Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the sports world and just about everyone else is buzzing about LeBron James -- the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who decided to part ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers and sign with the Miami Heat. Fans in Cleveland, where "King James" has spent his entire career since he took the NBA by storm in 2003, are understandably upset. But so too are some Cleveland business owners, who are worried about a drop in revenue now that the LeBron show is leaving town. James has brought increased season-ticket and merchandise sales, not to mention, increased national exposure for the Cavaliers franchise and more business for local restaurants, hotels and bars on game days. Business owners point to a noticeable uptick in revenue since the 25-year-old burst on the scene.
Though the Cavaliers made an offer to keep the Northern Ohio native on their team, the Heat emerged as James' top pick. James announced his decision during a primetime special on ESPN. AOL Small Business asked Cleveland-area businesses for their take on what a LeBron-less city would mean for their bottom lines. Call it entrepreneurial optimism, but it appears the show just may go on -- even without the league's best player. George Iannacone, regional director of operations at Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown "When the Cavs are in town and during playoffs, because of the location of the Hilton Garden Inn, we definitely see increased occupancy. Before James joined the team, there wasn't a lot of attendance and we didn't feel it as much. But now we have a lot of corporate businesspeople who make their plans around when the Cavs are in town, so they can see the team and see James, so it absolutely affects our business. I mean, not to a point where it's going to break our business, but it will definitely affect our occupancy." Jon Goerig, operations manager at Flannery's Pub "The fans are pretty loyal to the Cavs, and I dare say that if he went somewhere else, the fans would still come down. I think business would be pretty stable."