The downside of signing LeBron James 

May, 20, 2010

LeBron James is literally the most valuable pro athlete of our time, generating more than $80 million a year in revenues and more than $250 million in franchise value for the Cavaliers. Both figures almost certainly rank as the highest in team sports. And that cash, plus millions more that LeBron pumps into Cleveland's municipal economy, will vanish if James bolts this summer.

But here's the shocking twist: Even if the Cavs do re-sign him, their best financial days are probably behind them.

Peter Keating | email

ESPN Senior Writer
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.