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What LeBron would mean to Chicago: $$$

May 31, 2010, 3:00 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for James_Thumbsup.jpgLeBron James isn’t just a basketball player. Well, he is that, a damn good one. But he’s grown beyond that into a brand. A franchise unto himself. Someone that takes a team to manage.

The man prints money.

So with “LeBron fever” rivaling or surpassing “Blackhawks fever” in Chicago right now, the Chicago Business Journal broke down the numbers of what LeBron would mean in Chicago. Very big numbers.

Apparel shops, ticket brokers and bar and restaurant owners say the 25-year-old megastar would spark a frenzy of spending by local high-rollers and out-of-town professionals. Tourism officials gush over the exposure Chicago would get from near-constant national telecasts.

The LeBron effect could add up to as much as $2.7 billion if he plays here for six years, estimates University of Illinois at Chicago economist John Skorburg. The catch: He’d have to take the Bulls on deep, annual playoff runs, sprinkling in at least a few NBA championships along the way.

Chris Bosh is a very good player, he may be a better match with Derrick Rose, but he does not bring the marketing clout. LeBron is already the international brand others dream of. And by others I mean shoe company executives.

But in the NBA, the bottom line is about winning titles — because winning titles boosts the bottom line. Without the revenue from deep playoff runs and the added exposure from titles, a lot of that economic benefit can’t be realized.

So LeBron the business faces the same decision as LeBron the player — where can I win? And win now? Chicago may be the best answer to those questions.  

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