What is LeBron worth to a city? Not as much as you think.
The where LeBron James will play in the 2018-2019 season storyline continues. But there are those in Cleveland who are hoping that LeBron 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 LeBron James is driving Cleveland’s economy just some vague figures that LeBron James 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 is 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.
LeBron James brings some 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 LeBron 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 LeBron James and Cleveland will too. Sports is not an economic engine.