Many basketball experts would consider LeBron James as the best basketball player in the world. Now that he has returned to Cleveland, a potential economic boost to that city may have come with him as well.
James, 29, is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a two-year, $42 million contract after playing for the Miami Heat. However, his presence on the team, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, could generate as much as $215 million annually for the NBA franchise, Cleveland and the northeast Ohio region from tourism, taxes, service industry spending and the team's business.
"He's a walking, talking economy," Cleveland business owner Nick Kostis said. "Everyone's boat will rise."
James, who originally hails from Akron, Ohio, said that he was proud of the region and wanted to go back there. A global digital marketing research firm indicated that his presence there has even led to social media frenzy, according to an article from Cleveland.com.
"The social media impact of NBA teams is huge," said Tamara Gaffney of the Adobe Digital Index. "You can see that when you watch a big player, such as LeBron, move from one team to another and totally drive a different footprint, which is part of the value of the team."
Gaffney then added that James is a clear example of how social media and digital marketing can "impact the value of a brand and its products."
According to Bloomberg News, economist Allen Sanderson of the University of Chicago thinks that James' effect on consumer spending will have a greater impact there than in Chicago, a city that has a much larger population and economy compared to Cleveland. Sanderson added that Cleveland's success could be heightened if the Cavaliers have a successful season in the NBA.
Even Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has acknowledged that James' return helped boost the team itself, despite the fact that James left the team for the Miami Heat in a media circus four years ago.
"Our relationship today is very good and solid," Gilbert said in a CNBC report. "We had five great years and one bad night."
CNBC also reported that the Cavaliers have enjoyed an economic boost on the sales front. Although the team itself has not raised ticket prices, secondary market prices for tickets have soared; the average price for a home game ticket in Cleveland is now $388, up 224 percent from last year.
Businesses around the Cleveland area are welcoming the economic boost. Business owner Jude Feyedelem told CNBC that his restaurant, located close to the Cavaliers arena, had been booked solid on opening night.
"Every restaurant is going to be full, and that's a big deal," Feyedelem said.
For James, however, he's just happy to be representing Cleveland back on the basketball court.
"It means everything to be here in Cleveland for these fans," James said. "It's going to be a special moment, and you can't take that for granted."