LeBron releases new shoe in NY

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By Tom Withers

CLEVELAND – LeBron James loves the New York Yankees – from head to toe.

The Cavaliers’ All-Star forward, who angered some Cleveland fans by wearing a Yankees baseball cap in the Indians’ home ballpark while cheering for New York during last year’s AL playoffs, has taken his devotion to the Bronx Bombers one step further.

James’ newest sneaker in his signature line with Nike is a tribute to his favorite hardball team: the Yankees.

Dominated by the team’s traditional blue-and-white color scheme, the Air Zoom LeBron V shoe features New York’s famed pinstripes as well as James’ No. 23, the number worn by popular Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

Also, under the tongue are the words: “Le-Bron Ja-Mes. Clap. Clap. Clap Clap Clap,” a nod to the cheer New York fans reserve for their beloved Yankees, and on the strap is the phrase: “Fresh for ’08. Suckers!”

Nike spokesman Kejuan Wilkins said the Yankees-themed shoe will be released in March. Initial plans are for it to be sold only in New York.

This isn’t the first Big Apple-inspired shoe developed for the 23-year-old Akron native, who signed a seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike before he graduated from high school. “LeBron has a great appreciation for New York City itself,” Wilkins said, “and this is just another tie.”

Wilkins did not know if James will wear the Yankees shoes in a game. The Cavaliers visit the New York Knicks on March 5.

“He runs the risk of rubbing some of his core fans the wrong way,” said Paul Swangard, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “But you can’t make everyone happy.”

Swangard, who consults athletes on their marketing strategies, doesn’t feel James has done anything to compromise himself.

“You have to be true to who you are,” Swangard said. “If he’s not a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan, then don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or you risk losing all your credibility.”