By Matt McCue

It's the best kind of present sports fans could ever ask for this year -- the season openers for the 2011-12 NBA season on Dec. 25. Many eyes will be on LeBron James and his Heat teammates this year, already championship favorites according to the New York Daily News. But it's not just about the game this year. December 30 is a mere five days after that season opener, and you know what that means -- James' 27th birthday.

Remember his over-the-top celebration last year? His actual birthday party, a "Full Court Birthday Celebration," was just one of 11 stops on the LeBron James Dinner Party Tour. Members of his inner circle sent out a 12-page PowerPoint presentation to garner interest from companies looking to sponsor the event at a swanky Miami club for $10,000 -- or $500,000 for all 11, according to CNN -- and, according to James' people, be involved with the athletes, musicians, actors, and politicians, who "reinvent and set the tone for a chic lifestyle." You have to wonder how on Earth he is going to top things this year. (And there sure will be celebrating -- birthdays and the return of the NBA season.)

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Slideshow: Lavish Athlete Birthday Bashes

The presentation, which all but said "King" James is God, probably wasn't the best way to win back fans that soured on him after his "The Decision" debacle. But it showed how many professional athletes work every inch of their marketing platform, from the shoes they wear on the court to the birthday parties they throw off of it.

Take, for example, Dennis Rodman's 50th birthday party in Las Vegas that also served as the launch for his new cigar line. And Reebok gave Washington Wizards guard John Wall 21 pairs of signature shoes created exclusively for his 21st birthday.

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While the pros have the money, sometimes they lack any event planning sense. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade blew out candles on a cake covered in frosting and ... Swarovski crystals for his 28th birthday bash. Crystals?! Former Washington Wizard guard Caron Butler scheduled his birthday party to start while his team was playing the Cleveland Cavaliers down the street. Then there is the downright scary (though not surprising.) At Michael Vick's 30th birthday party, his buddy got shot over a heated argument. The topic of discussion? Birthday cake.

Whether you're looking for the good, the bad, or the ugly, here are 10 professional athlete soirées that take the cake.

Click here for's complete slideshow of athletes' lavish birthday bashes.

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