If LeBron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers, will his magic leave the city’s economy, too?
James is set to announce his decision on where he will spend his next season at 9 p.m. Thursday during an hour-long special on ESPN.
The NBA star and Akron native has reportedly helped inject untold millions in the city, almost single-handedly luring crowds to sold-out games, selling Cavs jerseys and breathing life back into East Fourth Street downtown.
Nick Kostis, owner of a restaurant and comedy club on East Fourth Street, a pedestrian-only district near the Cavaliers’ arena, told the Associated Press that James created another reason to come downtown.
“He is, in fact, the greatest show on earth,” Kostis said. “And we love a great show.”
But Cleveland may lose to show to New York, Chicago or Miami as cities are vying to get the two-time MVP on their own teams.
There is no way good way to really gauge how much James-inspired revenue Cleveland has enjoyed and therefore impossible to say how much the city may lose if James leaves, AP reported.
Still, Dave Gilbert sports commission CEO, said James equals travel tourism money, and officials noted about $3.7 million generated during each home game of the regular season, or $150 million total.
And economists took it a step further, calculating that losing James could mean $298 million lost from the city and a $500 million gain for Chicago or $1 billion gain for New York if he were to go to either of those cities because more people live in those places, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
But not everyone fears the worst if James leave. Economics Professor Justin Sydnor said people are still going to spend their money, whether it’s at a Cavs game or a downtown restaurant.
Paul Solman, PBS economics correspondent, said James’ appeal extends beyond dollar amounts.
“But beyond the immediate cash boost to Cleveland, the Cavaliers franchise has grown by more than $200 million in value since James arrived,” Solman said during a broadcast. “And then there’s the psychological lift the mayor mentioned, which by itself can lead to more spending, more investing, and a higher quality of life.”