AKRON, Ohio – LeBron James (search) testified Thursday he never gave a businessman approval to make a documentary about the basketball star's life.
The testimony came in the third day of a $15 million trial involving entertainment producer Joseph Marsh (search), who is suing James. Marsh contends James, who went from high school to NBA rookie of the year with the Cleveland Cavaliers (search), broke a contract that cost the Akron businessman millions of dollars in potential profit from the documentary.
Marsh, co-owner of Magic Arts & Entertainment Inc. in Aurora, says James and his advisers broke an agreement to allow him and his entertainment company to produce a documentary about James' life during his senior season at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
The defense has said Marsh is trying to take advantage of James' status as a celebrity and NBA player.
The 20-year-old James testified that he met with Joey Berish, a Marsh intermediary, during his junior year and discussed the prospect of a film.
"I never told him to proceed with a life documentary," James said.
When pressed by Marsh's attorney, Richard Dobbins, on whether he expressed interest in doing a documentary, James said: "I never told him no. I never told him yes, either."
James and Dobbins disagreed over the interpretation of James' February deposition, including whether James had asked filmmaker Spike Lee to get involved in the documentary.
James, whose pinstriped suit featured his "L23" logo embroidered on the back of the jacket collar, had difficulty recalling many details of meetings between his inner circle and Marsh.
During the 30-minute questioning, James was calm, sometimes leaning slightly forward. At times he wrinkled his brow over Dobbins' questions. James' attorney, Fred Nance, chose not to question the player.
Dobbins asked James if he minded that his inner circle would make business decisions for him without a written contract.
"If it's something minor, no," James replied. "But if it's something major, yes."
Dobbins tried to establish the popularity of a documentary on James.
"You've got to admit you're a popular guy?" Dobbins asked.
James paused, then said, "If you say so." The remark drew smiles from courtroom spectators
James was selected by Cleveland as the first pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He's since signed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of endorsement deals and is among the nation's most popular sports figures.
This week, James' father figure Eddie Jackson and mother Gloria James settled a portion of the case. Marsh said they owed him $100,000 that he lent them during James' high school years. The pair agreed to pay back the loan, plus 10 percent interest, dating to the signing of James' first professional contract in 2003.
The only issue remaining in the trial is Marsh's breach of contract claim.