INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James still hasn’t seen the three billboards that went up in Ohio this week with messaging aimed at recruiting him to come to the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent this summer, but he’s heard about them and admits the gesture was flattering.
“It is,” James said Tuesday. “Absolutely. You can say it’s a distraction, it’s not. Not a distraction. It is actually very flattering that I’m sitting here at 33 and in my 15th year and teams or guys — I don’t want to say teams because that becomes tampering. But people in their respective city want me to play for them. That’s cool I think. That’s dope.”
The signs are located along I-480 in Cleveland, approximately 7 miles from the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ Quicken Loans Arena.
The first sign features “#23” in maroon with a crown on it on the court with four blue numbers, numbers that just happen to match the Philadelphia 76ers jerseys of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Robert Covington.
The second billboard several hundred feet farther says “Complete The Process.” And the third says “#PhillyWantsLeBron.”
The signs seem to be inspired by “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the Academy Award-nominated film starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, in an attempt to convince LeBron James to leave his native Ohio and head to Philadelphia via free agency this summer.
The 76ers will be in town to play the Cavaliers on Thursday night in a nationally televised game, but the team has nothing to do with the billboards, and can’t have anything to do with them, since that would be considered tampering. The billboards, which will be up for three months, were put there by Power Home Remodeling, a company based in Chester, Pennsylvania.
“We’re passionate about Philadelphia,” said Asher Raphael, the company’s co-CEO. “We have an amazing city, it’s the best sports town and it’s an awesome place to live. We think the best athletes should want to play here.”
A team official said the billboards are not on James’ route from his home in Bath Township to Quicken Loans Arena. Furthermore, James often travels to games in the back of a passenger van tricked out with tinted windows, video monitors and plush leather seats, so it’s not like he would catch them from looking out the window, anyway.
“A lot of potholes on 480,” James joked when first asked about the location of the billboards. “Got to be careful with the cars. Got to be very careful. That’s why I don’t do much driving. I sit in the backseat. You talking about the billboards though?”
ESPN’s Darren Rovell contributed to this report.