|Wednesday, February 5
Updated: July 22, 5:36 PM ET
James must miss one more regular-season game
ESPN.com news services
AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James was cleared to play Wednesday by a judge who temporarily blocked a state ruling that stripped the high school basketball star of his eligibility.
James, expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, can rejoin his team but must sit out one more game this season, Summit County Judge James Williams ruled.
St. Vincent-St. Mary was allowed to decide which game James will miss, and it picked the Feb. 23 game against Toledo Scott at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena, four days after the hearing when Williams will grant a permanent injunction or go to trial.
The Fighting Irish, No. 1 in the USA Today rankings for the fourth straight week, have four games left before the playoffs.
James already sat out a game after the Ohio High School Athletic Association declared him ineligible for the rest of the season because he accepted two free sports jerseys worth a total of $845.
"Neither side is going to be happy,'' Williams said. "There are a number of issues the court wants to hear.''
Williams said that James would suffer "immediate and irreparable injury'' without a temporary restraining order.
The team's next game is Saturday in Trenton, N.J., and three of its remaining regular-season games are before the next hearing.
Lawyers for the athletic association and James presented their arguments to the judge during a one-hour hearing.
James did not attend. OHSAA commissioner Clair Muscaro was at the hearing but did not immediately comment on the ruling.
"He wants to finish what he started,'' James' attorney, Fred Nance, told the judge. "He didn't want to let himself down. He didn't want to let his team down. He didn't want to let his school down.
"He's made mistakes,'' Nance said. "He's an 18-year-old kid but he didn't deserve the ultimate sanction of losing his eligibility.''
Nance argued in court documents filed Tuesday that the 6-foot-8 senior did nothing wrong when he accepted two retro jerseys from the owner of a Cleveland clothing store. James has since returned the jerseys.
"All LeBron did was receive a gift from a friend as congratulations for his academic achievements,'' said Nance, referring to James' 3.5 grade-point average. "Had LeBron wished to capitalize on his fame, the recompense could be in the millions of dollars.''
The state athletic association found that the store gave James the Gale Sayers and Wes Unseld jerseys in exchange for posing for pictures to be displayed on its walls.
Muscaro ruled that James broke an amateur bylaw "by capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value.''
The decision came four days after the athletic association cleared James of any wrongdoing for accepting a $50,000 sport utility vehicle as an 18th birthday gift from his mother.
Gloria James provided proof she obtained a bank loan to buy the vehicle. She said Wednesday that she is pleased her son can keep playing.
"I look forward to getting the final hearing behind us so that LeBron can focus entirely on his schoolwork, basketball and his friends, just like any other teenager, as much as possible,'' she said.
James attended practice on Tuesday in the school's gym, wearing a gray T-shirt and blue shorts. He warmed up with his Fighting Irish teammates and was stretching in the middle of the floor when coach Dru Joyce closed the practice.
The private Roman Catholic school defended James and said the punishment was too severe.
In a statement, the school said it "was gratified by the decision which will immediately return LeBron James to competition with his teammates.''
"Although we had hoped there would be no additional sanction, we understand and accept the courts' imposition of a one-game playing suspension,'' it said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.