From NBA.com staff reports
Since joining the Miami Heat in 2010, forward LeBron James has amassed two MVPs, two Finals MVPs, three Eastern Conference championships and two NBA titles, all while cementing his place as perhaps the best-known athlete in both the Miami area and the world today. Now it seems James is looking to further his lore in South Florida by pursuing a Major League Soccer franchise there with another world-renown sporting icon: David Beckham.
BleacherReport.com’s Ethan J. Skolnick reports that James has spoken with Beckham about bringing an MLS franchise to the Miami area. The region had an MLS team in the early days of the league, the Miami Fusion, but that team folded in 2001 after three seasons.
The MLS’ website reported last week that Beckham was in Miami scouting for an area where a team could play, citing a Miami Herald report that Beckham, potential business partner (and billionaire) Marcelo Claure and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had dinner together to discuss the potential of bringing a team to South Beach.
“There’s some interest on both sides,” James said. “David has become a good friend of mine over the last few years. I think it would be great for this city to have a football club for sure. There’s interest on both sides, but it’s preliminary talks.”
As part of his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Beckham received the option to buy a franchise for $25 million, and he has targeted Miami. Miami, however, already has four major professional teams, and three of them — the Florida Panthers, Miami Marlins and Miami Dolphins — aren’t drawing especially well. The Heat are the exception, largely due to James’ presence.
At best, James would be in an owner’s box for a soccer franchise. Small-stake ownership hasn’t proven a boon for the Dolphins, who brought Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez and others aboard.
Still, James appeared to be sold on the potential of the project.
“I think it could be huge,” James said. “You never know. I think this is a great town for soccer. There’s a lot of soccer players, there’s great youth soccer players here and people love the city as well. That definitely would help.”
Last season, when I asked James to name his five favorite athletes in other sports, Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona was on his list.
“I’ve grown a great interest in watching the game and learning the guys,” James said. “It’s a pretty intense sport. My kids love it as well. I’ve grown to the point where I know exactly what’s going on when I’m watching the game.”
ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace and Marc Stein also confirmed the news of the James-Beckham talks via Twitter:
LeBron confirms interest in exploring MLS soccer franchise in Miami with David Beckham.—
Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) November 18, 2013
Leave it to me to overblow significance of LeBron & MLS … but mere fact he's looked at getting involved shows depth of connection to Miami—
Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 18, 2013
The bigger question for Heat fans, though, is how this potential dealing for an MLS team in Miami affects James’ future with his NBA team. Speculation has already started to bubble about where James may land next summer, when he can enter free agency. Skolnick addresses those concerns as well:
This interest in a major Miami project might curtail some of the growing speculation that James will explore free agency this summer, when he can opt out of his Heat contract. At the very least, this endeavor suggests that he’s acclimating to South Florida.
James, according to sources close to him, has explored commercial real estate opportunities over the past year, and his wife Savannah recently opened The Juice Spot, an organic juice and smoothie shop, in the trendy Brickell area of Miami.
Maybe they’ll open a soccer shop next door.