Olympic jet lag has apparently gone for LBJ, who hooped it up with Upper Deck’s prizewinners–and others–at a special clinic.
Fresh from a gold medal winning trip to China, LeBron James parked himself on a uniquely decorated basketball court at the Upper Deck Company’s front parking lot in Carlsbad, California Tuesday.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ star conducted a special hoops clinic for ten youngsters from across the country. The significance of the hands-on tutorial was not lost on any of the participants or the teacher himself.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget,” said 13-year-old Mark Detrow of San Diego. “I’ve wanted to do something like this my entire life. And LeBron is by far my most favorite athlete in the world.”
Added James: “It’s great to get out and have fun with the kids. This is like a dream for them, so for me to be able to fulfill that dream and be out here and have fun with them is an unbelievable feeling for myself.”
The means by which the 10 youngsters, ages six to 16, secured their spots at the clinic came through lucky packs of basketball cards. Inside retail packs of its 2007-08 Upper Deck Series 1 Basketball and SP Basketball products, Upper Deck provided special codes that kids could enter online for a chance to win a spot in the clinic. The contest ran from Oct. 22, 2007 through April 1 of this year. Out of more than 300,000 online registrations, three participants were randomly selected: Benjamin Fox, 14, of New Haven, Indiana; Alex Gonzales, 16, of Fresno, Calif; and Brandon Noe, 14, of Escondido, CA.
Six-year-old Shemarcus Meriweather of Memphis, Tennessee, standing just 3’ 2” tall, came to Upper Deck by way of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Shemarcus has sickle-cell anemia and his wish was to meet LeBron James. Not only did Meriweather meet LeBron, but he played him and beat him in an abbreviated game of “H-O-R-S-E” called “L-B-J.”
Three of the kids were given the opportunity to shoot hoops with LeBron by winning radio contests staged by local stations. Two of the children were selected via raffle drawings from Upper Deck’s Retail Store in Huntington Beach. The final entry was for a winning video entry in a contest sponsored by Upper Deck to all of its employees.
Once James finished with the clinic, he signed items for insertion into the company’s upcoming trading card and memorabilia launches. The Olympics haven’t done anything to slow the popularity of rare James cards and autographs.