FINISH LINE: Harlem Globetrotters courting LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

‘Meadowlark’ James? “Curly’ Wade?

LeBron James has always insisted winning is his top priority.

Harlem Globetrotters Chief Executive Kurt Schneider wants to know whether he’s ready to back that up.

The Globetrotters launched a marketing campaign this week to sign James and Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade when the two become free agents on July 1. The Globetrotters already have No. 3 “D-Wade” jerseys and No. 6 “King” jerseys for sale on their Web site.

“We’re offering them the chance to be guaranteed to be part of a winning team,” Schneider said. “LeBron talks all the time about how winning is important to him. Well, the last time we lost to our opponent was 1971. That’s a pretty good winning percentage.”

The Globetrotters have an all-time mark of 23,646-345 for a .986 winning percentage. Of course, they only beat up on the Washington Generals.

Schneider understands that the concept of James and Wade leaving the NBA for an entertainment act “is a long shot.” But he also believes the Globetrotters are making a comeback in popularity, they play around the world and he is willing to give the two stars ownership in the privately held company and 51 percent of their merchandise sales.

The Globetrotters broke 73 of their own box-office records last season in their 84th year of touring. They broke 62 ticket records the season before that, showing Schneider that the family entertainment act is again becoming a fan favorite.

The Globetrotters have reached out to James’ people, but have not heard a reply. James’ publicist did not respond to the Akron Beacon Journal when asked whether James would ever consider the idea.

James will probably make more than $18 million next season from the NBA as part of a new maximum contract. Schneider can’t pay him that much in salary, and wouldn’t divulge what he would pay, but hopes the lure of ownership and merchandise revenue would offset what the two stars would lose in base salary.

NBA stars have previously suited up for the Globetrotters, including Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Nat ”Sweetwater” Clifton, the first African-American to sign an NBA contract. Magic Johnson played a handful of games for the Globetrotters in 1997 and again in 2003. More recently, Cavalier Jamario Moon played with the Globetrotters in 2004 before establishing himself in the NBA. He said last season he earned about $2,000 a week playing with the Globetrotters.

Schneider said the percentage of ownership the Globetrotters would be willing to surrender depends on whether they’re even in the conversation.

“Are we even in the realm of consideration or not?” Schneider asked. “It’s a long shot. The unknown in this is the ownership factor and how much this company grows in value. If this becomes huge and was sold to someone else, that could be worth an awful lot. I can’t compete in salary, but I can compete by doing a couple of other things.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 last month for declaring his interest in acquiring James, but NBA Commissioner David Stern’s power doesn’t extend beyond the league. That leaves Schneider free to publicly court the two stars all he wants.

“We say it takes three things to be a Globetrotter,” Schneider said. “You have to be a great basketball player, a great entertainer and a great person. We think both of those guys have that.”

For comparison’s sake, James makes more than $300,000 a week from the Cavs.

Schneider called James the world’s best player and chose Wade because of his admitted fondness for the Globetrotters while growing up. It’s easy to accuse Schneider of taking advantage of the publicity surrounding this free-agent class simply to sell a few jerseys.

“If you were CEO of this company and you were trying to grow this globally, wouldn’t you try to get the two best basketball players in the world when they’re available?” Schneider asked. “Shame on us if we didn’t go after these guys.”

PARTING SHOT

“Players are not Martians. But it should not be at 2 a.m. with champagne and Havana cigars.”

— Dr. Donato Vallani

The Argentina soccer team’s physician explaining to Radio Del Plata that he had given his players a thumbs-up to sex during the month-long World Cup — hopefully just not during the games.

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