LeBron James’s decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat gave the team’s owner the idea of having a Benedict Arnold sale of memorabilia.
A company held by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert -- who last called James’s decision an act of cowardly betrayal -- cut the price of James memorabilia to $17.41, echoing the year of Arnold’s birth.
Gilbert’s Fathead LLC had sold life-size wall stickers of James in a Cavaliers uniform for as much as $99.99. Arnold was a colonial army officer who offered to surrender West Point to the British for money during the Revolutionary War.
“Isn’t that the year Handel premiered ‘The Messiah?’” Todd Lunsford, president of the Livonia, Michigan-based company, said in an e-mail. “Oh yeah, and the whole Benedict Arnold thing, too.”
James, the two-time reigning Most Valuable Player of the National Basketball Association, announced July 8 that he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat after seven seasons playing for his hometown team. Less than two hours later, Gilbert said in a letter to fans posted on the team website that James’s decision was a “shocking act of disloyalty.”
“You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal,” wrote Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc. “This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”
An e-mail to Maverick Carter, James’s business manager, seeking comment was unanswered.
Lunsford said the company had more than 1,000 of the James- in-a-Cavaliers-uniform stickers in stock. Normally three to five a day are sold in July, he said. More than 250 were sold yesterday.
“We were just looking to make the best of a bad situation,” Lunsford said.