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Tampa Bay Rays: MLB should market Wander Franco like a teen LeBron James

US basketball phenomenon LeBron James' mother Gloria shows her support during her son's high school St. Vincent-St. Mary's game against Mater Dei, in Los Angeles, CA, 04 January 2003. St. Vincent-St. Mary won 64-58 with James scoring 21 points. James, 17, is expected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft this spring, following Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant in entering the NBA from high school. AFP PHOTO/Lucy Nicholson (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
US basketball phenomenon LeBron James' mother Gloria shows her support during her son's high school St. Vincent-St. Mary's game against Mater Dei, in Los Angeles, CA, 04 January 2003. St. Vincent-St. Mary won 64-58 with James scoring 21 points. James, 17, is expected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft this spring, following Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant in entering the NBA from high school. AFP PHOTO/Lucy Nicholson (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
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Terrell Owens, Geena Davis, and LeBron James, 2003 (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

A Lesson from St. Vincent-St. Mary’s

When it became apparent that LeBron James was the “Chosen One” as Sports Illustrated put when they featured the 17-year-old on the cover of their magazine, his high school turned his status into dollars.

St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School sold television rights to ESPN. They moved their home games to the University of Akron. They sold season tickets.

They raised ticket prices. They charged appearance fees. They milked the teen for every dollar they could. If he were a paid professional they would call it good marketing, but since he was an unpaid teen trapped in a developmental and learning environment, it was exploitation.

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1113454004456050688

LeBron’s former high school teammate, Maverick Carter commented on the school district’s deal with cable companies to set up a pay-per-view model for people around the country to see the highly-marketed phenom play high school ball.

"“His senior year they actually put the games on pay-per-view,” Carter said. “You could watch LeBron James games anywhere in the state if you paid like ten bucks.”"

His high school made every dollar they could by marketing and selling a teen LeBron.

"“Their complaint is they’ve gone to watch their son play at other venues and maybe a ticket has been $4-$5 and all of a sudden they go watch at SVSM, and it’s $12 for an adult,” said Ohio High School Athletic Association commissioner Clair Muscaro, whose bylaws don’t restrict ticket prices."

LeBron was marketed by national media, the NBA, his school district, and his high school. The forces at work ensured that the entire country knew who this kid was. He was such a hot commodity before he was even drafted, he signed a seven-year, $87 million deal with NIKE.

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