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What is LeBron’s Economic Impact on a City?

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May 19, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) attempts a layup in front of forward Larry Nance Jr. (22) and Boston Celtics forward Al Horford (42) during the first half of game three of the Eastern conference finals in the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

By Evan Weiner |

The “where will LeBron James will play next season” storyline continues. But there are those in Cleveland who are hoping that James remains in the city as a member of Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers business because he means money to some local businesses. At least that is what was reported in Crain’s Cleveland Business.

There is no real economic data that James is driving Cleveland’s economy – just some vague figures that his presence in Cleveland is or has been worth $200 million – but it is not specified whether that occurred over the past four years or in the 11 years that he played for the Cavaliers. Conventions, Sports and Leisure claimed that every time James and the Cavaliers franchise played a home game in the NBA Finals over the past four years, there was a direct economic impact of $3.7 million. None of that is quantified and is only a guess.

No one has really ever done a legitimate study of economic impact that sports events really have on an area. This much is known, there is more spending around a sports venue but once you get away from the area, there is no economic impact. People generally don’t travel for NBA or NHL games and only a handful of games are played each month during the season so there is not much business for the tourism and trade as part of the economy.

James does bring media attention to Cleveland but how much is that really worth? Cleveland also has a Major League Baseball team and a National Football League franchise so there is publicity year around. Cleveland gets exposure on sports shows but James is bigger than Cleveland or Miami on the sports circuit so the attention is given to him not a city. Miami has survived without James and Cleveland will too. Sports is not an economic engine.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner

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