a woman coaching men, but my biggest hope was that our actions as a franchise would speak for themselves. As a head coach with my players and staff, I wanted to show people that our hard work, our dedication, our discipline and how we played and cared about each other were credible enough for the big leagues, despite my gender.

My life took another turn when I was blessed with the arrival of my son, TJ, in 1994. He has been one of the most important people in my life, and his support has carried me for the past 20 years. I stepped down from my coaching job with the Legends in 2011 because I felt it was necessary to be there for TJ’s senior year in high school. He deserved to have his mom sitting in the stands during his basketball games, so I traded roles and became the Assistant General Manager of the Texas Legends. Women are great multitaskers, and I wanted to be the best mom I could when raising TJ. Our empathy and passion are not bound by motherhood, but can be carried into sports and business as well. These qualities have served me well both personally and professionally

Becky Hammon will have to approach her new role as the first full-time female NBA coach in her own way. Becky knows the game of basketball and knows what it will take to survive on the path she is preparing to pave. Coach Gregg Popovich isn’t the type of guy who’s looking for media and press clippings; he’s the type of guy who’s looking directly at results. Can she manage working with his guys? Can she be an asset to the coaching staff? What is her basketball IQ, and what type of interpersonal relationship will she be able to forge with the team as an assistant coach? For Coach Popovich to hire Becky speaks to her credibility and his confidence in her. It’s no surprise to me that she won his heart and his mind with her basketball acumen and her understanding of the game, along with the respect he has seen her command from the players.

Once all of the press conferences are over and the interviews slow down, Becky is going to have to be “one” with the guys in the environment they live in. She’s going to have to be concise, know when to talk, know when to stop talking and know how to be a great leader on the bench and in the locker room.

I don’t think Becky set out to be an example for gender equality or a barrier breaker in sports or society. She started playing basketball because it was a game she found she loved, and she has played it at the highest levels. It seems natural for her to come off the court after 16 years and to use the experience and knowledge she has to coach and teach. The fact that she will end up coaching men speaks volumes for her as basketball player and as an individual. She has the ability to cross over and be respected and trusted by athletes, male and female alike. I look forward to getting an opportunity to do what I love, which is teach and coach at the NBA level one day. I will thank Becky Hammon for the door that she has opened with her relationship with the Spurs and Coach Popovich.

Nancy Lieberman is a Hall of Famer, two-time Olympian, three-time All American, WNBA coach and Assistant General Manager for the Texas Legends, in addition to an acclaimed broadcaster, motivational speaker and esteemed writer.

TIME Crime

NBA Player Greg Oden Arrested for Allegedly Punching Ex-Girlfriend in the Face

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6
Greg Oden, No. 20 of the Miami Heat, looks on prior to Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers Ron Elkman—Getty Images

No official charges have been filed yet

Greg Oden, a free agent NBA player, was arrested on Thursday in Indiana on charges of misdemeanor battery after allegedly punching his ex-girlfriend.

“He punched her in the face,” said a witness, who identified herself as the victim’s best friend, according to a police report. The incident occurred at around 3:30 a.m. at a house owned by Oden’s mother.

“Things got out of control and I started to go after the victim,” the report, which has redacted names, says Oden told police. “My relative] and witness tried to hold me back, but as I swung my arms to move them out of the way, then punched the victim in the face. I was wrong and I know what has to happen.”

The victim, 24, and Oden, 26, had dated for about two years, he told police, before breaking up nearly two months ago.

When officers arrived, they found the victim lying down and reportedly bleeding from “lacerations” around her nose and forehead. The report adds that police found blood on the floor and a sofa, as well as dirt on the ground from a flower pot that had been knocked over.

According to the report:

The victim went to an upstairs bedroom and laid across the bed crying and holding her face. EMS responded but the victim refused medical treatment. The witness entered the room stating “there isn’t that much love in the world; you need to tell that he punched you in the face”. The victim advised Officer Harris that she fell but was unable to advise when and where. The victim was very uncooperative. Officer Harris spoke with the relative who stated she was awaken by Gregory Oden and the victim arguing. The relative stated every time the two visit and go out, there is an argument to follow.

No charges have been filed yet against Oden, who was No. 1 draft pick in 2007 and most recently played with the Miami Heat. He was taken to an initial processing center for arrestees.

The NBA has not yet responded to the incident, among the latest in a recent string of pro-athlete arrests. The NFL recently came under fire for suspending Ray Rice, a running back with the Baltimore Ravens, for two games after he allegedly hit his wife to the point of knocking her unconscious—all caught on tape. And Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts was suspended for four games for taking illegal fertility drugs in a bid to help his wife conceive.

TIME Sports

What Sets Becky Hammon Apart From Her Peers

WNBA star Becky Hammon takes questions from the media at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility after being introduced as an assistant coach with the team on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 in San Antonio.
WNBA star Becky Hammon takes questions from the media at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility after being introduced as an assistant coach with the team on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 in San Antonio. Bahram Mark Sobhani—AP

On the court, the WNBA player didn't force passes into bad situations--and those decision-making skills will do her well off the court as a coach.

As soon as the San Antonio Spurs announced the hiring of WNBA star Becky Hammon as an assistant coach this week—making her the first full time, paid woman to coach in the NBA—I thought back to the first time I interviewed her.

It was the summer of 2004, and Hammon was playing point guard for the New York Liberty, which had been temporarily kicked out of Madison Square Garden by the Republican National Convention. The Garden’s hardwood had been transported to Radio City Music Hall, where the Liberty would face the Detroit Shock.

Fans in Hammon jerseys were ushered to plush red seats by members of The Rockettes. Liberty players danced out of a mock subway car during introductions. A minute into the game, a ball bounced into the orchestra section. In the second half, a Shock player did too. The game was, you might say, riddled with distractions for the players.

