*Before LeBron James, there were thousands of empty seats for most Cleveland Cavaliers games and downtown was silent after dark. With him, every game is a sellout and nearby bars and restaurants bustle.

As they face the possibility of losing the free-agent NBA superstar, residents wonder if the man they call King James might take a little of this struggling city’s economy with him.

“The kingdom lies where the king resides,” said Nick Kostis, owner of a restaurant and comedy club on East Fourth Street, a pedestrian-only district near the Cavaliers’ arena that began to take off in the early 2000s.

James has helped inject untold millions into Cleveland’s economy. His team, which had an average home attendance of about 11,500 the year before he joined, sold out every game in its 20,000-seat arena last season. Having arguably the NBA’s biggest star also has meant more television revenue and more jersey sales for the Cavs, and a higher profile for their often-maligned city.

While the presence of a global superstar would be a boon to any city, people here believe that recession-wracked Cleveland needs LeBron more than other hopeful cities trying to woo him away.

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