• LeBron James is the first active NBA player to become a billionaire
• He was sponsored by Nike and opted to take investment stakes in a pizza chain Blaze Pizza, which has grown to over 300 stores in US and Canada
• He founded SpringHill Company, which has sold a minority stake to a consortium led by Gerry Cardinale’s sport-focused RedBird Capital
• He owns a stake in Fenway Sports Group, valued at $60 million
• He has over $300 million in cash accounts and other investments, including shares of the fitness company Beachbody and "Beats by Dre"
LeBron James has been one of the most successful athletes in the world and one of the leading National Basketball Association (NBA) players to turn his high earnings into savvy business deals and significant investments. As an athlete at the forefront, he has not been doing endorsement deals and brand affiliation; LeBron began taking equity in businesses and tried to grow them by himself.
In June 2022, Forbes published an article about the famous LeBron James, disclosing that he has become one of the first active NBA players to make their list. Although we are mainly accustomed to LeBron breaking records on the basketball court, this one is a bit different but nothing short of his numerous successes. LeBron recently hit a new milestone as the first active player to become a billionaire.
Briefly About LeBron James
LeBron James began his professional career in Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected him in 2003 as the first overall pick in the draft. In his first year, he started fulfilling his potential averaging 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game and being named the Rookie of the Year. He played in Cleveland for the first seven years of his career, during which he grew into one of the best players in the NBA and won the Most Versatile Player (MVP) award twice (2009 and 2010). In 2007, he went to the finals with the Cavaliers team for the first time, but they lost to the experienced San Antonio Spurs 4 – 0. In 2011 he moved to Miami Heat as a free agent, forming the first modern super team with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Arguably the best player in the league during those years, James won the MVP award tow more time (2012 and 2013) and managed to advance to NBA Finals four times in a row. In 2012, he won the first championship beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 4 – 1, and had the same success a year later against his old adversaries, San Antonio Spurs (4 – 3). In 2008 and 2012, LeBron won two gold medals playing the USA Olympic men’s basketball team, after which he withdrew from the national team. After an unsuccessful attempt to win a third consecutive title, he left Miami in 2014 and returned to Cleveland. During his second stint with the Cavaliers, for which he played four seasons this time he made it to finals in all four tries. On all of those four occasions, on the other side were awaiting mighty and young Golden State Warriors.
In 2016, playing against perhaps the best regular-season team ever (the Warriors broke the record with a season score of 73-9), LeBron secured his third title. Cleveland Cavaliers came back from down 3-1, which no one ever accomplished in the Finals until that point. During the last four years (2018- 2022), he has been a part of the Los Angeles Lakers, with which he won his last title (2020). Throughout his career, which has yet to come to an end, LeBron has been one of the best all-round players and probably the best all-round player in the history of the game, as evidenced by his career averages of 27.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks.
Since 2005, when he was first selected to the All-Star team for the first time, he has made the team every single year. The year 2005, which was only his second years in the league, was also a year when he was picked to the All-NBA First team and since then has yet to fail to make one of the three All-NBA teams. While he was in full force, he was also one of the best and most versatile defenders in the league and was named to one of two All-Defense teams six times from 2009-2013 (five times to the first and one time to the second team). Despite passing being his strong suit, LeBron has scored 37,062 points and is currently second on the All-Time Points list. If he continues to play and does not get injured in the next two years he will become the player with the most points, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is currently first with 38,387 points.
How did he become a millionaire?
In August 2021, Forbes, which ranks the wealth of celebrities, athletes, and business people, revealed that the 37-year-old superstar was approaching the $1 billion milestone. At the time, LeBron passed the $1 billion in earnings threshold. Therefore, Forbes writers considered it an excellent opportunity to estimate how much of his earnings translated into his net worth. In 2021, LeBron’s wealth was estimated at $850 million.
Remember that earnings and net worth are not the same- earnings are the amount of money one makes over a period of time or salary, while net worth is the accumulated wealth. With that being said, someone as successful as LeBron has made over $1 billion in his career in earnings, but that is before you factor in taxes, spending, management, and legal fees. In addition, this stand-out athlete skillfully marketed his celebrity status, which allowed him to invest in other businesses.
LeBron James rockin’ his new Los Angeles Lakers threads. 👑 #NBAMediaDay
Michael Jordan was the only other NBA player that found a spot on the Forbes list. However, he hit the 10 figures mark in 2014, more than a decade after he retired from the sport, largely thanks to his successful investment in the Charlotte Hornets basketball team.
Interestingly, in his 2014 interview with GQ, LeBron talked about his business: ‘It’s my biggest milestone. So obviously, I want to maximize my business. And if I happen to get it, if I happen to be a billion-dollar athlete, ho. Hip hip, hooray! Oh, my God, I’m gonna be excited.”
And that is precisely what he did- he successfully maximized and improved his business, coming on top with the mind-boggling 1.2 billion in pretax earnings. It would seem that success and innovative ideas have followed the superstar on the basketball court as he received more than $385 million in salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers. In addition, he has reeled in more than 900 million in income from various business endeavors and investments.
Anyone who has followed LeBron and his awe-inspiring career knows he did not make his fortune overnight. His jaw-dropping net worth results from a continuous and well-timed series of investments and reasonable decisions. In 2003, 18-year-old LeBron signed his first contract with Nike after rejecting deals from Reebook and Addidas, believing that Nike offered a better partnership on a long-term basis. In 2017, in an episode of the “Kneading Dough,” he explained the rationale behind his decision, he said: ‘I started thinking, if [then-Reebok CEO Paul Fireman] is willing to give me a $10 million check right now, what is to say that Nike or Adidas is not willing to give me 20 or 30 upfront. Maybe the upfront money is not even the biggest thing. Maybe, let’s start thinking about the back end.”
