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MIAMI SPICE

HEAT END LOSING RUN AGAINST CLIPPERS

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Miami Heat forward LeBron James, already regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, said yesterday he hopes to be involved with David Beckham's Major League Soccer (MLS) team franchise.

Former England captain and Manchester United star Beckham, who has become a close friend of James in recent years and often attends Heat games in Miami, announced on Wednesday he had exercised his option to become the owner of an MLS team in the city.

"Hopefully, I can be," James said, when asked if he was involved in Beckham's bid to build a world-class football team, as yet unnamed, in Florida.

"Right now, there are some things that need to be worked out but I think it's exciting for the city of Miami."

If they do link up as business partners, it will possibly be a marriage between arguably two of the biggest names in sport.

Get ready for the "Dave and LeBron Show", or the 21st-century version of Miami Vice's Crockett and Tubbs.

In a bow to Beckham's wife, why not Miami Spice?

Beckham, 38, has already said the franchise will not require public money and will be wholly privately funded.

He is not short of cash, with an estimated wealth of £165 million ($341m), not including wife Victoria's £35m.

James' 2013 earnings were estimated at more than US$60m ($76m), while his fortune is thought to be well over US$100m.

James, 29, already has a minority ownership stake with English Premier League giants Liverpool.

The 10-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star and two-time NBA champion has developed a good knowledge of football over the past two years and met several of the Liverpool players when he toured the club in 2012.

"I have grown a great interest in watching the game and learning about the guys," James said.

GOOD FRIEND

"It's a pretty intense sport and my kids love it as well. I've grown to the point where I know exactly what's going on when I'm watching the game.

"David (Beckham) has become a good friend of mine over the last few years and Miami is a great town for soccer."

Former midfielder Beckham, whose commitment to MLS dates back to 2007 when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, retired as a player last May and held a US$25m option in his MLS contract to start a new franchise.

That option was exercised shortly before it expired on Dec 31 and, on Tuesday he signed a shareholder agreement with his two partners, the British TV producer and creator of American Idol Simon Fuller, and Bolivian-born billionaire Marcelo Claure, founder of Miami-based Brightstar Corp.

A final deal to grant the franchise to Beckham's investment group could be several months away, though, with a stadium location and financing still requiring approval from the MLS board for his team to become the 22nd club of the top US professional soccer league.

- Reuters.