James signs contract with Cavaliers

CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James has signed yet another multimillion dollar deal, but this one(isn't for anything he'll drink or wear on his feet.

James signed his three-year, $12.96 million rookie contract Thursday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected the 18-year-old Akron high school phenom with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

"I'm thrilled that he signed," general manager Jim Paxson said. "It will start his journey of being an NBA player, and that is exciting for us."

James, who already has signed endorsement deals worth more than $100 million and will soon add more to his bulging business portfolio, will be paid $4.02 million next season.

As per the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Cavaliers will pay James $4.32 million in 2004-05, and $4.62 million in 2005-06.


The team has a club option for a fourth year at $5.8 million.

James' contract represents a 20 percent increase on the deal the Houston Rockets paid center Yao Ming, last year's top pick.

Getting James signed quickly was a priority to the Cavaliers, who want him to play on their summer league teams in Orlando and Boston.

The team will leave for Florida on Saturday to begin practicing for Orlando's six-team instructional league. James is expected to make his exhibition debut July 8 against the Magic.

The Cavs will play in the league through July 12 before heading to Boston for games from July 14-20. Cleveland is scheduled to play the Celtics on July 14.

James' participation in the summer leagues was one of the few obstacles his agent, Aaron Goodwin, and the Cavaliers had to overcome during their contract talks.

James may have to miss time during the team's stay in Boston if he accepts an invitation to attend ESPN's "ESPY" award ceremony in Los Angeles on July 16.

That night, James is scheduled to make his TV debut as a pro against New Jersey in a game that is being televised by the NBA's 24-hour network.

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