Saturday, August 2, 2003

NBA Notebook

Lebron's No. 23 has fans dishing out big dollars

Enquirer wire services

CLEVELAND - LeBron James already has beaten Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd. Not on the court - where James has yet to start his NBA career - but in jersey sales.

James' jerseys are among the hottest items not just in NBA merchandise, but among all licensed sports apparel.

Enough No. 23 jerseys have been sold to fill the 20,000-seat Gund Arena four times with wine-and-gold clad fans. Sales totaled more than $4 million since the jerseys went on sale the night of the June 26 NBA draft when James was taken by Cleveland with the first overall pick.

"That's a pretty good feat for someone who hasn't played a game yet in the NBA," said Neil Schwartz, director of marketing for SportScanINFO. The company, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., tracks sales of sports apparel and footwear for the NBA and other clients.

Last week, James' wine-colored road jersey was No. 2 in sales among all licensed sports apparel. He was second to only his idol, Michael Jordan, whose Washington retro jersey topped the list. Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's jersey ranked third, according to SportScanINFO.

"Phenomenal," said Jay Mininger, vice president of marketing for Dick's Sporting Goods, a chain of 151 stores in 27 states. "They are virtually gone. There's a couple left in each store."

Cleveland has jumped from 17th to sixth among NBA teams in apparel sales, according to SportsScanINFO.

"That's been propelled by one thing and one thing only," Schwartz said.

Ironically, the James jerseys are made by Reebok, not Nike, the company that signed the 18-year-old to a $90 million contract. Reebok is licensed by the NBA to produce them.

BRYANT: Kobe Bryant called 911 the day before he surrendered to police on a sexual assault accusation, and medics later treated a female at his home, officials said Friday.

The Los Angeles Lakers star hung up the phone without talking, but a dispatcher called back, speaking to three people, including Bryant, before sending police and paramedics, Sgt. Steve Shulman said. Medics arrived at 12:40 a.m. July 3 and stayed 23 minutes.

"He confirmed that the reason for the call that he made initially was for medical assistance at the residence, and the medical assistance was not for him, it was for someone else," Shulman said.

Shortly after he called 911, medics treated a female at the house but did not need to take her to the hospital, said Vickie Cleary, emergency services manager for the Newport Beach Fire Department.

No further details were immediately available, and it was unclear whether the medics treated a woman or child. Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, had a baby girl in January.

Paramedics were summoned to the house for a similar medical emergency March 5, Cleary said.

RODMAN: Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman testified Thursday in a civil trial that he doesn't remember meeting a woman who accused him of sexual assault.

The suit alleges Rodman, 42, drugged, raped and imprisoned former waitress Jo Len Ann McGowen in his Newport Beach home in March 2001.

No criminal charges were ever filed against Rodman in this case.

NETS: Kenyon Martin's agent said it's unlikely he would reach agreement with New Jersey on a contract extension, which would make the power forward a restricted free agent after next season.

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