Photographic Evidence That Miami's Homeless Want Cleveland's LeBron Jerseys

The idea was simple genius. Heartbroken Clevelanders could send their unwanted LeBron James jerseys -- those that weren't in flames -- to Miami to be distributed to the local homeless.

But this being the summer of LeBron, things had to take a turn for the bizarre. The jersey drive -- organized through the website -- was derailed last week after Miami homeless groups apparently didn't want the grief and betrayal-tainted mesh.

"It's on hold right now," Rita Clark of the Miami Coalition for the Homeless told New Times' sister paper in Broward. "There's a lot of politics around this."

Clark even claimed Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado had spoken out against the project, though his spokesperson angrily denied that.

So we decided to find out: Are Miami's homeless really that obsessed with having up-to-date sports gear, or are advocate groups making this more complicated than it needs to be?

We happened to have an authentic wine-and-gold never-worn LeBron James Cavaliers jersey. We tore off the $59.99 price tag and headed to the area surrounding NE First Avenue in downtown -- Miami's version of Skid Row, a few blocks from LeBron's new workplace, the American Airlines Arena.

The first shirtless bum we saw identified himself only as Patches. He's thusly nicknamed because of the green bandanna he wraps over his left eye, rendered sightless after a botched surgery. Originally from Cuba, Patches, who wears an ancient Pizza Hut baseball cap and keeps a twig between chapped lips, says he became homeless two years ago. He was stranded in Miami after cops dragged him from his former home in Houston to face time for an old robbery warrant.

Patches had heard of LeBron James -- duh -- but was unaware of the controversy surrounding the jerseys. "Shit, I'll wear anything," he remarked and happily donned the supposedly toxic jersey. As we drove away, he catwalked an imaginary runway in front of a homeless buddy, who looked envious.

So what was that about politics? The entire quest took Riptide all of five minutes.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts