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Published: Sunday, 2/9/2003

Sharing LeBron's blame

LeBron James is old enough to be responsible for his actions, but the adults who surround him must share the culpability in this bizarre story.

That includes the judge who last week reinstated the youngster to his high school team, to officials at his high school, and to all those greedy firms, salesmen, and would-be agents who look at this supremely talented Akron teenager and only see dollar signs.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association declared the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary star ineligible after he accepted two sports jerseys from a Cleveland store. That's a violation of an Ohio High School Athletic Association rule prohibiting amateur athletes from capitalizing on their fame by taking money or gifts of monetary value.

It's a good rule and it's in place for a good reason. But Summit County Judge James Williams reinstated James. Though the player will have to sit out one more game later - he also didn't play last week against Canton McKinley - the judge's temporary restraining order clears the way for James to play three final regular-season games.

A Feb. 19 court hearing will make a final determination. That's no doubt why St. Vincent-St. Mary chose the team's Feb. 23 game against Toledo Scott as the second game he'll miss, just in case his eligibility is revoked a second time, though that is unlikely.

Given the storm that swirls around them, it's a wonder the young man and his teammates can concentrate at all on the basketball court.

The OHSAA's Clair Moscaro has a point when he says that the association's approval of travel for high school teams was never intended to mean regular cross-country road trips to California or the East Coast of the sort that St. Vincent-St. Mary is making this year.

Certainly his school has reaped financial benefits from James' stardom. But what happens next year when James is off to the National Basketball Association and St. Vincent-St. Mary is just another good, but not exceptional, basketball team? ESPN's interest will melt away instantly.

For those who wonder just what these kids are learning, that will no doubt be a good thing.

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