Love or hate him, LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play in an NBA basketball court. He’s also one of the richest the game has ever produced, considering his age and the earning potential he still has given his talents.
LeBron James Top 30 plays at 30
Bron’s NBA career has been well-documented, from the the time he played in nationally televised high school games to the time he skipped college to make the leap to the NBA. James held the world in his hands when he ‘took his talents to South Beach’ in 2010 and when he returned to a King’s welcome in Cleveland four years later. Now in his athletic prime at age 32, James’ NBA resume is one of the best ever and getting better by the day. Likewise, the financial rewards have been just as handsome for the man known as King James in basketball circles.
Let’s take a look at LeBron James ascent to superstardom, including his rise among one of the wealthiest athletes in basketball:
LeBron Raymone James was born to a 16 year old mother named Gloria Marie James on December 30, 1984. Although she struggled to find steady work, Gloria raised LeBron on her own. Because of their hardship, the young LeBron often moved from one apartment to another. At the age of 9, he was introduced to basketball by Frank Walker, a local youth football coach.
Everyone started to notice how special LeBron was while he starred for St. Mary’s-St. Vincent High School in Akron, Ohio. The hype was so great that even his high school games were televised on National TV. After a highly publicized and successful high school basketball career, LeBron James decided to skip college and enter the 2003 NBA draft.
James was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the #1 overall pick in the draft. His first NBA contract was just worth $18.8M over four years because of the limitations of the NBA rookie cap. However, that didn’t really matter as bulk of James’ early bounty came from the Nike shoe endorsement deal which he signed even before he played his first NBA game.
Nike Invests In The Future
In 2003, shoe giant Nike bested Reebok and Adidas in the bidding war for high school phenom LeBron James. The contract was worth $90M for 7 years. It was absurd that a high school kid got a contract that big at a time when Kobe Bryant was shopping around for a new shoe deal. But it was clear to Nike, as it was to the rest of the world, that LeBron was a once in a lifetime talent. And as such, Nike was more than willing to invest for the future.
According to Forbes in 2015, Nike’s total revenue has tripled since James came on board in 2003 and the stock price is up more than 1000%. In December 2015, Nike signed LeBron James to a lifetime deal which was described as the ‘largest single-athlete guarantee in company history’. No figures were given but James’ manager Maverick Carter hinted to GQ in an interview that the deal was in the ballpark of $1B.
Not Just The Shoe
The Nike deal makes him King but it’s not only the shoe that fits. James makes twice off the court as much as he makes on it. That’s because of other lucrative commercial deals he has with the likes of Coca-Cola, Intel, Verizon, Kia Motors and Beats. The latter is interesting. James used to own 1% of Beats and received $1M in royalties for wearing the headphones before and after games. When the company was sold to apple for $3B, James scored a cool $30M in the deal. James is also an original investor in Blaze Pizza, a fast casual food chain that was named as the 2nd fastest growing food chain in America in 2016. Aside from a 10% ownership in the company, James owns 11 franchises in Miami and Chicago.
Another off-court venture of King James is multi-platform media outfit ‘Uninterrupted’, where athletes can share video, web and mobile content. Uninterrupted got a $16M investment from Warner Brothers and Turner Sports in 2015. Also owned by LeBron James is production company ‘SpringHill Entertainment’ which airs two series namely “Cleveland Hustles” on CNBC and “Survivor’s Remorse” on Starz. SpringHill also has a game show called “The Wall” on NBC. The game show did so well at six million viewers per episode that NBC ordered 20 more episodes last November 2016.
Aside from being a businessman, LeBron James is one of the NBA’s top philanthropists. In November 2016, LeBron donated $2.5M to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture for its Muhammad Ali exhibit. In 2015, James and The University of Akron partnered to provide four year full time college scholarships to deserving students in a program called ‘Akron I Promise’ program. James is set to spend some $40M to help some 1,100 qualified students.
To Miami and Back
In 2010, LeBron James shocked the basketball world when he announced that he and fellow All-Star Chris Bosh would be joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. James and Bosh both signed a 6-year contract worth $110M. Four years and two NBA titles after the “Decision”, James penned his return to Cleveland via Sports Illustrated. Titled “I’m Coming Home”, LeBron James narrated how his relationship with Ohio transcended basketball. And that he will be returning to Cleveland to fulfill the promise of giving the Cavs their first ever NBA title. The contract was worth $88M over four years. In August 2016, James opted out of that contract to sign a brand new $100M deal for three years. Under the deal, James’ $31M salary for the 2016-17 made him only the third player after Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to earn over $30M in a one season. For the 2017-18 season, James will earn $33M, making him the highest paid NBA player in a single season in league history.
In all, James has earned around $600M in salaries and endorsements ( as of Dec. 2016 ) since entering the NBA in 2003. Forbes listed James as its highest paid NBA player for 2017 for the third consecutive year with an annual pay of $86M. This includes the $31M for his NBA salary and an estimated $55M from endorsement deals. He ranked 39th on the 2016 Forbes List for Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 with a net worth of $275M. That marked James’ first appearance on the list although his ranking its expected to soar in the next years because of his Nike lifetime deal and new NBA contract.
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