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Ohio high school star cleared in Hummer inquiry
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James, the nation's top high school basketball player, was cleared Monday after a two-week investigation determined he did not violate state amateur bylaws by accepting a sports utility vehicle as a gift.
Ohio High School Athletic Association commissioner Clair Muscaro decided James did not compromise his amateur status and that his mother, Gloria, had provided proof she bought him the Hummer H2 vehicle.
Muscaro had been gathering information and financial proof to determine how James, a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, had obtained the automobile, which has a base retail price of $50,000.
Gloria James said she took out a bank loan in Columbus to buy the SUV -- shipped from California and outfitted with three TVs and computer game hookups -- for her son's 18th birthday and provided evidence to the OHSAA.
Muscaro's concern was that James had accepted the SUV from an agent or outside source and had violated an OHSAA bylaw that states amateur status is forfeited if an athlete capitalizes on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value.
Muscaro was shown the business records from the bank and dealership and was satisfied that the financing and acquisition of the vehicle were acquired by James' mother alone.
"I'm not in position to question bank officials," Muscaro said. "That infringes on confidentiality with a client. I am satisfied that the loan that was granted did not violate our guidelines and was acquired only by his mother."
Muscaro said no violations of the OHSAA amateur bylaws "as currently written" were found and that James, expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, is still eligible to play.
However, Muscaro thinks the OHSAA should re-examine some of its amateur bylaws.
"It's something that needs to be looked at," he said, "to make sure they are in step with current times."
If the OHSAA had ruled James ineligible, St. Vincent-St. Mary, ranked No. 1 by USA Today, would have had to forfeit its games from the time he accepted the SUV.
With the investigation over, James can now concentrate on the remainder of his final season with the Fighting Irish (14-0).
Muscaro said he has received negative e-mails and letters criticizing the decision on the 18-year-old James, arguing it was financially based. Critics say the OHSAA was afraid to rule differently because of the money it would lose without him in the state tournament.
"Money, race or gender had nothing to do with the decision," Muscaro said. "Money is not a factor. Our boys basketball tournament would do well with or without St. Vincent-St. Mary."
James' coach, Dru Joyce, said the investigation had been a distraction.
"We're glad it's finally official," Joyce said. "We believed fully that LeBron and his family did nothing wrong."