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Penguins' Crosby not pulling a LeBron

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Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

Two athletes with a lot in common - specifically, status as the young faces of their respective leagues - were about a half-an-hour cab ride from one another early this week.

However, Penguins superstar captain Sidney Crosby and NBA megastar forward LeBron James are in many ways worlds apart.

Crosby is thankful to play in small-market Pittsburgh.

"I'm not setting myself up in a place because of marketing opportunities," Crosby said Wednesday prior to the Penguins' game at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders. "I want to play in the best environment hockey-wise, and I feel like I have that in Pittsburgh."

Crosby scored a goal and recorded two assists Wednesday to help the Penguins register a seventh come-from-behind victory in the third period and improve to 13-5-3 with 29 points. With 28 points, he is averaging 1.33 points-per game - only 0.05 off his career-average entering this season, which continues with a game tonight at Buffalo.

Crosby, 21, is playing in the first of a five-year, $43.5 million. He could test the free-agent market in summer 2013.

James, 24, played for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks - a regular-season basketball contest that received Big Apple-hype usually reserved for the World Series, the annual New Year's Eve celebration or the finale of a popular Broadway show.

James can become a free agent July 1, 2010. Knicks fans are already salivating at the possibility of him joining their struggling squad, which has worked to clear salary-cap room in hopes of wooing James.

Many basketball pundits believe James-to-New York is inevitable given his professed fondness for the city, friendships with its celebrity residents and several Madison Avenue-ties to companies such as Nike.

James has not downplayed speculation about a future in New York, though he did say Tuesday "it's not always about the market you're in, it's about winning."

He guided Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Crosby took the Penguins to the Stanley Cup final last season. It was the highest rated Cup final since the NHL returned from a lockout in 2005 - thanks, no doubt, to his standing as hockey's most marketed player.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Tribune-Review in October that Crosby "will always be one of (the NHL's) brightest stars."

Most opposing players, such as Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, recognize that likelihood.

Streit, who joined the Islanders in the summer after spending three previous seasons in hockey-mad Montreal, said Crosby would be - no James-themed pun intended - king if he played for the Canadiens or with the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

Crosby playing in New York, though, might not make headlines unless his team won.

"It's a tough market; hockey competes with all the other sports," Streit said. "For me, it was a great experience playing in Montreal; just feeling the hockey fever and the craziness of the city. It's great to have the attention and all the fans and everything. Sometimes it's nice.

"(In New York), it's opposite. You have your privacy. You walk around and nobody recognizes you. There are so many other people and so many other things."

Things like billboards - such as the supersized one featuring a likeness of James not far from Madison Square Garden.

Crosby might snag a billboard in Manhattan were he a Ranger or an Islander. As a Penguin, his marketing deals, such as ones with Reebok and Gatorade, do not financially rival those of James, who is an international icon on par with golfer Tiger Woods.

However, playing in New York would not make much of a financial difference in terms of sponsorships, said Crosby's agent Pat Brisson.

"What exists now that didn't 5-to-10 years ago is the Internet, and because of that, we live in a much smaller world," Brisson said. "Whether you play in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles or New York - the exposure level is immediate now; an athletes don't need to be in the so-called big markets to be recognized by a large group of people.

"To me, Sidney playing in a city like New York might have a slight affect on his exposure, but only slight - and how do you measure that against a person's happiness?"

Crosby offered some specific guidelines for that measurement Wednesday, and he spoke as though the bright lights of New York are might not suit him.

"I live a pretty simple life; I want to play somewhere people are interested in the sport and for an organization that cares," Crosby said. "I've got a lot of that in Pittsburgh. I feel pretty fortunate to be there. It's not the biggest city, but it's a city I really like."




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