The New York Daily News reported on Monday that LeBron James, the King Ding-a-Ling in the NBA free agent class, was in New York last Friday to enjoy a night on the town. Keeping James company? New Jersey Nets minority owner, iconic rapper and friend Jay-Z. During any other month out of the year, this wouldn’t raise as much as an eyebrow, lest some TMZ photogs catch them in an Eiffel Tower with Miss USA. However, less than a week away from a day as important as today, it’s causing a bit of a storm, at least in Dallas.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 in May for a harmless comment he made to CNNMoney.com about how any team would want to sign LeBron. Shortly after, former Suns President Steve Kerr was also fined $10,000 for a joke he made about signing James. These instances made public light of the NBA’s tampering rules, which basically impose a no contact policy between free-agents-to-be and team owners until the beginning of free agency – today. Queue the suspenseful beats.
Per Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:
But it’s interesting nonetheless that a small-piece owner of the New Jersey Nets – in this case Jay-Z – can apparently spend the evening partying with LeBron James a week before free agency and somehow, it’s not considered tampering.
So let that be a lesson to all owners. If you get outed, make sure it’s by a news outlet that has great entertainment value and that the league doesn’t always believe all the time.
In defense of this hetero bromance (*punches self in groin*), the New Jersey Blog Nets Daily counters:
Of course, what Sefko doesn’t report is the two have know each other since 1) before Jay-Z bought part of the Nets and 2) before LeBron was drafted. It could be worse. They could have been partying in Newark or Brooklyn!!
Neither Mark Cuban nor David Stern has commented on this situation as of yet. But the Daily Net raises a pretty solid argument in favor of Jay-Z, that is, if the rapper/owner were going to play the “We’re just friend-izzos” card while taking a time machine back a week to remove his image from a new banner that was raised only blocks away from Madison Square Garden, touting the Nets’ dedication to success. The banner features an image of Jay-Z with Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the slogan: “The blueprint for greatness.”
The Knicks have already complained to the league about the location of the advertisement, while the Nets front office thinks their beef is silly. Nets CEO Brett Yormark told the NY Daily News:
“When we went to our ad agency and said, ‘Give us some available billboards,’ they came to us with this location. Obviously we felt it was a bold statement but we decided to go for it,” said Yormark, one of at least five recruiters, including Prokhorov and Jay-Z, expected to make a pitch to James in Thursday morning’s wee hours. “If (the Knicks are) upset, they’re upset, but I can’t suspect they really are. They don’t think about us.”
He also said that he doesn’t believe the Knicks are even taking the Nets’ attempt at signing LeBron seriously. Perhaps the whole league is taking it a little more seriously now that New Jersey’s ownership gets VIP access to the biggest free agent since Shaquille O’Neal.