LeBron James has taken his game to a different court.
An attorney for the NBA-bound high school senior on Tuesday asked a judge to block a ruling that barred him from playing basketball for the remainder of the season because he broke an amateur bylaw by accepting free sports jerseys from a clothing store.
In documents filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court, attorney Fred Nance argued that James, the star of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary High, the nation's No. 1-ranked boys' basketball team, did nothing wrong by taking two retro jerseys worth a combined $845 in exchange for posing for pictures that were to be hung on the store's walls.
Judge James Williams could overturn an Ohio High School Athletic Assn. decision declaring James ineligible during a hearing scheduled for today. A ruling favorable to James would allow the 6-foot-8 swingman, who is projected to be the top pick of the next NBA draft, to play pending an appeal to the OHSAA.
If James wins a temporary restraining order, he might try to attempt to circumvent the original ruling for good by trying to gain a permanent restraining order, an OHSAA spokesman said.
St. Vincent-St. Mary's next game is Saturday against Westchester in the Isles Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, N.J.
"All LeBron did was receive a gift from a friend as congratulations for his academic achievements," Nance wrote in court documents. "Had LeBron wished to capitalize on his fame, the recompense could be in the millions of dollars."
Nance argued in the documents that only St. Vincent-St. Mary, not the OHSAA, which ruled James ineligible, has the authority to determine whether James violated state amateur rules because the jerseys involved personal conduct outside the realm of sports. The school has not made that determination, the filing said.
The OHSAA declared James ineligible Friday after determining he had violated association rules stating that an athlete forfeits amateur status by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."
"What has happened, that they have bypassed the appeals process and gone straight to court, is not unusual," said Bob Goldring, an OHSAA spokesman. "Once the ruling was administered by the [OHSAA] commissioner, we knew that legal action was highly probable."
James sat out St. Vincent-St. Mary's 63-62 victory over Canton (Ohio) McKinley on Sunday, a win that improved the Fighting Irish's record to 14-1.
St. Vincent-St. Mary's loss was a game it won against Akron Buchtel on Jan. 25 but later had to forfeit after OHSAA officials determined that James had compromised his amateur status before the contest.
Williams will also consider whether to reinstate that victory.
The Fighting Irish have remained atop several national polls despite the forfeit and absence of their top player. St. Vincent-St. Mary has four games remaining before the playoffs, including the one against Westchester (20-2), which will be played Saturday at 4:30 and televised live by the YES Network, available throughout Southern California on DirecTV Channel 622.
The matchup between St. Vincent-St. Mary and Westchester was expected to pit James against the Comets' Trevor Ariza, a 6-8 forward headed to UCLA.
"When we decided to play this game, [James] was one of the main draws," Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said. "I'm sure the kids would be much more excited to play with him on their team."
Azzam said James should be allowed to play.
"He hasn't done anything wrong," the coach said. "He hasn't broken any laws, yet he's being crucified like a criminal.... I'm not excusing him, I'm just saying, 'Give the kid a break.' "
James apologized for taking the jerseys in a taped interview with former NFL star Deion Sanders that aired Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show."
"If I had known I was violating anything, I would've never done it," James said. "I would've never jeopardized my eligibility. I would've never jeopardized my team."
James, citing his 3.5 grade-point average, said he thought the store gave him the jerseys to reward his academic achievement.
Nance said in court documents that James returned the jerseys upon learning that their acceptance might threaten his amateur status.
Associated Press contributed to this report.