“Distraction” is the liquid of the pro sports world, conforming to the shape of any container one can create. A player’s traffic ticket is a distraction. Trade rumors and reporters are distractions. In recent years, a player coming out as gay is haggled over by fans and talking heads as a potential distraction. Essentially, anything other than winning is a distraction. So no sooner did the Spurs announce the Hammon hiring than online forums lit up with discussion of whether Hammon would be a distraction. Here’s the answer: no.

The Spurs—the reigning NBA champs and one of the most stable franchises in pro sports history—will be no more distracted than Hammon was when she was leading fastbreaks down the Radio City proscenium, as the Liberty beat the Shock 78-69. What struck me about Hammon when I interviewed her in the locker room after that game was her nonchalance about the setting, and her startling recall for how plays had unfolded during the game. As I write in The Sports Gene, that kind of recall is one of the hallmarks of true expertise, from basketball and football to chess and piano. And it is part of the reason that Hammon, a six-time All-Star, is one of the best WNBA players of all time. If she could be compared to an NBA star, it would have to be Lakers point guard and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. Both have such acute spatial awareness and fluent ball handling skills that, rather than forcing passes into bad situations, they can often be found dribbling patiently from one corner of the court to the other, looking for a prime opening. As a result, both tended to make better decisions than the next player. Decision-making is what sets Hammon apart from her peers.

The Spurs have already seen this side of Hammon. They have seen it on the court—Hammon has played for their sister team, the San Antonio Stars, since 2007. And they saw it last year, during what Hammon calls her “internship.” Sensing the end of her career (she will retire from the WNBA at the end of this season), Hammon arranged with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to start sitting in on coaches meetings and film sessions, and to attend some practices and direct drills. So it’s not like the Spurs are making an uninformed decision, and apparently Hammon was an impressive intern. As Popovich put it in his is typical plainspeak: “She knows when to talk, and she knows when to shut up…a lot of people don’t figure that out.”

That’s not to say that Hammon won’t have plenty to learn. In fact, the idea that top players immediately make adept coaches is belied by the paths of stars-turned-coaches like Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Jason Kidd. Because the best players have automated many of the game’s skills—that is, they can execute the skills without using the higher conscious or “thinking” parts of the brain, just as you did when you eventually learned to drive a car—they can be among the people worst positioned to explain how certain skills work to a lower-level learner. Simply having been a great player won’t be enough for Hammon; she’ll have to learn to be a great coach. But there is no better mentor than Popovich, one of the best coaches in history, one who has a Master’s degree in physical education and spent the same number of games in the NBA as a player as Hammon: zero.

In 2009, former star player Nancy Lieberman was the head coach of the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League—basically the minor league for the NBA. They made the playoffs in her only season. And now Hammon will kick the door open a bit more for women who want to coach at the highest level. Until recently, women’s opportunities to play or coach in most pro sports were extremely limited. The WNBA was only founded in 1996, after all. But Hammon is part of the first generation of women who have had long careers as professional basketball players. She won’t be a distraction, and by the time the next woman comes to an NBA staff, that word will feel antiquated.

David Epstein is author of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene: Inside The Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, and an investigative reporter at ProPublica.

TIME Basketball

Report: Kevin Love Will Play With LeBron James on the Cavs

Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a NBA game between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Time Warner Arena on March 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina
Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a NBA game between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Time Warner Arena on March 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina Don Kelly—Corbis

The Cavaliers are said to be dealing Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennet to the Timberwolves for Love

Kevin Love is headed to Cleveland, according to reports from Adiran Wojnaroski at Yahoo Sports and Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

The Minnesota Timberwolves will send Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennet and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick, those reporters write. The teams have a “handshake” agreement in which Love will opt out of his 2015 contract with the Timberwolves and sign with the Cavaliers for a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension, NBA sources told Yahoo.

The deal can’t be completed until Aug. 23 because Wiggins, who was picked first in the 2014 NBA draft, cannot be traded until a month after signing his rookie contract. Neither team can take any legal action if one of the parties pulls out of the deal before that date.

Love will join basketball star LeBron James, who left the Miami Heat earlier this summer to return to his home state in hopes of bringing a championship to Cleveland. Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving will round out the team’s big three.

The trade positions Cleveland as a playoff finals contender in a weak Eastern Conference where the Chicago Bulls will likely be the Cavs’ main competition. Neither Love nor Irving has ever competed in an NBA playoff series.

[Yahoo Sports]

TIME NBA

Miami Fan Takes Billboard-Sized Jab at LeBron

A new billboard was spotted in Akron, Ohio today. Jeremy Powell

"You're welcome, LeBron"

A Miami-based radio host is stepping up his ad campaign to tweak basketball star LeBron James for leaving the city, this time taking out a billboard-sized ad in Akron, Ohio, with a picture of two Miami Heat championship rings, and the words “You’re welcome, LeBron,” written above it. In case the sarcasm wasn’t clear enough, the billboard in James’ hometown, first spotted by locals Wednesday, is signed: “Love, Miami.”

The ad comes compliments of Gonzalo “Papi” Le Batard, who has spent the past few days ribbing James on the local sports radio show and podcast he hosts with his son, The Dan Le Batard Show. Le Batard has also reportedly attempted to take out full-page ads in Ohio newspapers, which local editors declined to run.

A representative for the show confirmed to TIME that Le Batard was behind the billboard ad, but declined to comment further, though they have discussed the joke repeatedly on air. “We’re telling him you’re welcome because he hasn’t said thank you to Miami,” Dan Le Batard said on a recent show, maintaining the ads are simply a light-hearted “publicity stunt.”

James, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, re-signed with the Cavs this year after winning two championships in Miami.

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