AKRON, Ohio – LeBron James drove his Hummer toward the basket, made a hard left near the baseline, spun around some cheerleaders and brought it to a screeching stop.
Under the bench.
While his teammates warmed up two hours before a game Tuesday night, James, whose recent acquisition of a luxury sports utility vehicle has led to a state investigation into his eligibility, toyed with the controversy spiraling around him.
Sitting on the floor at midcourt, the nation’s top high school basketball player, smiled as he steered a remote control Hummer around the floor of Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena.
“OK,” he said. “Here’s my real Hummer.”
When a basketball nearly crushed his four-wheeled camouflaged gadget, James yelled, “Hey, you almost hit my truck.”
Guess he’s not too worried about things.
On Monday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association began an investigation into how James, the expected No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, acquired a 2003 Hummer H2 vehicle.
State officials are concerned that James, a senior, might have violated his amateur status by accepting an improper gift.
Clair Muscaro, commissioner of the OHSAA, said Tuesday that the inquiry was continuing and that he was still in the process of gathering information.
Muscaro said he had been in contact with St. Vincent-St. Mary officials and that the school was in the process of sending him documentation.
The OHSAA has asked the school to provide written evidence about how the SUV was bought and financed. If it is shown to be an improper gift from an outside source, James could forfeit his amateur status and his school would have to forfeit its games from the time the 6-foot-8 sensation acquired the extravagant vehicle.
James, a senior, reportedly got the Hummer — with a base retail price of $50,000 — as an 18th birthday gift from his mother, Gloria, who has told school officials that she obtained a bank loan to finance the vehicle.
Gloria James has refused to comment on the situation.
One of the OHSAA’s bylaws says an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by “capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value.”
“We have parents buying cars for their kids all the time,” Muscaro said. “We just need to know that everything was done properly and within the rules.”
Muscaro hopes to have the case resolved by the end of the week.
James’ case is believed to be unprecedented in Ohio, which has made enforcing any rules more difficult, OHSAA spokesman Bob Goldring said.
“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “This is new ground for us.”
James’ SUV is reportedly outfitted with three televisions, has seatbacks embroidered with “King James”, and hookups for computer games.
License plate tags on the platinum-colored Hummer show it was purchased at 310 Motoring Automobile Specialists of Los Angeles, which caters to a celebrity clientele.
On its Web site, www.310motoring.com the dealership boasts to have among its customers actor Denzel Washington, singers Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, NBA superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Gary Payton and NFL stars Ray Lewis, Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp.