Figure 1 The James name almost has a license to print money
There is no denying that LeBron James is one of the most famous basketball players of all time. He is one of a rare breed of athlete that has transcended the sport that he plays. There are millions of people all around the world who wouldn’t know a single other player in the NBA – but they know LeBron.
Part of his success and bankability is his immense basketball talent, of course. But you don’t have to have a favorite hoops team or know how to bet on NBA games to realize that this is one of the best players in the world. He is also one the richest men in the world, thanks to the money earned on and off the court.
As with all top sports athletes and stars these days, LeBron James’ wealth does not come entirely from sports. His many endorsements and investments have made him one of the wealthiest athletes of all time. But how did he get to this point? And just how rich is he?
LeBron James was born in 1984 to a single mother, with a father that played no part in his life and spent much of his time in prison. He and his mother moved around Akron, Ohio regularly when he was young and he lacked stability in his life. This was something his mother tried to rectify by organizing for him to live with a local youth football coach and his family.
That move allowed James to concentrate on his sports and he joined a local predominately white high school. After excelling at both basketball and football, James skipped college altogether and was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one pick overall in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Rookie Year Millionaire
James’ arrival in the NBA was eagerly anticipated by fans of the Cavaliers – and every hoops fan in the country. He was playing for his hometown team and started as he meant to go on – scoring 25 points against Sacramento on his debut. He had also already signed his first multi-million dollar contract.
It was hardly surprising that the Cavs were happy to pay him so much. A once-in-a-lifetime prospect, James was one of the last prep-to-pro NBA stars and was given a four-year $18.8 million contract. Ahead of the 2007-2008 season, he signed a three-year extension worth $60 million.
James has played in Cleveland in two different spells. After seven years he famously made “the decision” to join the Miami Heat. But in 11 total years with the Cavaliers, he earned almost $170 million. Four years in south Florida banked him another $65 million – and after that second stint in Cleveland, he headed west.
Unsurprisingly, James was able to command an even bigger deal playing for the “showtime” Los Angeles Lakers. In five years he took in around $200 million and then signed a two-year extension that will mean by the end of the 2024-25 season (when he may or may not retire) he will have earned a grand total of around $530 million from just over 20 years in the league.
Getting paid over half a billion dollars over the course of a career is pretty good. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to LeBron James’ fortune. As with any elite athlete, he manages to bank a whole lot more from his various endorsements. As soon as LeBron went pro he signed a deal with Nike reportedly worth around $90 million.
Now it is understood that LeBron’s lifetime deal with Nike is nearer the billion-dollar mark. He is regarded as a shrewd businessman and has enjoyed endorsements from both Coca-Cola and Pepsi – and can also count AT&T, McDonalds, Beats by Dre, and State Farm as partners.
Off the Basketball Court
As well as all those multi-million dollar endorsements – and the basic salary he earns from the Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James also brings in a lot of money from his various high-profile investments. His Spring Hill company is worth around $300 million and helped him bring the Space Jam reboot to the silver screen.
He also has an interest in the Fenway Sports Group that owns Liverpool Football Club of the EPL, MLB’s Boston Red Sox, and hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins, among others. It seems only a matter of time before LeBron James realizes his dream of owning an NBA franchise.
Thanks to his many sports and business contracts, Forbes announced in 2022 that LeBron James had become basketball’s first actively playing billionaire. Michael Jordan was the sport’s first – but he only achieved that feat after he had retired from the game and had taken ownership of the Charlotte Hornets.
After taking home around $110 million a year before taxes and agents’ fees, James is now part of a very select group of wealthy individuals. The fact that he has managed to stay so relevant on the court – as well as remain so universally loved – is an incredible achievement in itself.
Figure 2 James followed another very famous basketball player by signing with Nike
Richer than Jordan?
In 2020 it was estimated that Michael Jordan’s net worth was just over $2 billion. Although that number has gone down in the last few years, his Air-ness still just about trumps James in the wealth stakes.
But considering the fact that Jordan didn’t amass most of his fortune until after he retired – and made the majority from his own deal with Nike – it seems inevitable that LeBron James will overtake him soon. James’ playing days may not continue for too much longer, but he is still an incredible athlete, able to command a huge salary. His many wise investments and endorsements will continue to pay well for years to come. So, it is fair to say that LeBron James has done pretty well for himself.
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