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Until now, Nike has simply bowed down to LeBron James

Now you show up?

So what if LeBron James, who was trying to stay in Cleveland, has trouble communicating?

He has Nike, which can invent a personality if yours doesn’t work!

With Penny Hardaway dwarfed by Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando, Nike came up with a puppet, Lil’ Penny... which Shaq swatted off a couch in one of his Reebok spots.

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Nike’s “What Should I do?” ad is hilarious, showing James watching his “We are all witnesses” banner going down and addressing an empty ballroom at his Hall of Fame induction, murmuring, “So ... this went well.”

There’s just one question...

Where was Nike before that stupid TV show, arranged by Maverick Carter — LeBron’s liaison to the company?

Unfortunately, the way it works, all Nike says to James is “Yes, Your Majesty.”

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In other exploitation ...

With ESPN covering Miami’s games Tuesday and Friday, the Worldwide Leader in Heat Hype, did daylong updates.

“I kept telling my boss the building [TD Garden] was still empty, nothing had changed,” Jon Barry told the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn about Tuesday’s game.

“He kept telling me that didn’t matter because it wouldn’t be empty tonight. Couldn’t argue with that.”

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On-site in Miami on Friday, Hannah Storm gushed that Orlando “comes in here with a chip on their shoulder” with “their executive fanning the flame here... [GM] Otis Smith saying, ‘I was surprised [James] ... went to Miami. I thought he was, I guess, more of a competitor.’

“Wow!”

Smith said it in July.

Oh yeah, the team

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After what it has been through, you knew the Heat would gather itself and hit Orlando with everything it had in the home opener.

You didn’t know it would win, much less by 96-70, single-covering Dwight Howard, staying with shooters, holding the Magic, which averaged 10 threes last season, to four in 24 attempts.

For all the focus on Miami’s individuals, the most important thing is how they do as a unit on defense.

In the bad news for everyone else, they’re No. 1, giving up 82 a game.

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And yes, it’s personal.

“We heard everything Orlando had to say about us in the off-season,” said James. “There’s only so many words to be said. At this point, the ball has to be thrown up.”

Back in the NBA

More bad news for doomsayers: TNT’s David Levy says NBA ad sales are up 30% to 40% over last year. Levy notes that chat about games on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, et al., “is a key part of why sports ratings are up across the board.”... Oh and NBA ratings are rocketing as those for the World Series — arguably respectable for the Giants and Rangers — approach record lows.

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If troubled Delonte West wasn’t axed for fighting Boston teammate Von Wafer, he’s down to his last last chance.... Said Coach Doc Rivers, looking as though he was for ending the experiment: “There was a fight and that’s all you need to know. I’m going to leave it alone, but obviously I’m not real thrilled with it.”... Said Wafer, choosing amnesia: “I don’t know nothing about it. First time hearing about it.”

For those wondering how I could pick the Clippers No. 8, I don’t know nothing about it. First time hearing about it.

— Mark Heisler


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