He's just a kid from Akron!
LeBron James has made history as the first active NBA player to become a billionaire, Forbes reports.
James has come a long way in a short time, born to a 16-year-old single mother in Akron, Ohio who struggled to make ends meet. He would move nearly a dozen times in three years before being thrust into the spotlight as one of the biggest high school basketball prospects of all time. At 18, his good fortune changed, James striking his first deal with Nike in 2003. The partnership paid off and after a career full of highlights, Nike inked a lifetime deal with James in 2015 that rakes in tens of millions every year.
Now an 18-time NBA all-star, 4-time NBA champion, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, James has only missed the playoffs four times in the last 19 seasons, clocking in last year as the second-highest earning athlete in the world, soccer superstar Lionel Messi coming in at number one. Now the 37-year-old has reached another career milestone, Forbes ranking him as the first active NBA player to become a billionaire. Apparently, it was something James has been manifesting for a long time.
“It’s my biggest milestone. 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,” James told GQ back in 2014.
Well, he must be celebrating because he has officially accumulated a net worth of more than $1.2 billion in pretax earnings. The majority of it is coming from his income off the court, endorsements with brands like AT&T, Pepsi Co, and Walmart contributing to that wealth. Another key component is that James has been an astute businessman, negotiating for equity in the brands he partners with in addition to an endorsement. In 2015, James turned down an endorsement with McDonald’s worth an estimated $15 million to instead partner with the Blaze Pizza chain where he is an investor. He’s also done similar deals with companies like Lyft and smart gym company Tonal.
James’ SpringHill TV and movie production company also has a lot to do with his accumulated wealth. In 2020, James and business partner Maverick Carter announced the company alongside a secured $100 million investment. Last year, James made history as the first Black partner of Fenway Sports Group, becoming part-owner of the Boston Red Sox. That same year, Fenway and Epic Games also bought into Springhill, which helped the company produce the $163 million box office grossing hit Space Jam: A New Legacy, and the HBO documentary What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali.
His estimated billion-dollar fortune is broken down into a few categories; The Spring Hill Company, which houses James’ Robot Company marketing agency, Uninterrupted and SpringHill Entertainment, earning James about $300 million. Fenway Sports Group, which James earned a stake in by trading in his minority stake in Liverpool F.C., earning him an estimated $90 million, his real estate portfolio which includes at least three different estates for an estimated $80 million. Blaze Pizza also brings him in around $30 million, plus cash and other investments which total more than $500 million and include his $121.2 million made on the court last year. Also, his shares in publicly-traded company Beachbody and sports nutrition company Ladder, which he co-founded with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2020 for $28 million in stock.
Congratulations, LeBron! You did it!
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images