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Sign this

By admin Published: December 2, 2006

Houston -- I've never been much of an autograph buff.  Even when I was a kid and collecting various sports artifacts like baseball cards and the like, I never got too much into them.  Obviously, though, they are a major business and all.  It never ceases to amaze me the hounds that stake out arena entrances and exits and hotels to get autographs.  They'll stand there for hours in hopes of landing one, which doesn't seem to be like a worthwhile time investment.

Once, I think in Philly but I am not sure, the Cavs arrived in their bus in the loading dock of the arena and someone from the sidewalk above lowered a jersey to LeBron with a fishing pole.  I thought he should've signed it just because the guy was so inventive, but he didn't.  In fact he doesn't give out a whole lot of autographs, especially if anyone besides a kid asks.  Regularly teams and even opposing players come to him on the road and ask for autographs.

Once Andre Miller came into the Cavs locker room and asked LeBron to sign a Cavs jersey...for his mother.  There have been others.  In fact, on more than one occasion over the last four years the game officials (gasp!) have secretly sent stuff to be signed.  Bet that's against some sort of rule.

Last year there was this guy who badly wanted LeBron to sign four All-Star Game posters with him and Kobe Bryant on them.  He must have been some official, because he had access to the locker room.  He'd already gotten Kobe to sign and tried to get LeBron to after a game at the Staples Center.  But that was the game where LeBron missed a last second shot after Kobe gave the Lakers the lead.  He was in no mood after the game.  But a few days later there was that fellow again, this time up in Sacramento.  He got the ink, so I guess it was worth the flight or whatever.

What I'm getting it is the other day I interviewed LeBron while he was doing one of his semiannual signings for Upper Deck.  It was quite a stunning operation, I have to say.  Upper Deck had two reps there at Quicken Loans Arena, one guy to take care of the quality of the signings and the artifacts and another guy with cameras and computers who I assume was doing certificates of authenticity.  Sorry, if I seem ignorant, I'm really not into this stuff.

Anyway, there had to be at least 100 basketballs there for him to sign and an entire table full of shoes.  Each of them had a "Sign Here" label as if it were a contract.  There were also instructions, such as sign "King James" on the tongue or on the toe.  When I was talking to him he was going through a two-inch high stack of posters.  He was signing each with a silver pen, then the one guy would whisk it away with gloves on for it to dry.  Ever so often, he'd have LeBron tap the pen on a piece of paper to make sure it still had good ink, he didn't want even one to have an untrue signing.  There were an entire bucket of silver and gold pens and LeBron was using some large sort pen holster.

He was settling in for a long afternoon worth of work.  He told me his Upper Deck contract requires him to sign 6,000 pieces of memorabilia a year.  I did some checking and some math -- LeBron's deal pays him $1.2 million per year -- and figures he makes about $200 per.  So while I was talking to him he probably pulled down about 20K.  Not bad.

Anyway, I don't have a point.  I thought I'd just pass along all this sexy behind-the-scenes stuff.  Otherwise...

--For some insight on the Cavs, I have no other new opinions than I expressed in the stories following the loss to the Knicks and the day of the game with the Hawks.  Even though the Cavs beat the Hawks, I am still not convinced all is yet well.

--If you read this before the Cavs play the Rockets here tonight, check out my friend Fran Blinebury as he live blogs the game.  I got to know Fran in Japan during the world championships.  He's traveled all over the world covering sports and has a great writing style.  Yet his love of the Japanese baths made me scratch my head.

--So I'm getting off the elevator this afternoon in Houston at my hotel after checking in and as the door opens there's a priest standing there.  News-Herald Cavs beat writer Bob Finnan was still on the elevator headed up to his room.  The reverend asks "Are you going up or down?"  Now, I was a little gitty from lack of sleep, I was up at 5:45 a.m. to fly over from the ATL, so I retorted:  "Are you asking in a spirtual or metaphysical sense?"  Which I thought was really funny.  But no one laughed.  Oh well. 

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