This would prove to be a good decision on his part. The four-time MVP initially garnered a seven-year contract with the brand worth $90 million. Then, after a decade of successful business, in 2015, Nike gave him a lifetime agreement, paying him millions and millions annually. One of his secrets to becoming a billionaire was applying the correct method and approaching the business deals as long-term partnerships rather than a quick cash-out.
His highly lucrative contract with Nike is just a drop in the ocean compared to his numerous other deals, including 2K Sports, Rimowa, Coca-Cola, and Mountain Dew and Wheaties. According to Forbes, LeBron racked up over $60 million in endorsement deals, earning the status as one of the highest-paid athletes when it comes to endorsements and affiliations.
As many other billionaires well demonstrate, a fortune of this size rarely comes from only one income stream. In addition to his numerous endorsements, it is evident that LeBron has an eye for business and transforming underground brands into multi-million chains. An example of his savvy business skills and other-level thinking- LeBron was sponsored by McDonald’s for years, and in 2015 he chose to forgo his $15 million deal with the brand. Instead, he opted to gamble and take investment stakes in a relatively unknown pizza chain Blaze Pizza. However, as a true businessman, he did more than just invest- LeBron used his image and reach to promote the brand by working behind the counter and handing out free pies on the street. As a result, the brand has grown to over 300 company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada.
According to the statement of his business partner, they invested less than $1 million into 10% of the Blaze Pizza, and over four years, LeBron’s stake in the chain jumped to $30 million.
LeBron James & his business partner @mavcarter acquired 10% of Blaze Pizza for less than $1M in 2012.
This will be one of the best athlete investments ever. pic.twitter.com/AhReIpJ629
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) February 6, 2021
Blaze Pizza is not the only brand LeBron has taken equity in; he also owns shares of smart gym-maker Tonal and ride-share giant Lyft.
Probably one of his most successful endeavors is SpringHill, the TV and movie production company. In 2015, LeBron and his long-time partner and businessman founded SpringHill Company, which encompasses SpringHill Entertainment, the platform Uninterrupted, and brand consultancy and marketing agency Robot. The company’s name is derived from a housing development where he lived with his mom and found stability for the first time.
Initially, the company started as a production company that LeBron set up to hold his rights for the production of the documentary about his high school basketball playing entitled “More Than Game.” Over time, it blossomed and began encompassing other projects produced under the auspices of SpringHill, such as “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which grossed over $163 million, and the widely-regarded HBO documentary “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali. Springhill became diversified and directed by LeBron’s philosophy of sharing untold stories focused on the black experience. The company has several upcoming projects in collaboration with Disney, Universal Pictures, and Netflix.
LeBron James' SpringHill Entertainment and Universal Pictures Sign Four-Year Deal http://dlvr.it/Rhdyz9 #guestpost #news #worldnews
In October 2021, SpringHill sold a minority stake to a consortium led by Gerry Cardinale’s sport-focused RedBird Capital. According to the reports, the contract valued the company at a whopping $725 million. It is believed that the company’s revenue will topple $100 million in 2022. As expected, most of these finances would go into further development of the company. Talking to a media outlet, Gerry explained why he invested in LeBron’s company; he said: ‘What I really like is that we are backing two people, individually and collectively, are pretty unique in the crossroads of sports and culture and their ability to be catalysts for advancement, empowerment and diversity.’ According to Forbes, LeBron is the biggest holder, although his shares do not exceed 50%.
Fenway Sports Group and Real Estate
LeBron also owns a stake in Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of Boston’s Red Socks, football team Liverpool F.C., and Pittsburgh Penguins. It is believed that his stake in Fenway is worth approximately $60 million.
Similar to any other celebrity, LeBron enjoys buying various real estates and has a long list of luxury complexes that he has purchased over the course of his career. He owns real estate in Ohio, Florida, and California, worth around $100 million. His mansion in Los Angeles, dubbed ‘the masterpiece of light and design,’ is a jaw-dropping architectural estate worth $52 million. Some of its numerous commodities include eight bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, marble countertops and walls, natural French oak floors, a theater room, wine cellar, cigar lounge, and many others.
His complex in his hometown Ohio which he bought in 2013 for 2.1 million is now worth over $10 million. Since purchasing the enormous 30,000-square feet mansion, LeBron upgraded, remodeled, and expanded the estate. In addition, the luxurious property has a recording studio, movie theater, and bowling alley.
It is believed that LeBron has over $300 million in cash accounts and other investments that are not that easy to track. LeBron has bought stakes in numerous other businesses whose value and quantity are not public. According to Forbes, nearly half of his billion is in net assets that are not listed; one includes shares of the fitness company Beachbody which LeBron founded with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Furthermore, LeBron had some shares in “Beats by Dre,” which was sold to Apple in 2014 for $3 billion.
LeBron’s life story of breaking records and stereotypes and becoming the first billionaire is definitely a motivation to many children and teenagers who dream of attaining status as a one-of-a-kind athlete like LeBron. His rags-to-riches saga proves that continuity, persistence, and determination always pay off, and if you have LeBron’s intelligence, only the sky is the limit.