Entering this NBA season, LeBron James had already cashed checks from his three teams—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and, now, the Lakers—worth more than $310 million over 17 seasons. That, of course, is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to James’ earnings.
Remember, when James entered the NBA in 2003, he did so with a seven-year, $93 million endorsement deal from Nike already in his pocket. He re-upped with Nike in 2010, signing a deal that reportedly paid him $30 million per year. That contract was scrapped in 2015 for a lifetime deal with Nike that will pay him about $1 billion.
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In all, according to calculations by Forbes, James is set to reach a lofty threshold this year—he will total, with endorsements, $1 billion in career earnings. According to the website, only four other athletes have hit $1 billion in earnings while their careers were still active: golfer Tiger Woods, boxing’s Floyd Mayweather and soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
How LeBron James’ career earnings will hit $1 billion in 2021 https://t.co/Cq2bi0h3yd pic.twitter.com/cXhrnMLOV3
— Forbes (@Forbes) January 29, 2021
LeBron James to Earn Nearly $100 Million This Year
Forbes projects that James will earn $95.4 million this year. His Lakers contract is worth $39 million, which ranks seventh in the NBA, behind Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, James Harden and Kevin Durant, who all earn more than $40 million per year. James is set to make more than $50 million in endorsements.
James signed a two-year, $85 million contract extension that should keep him with the Lakers through 2023.
James has long had a history of being careful with his money and shrewd in his investments. He explained on a podcast with business partner Maverick Carter on Uninterrupted, “My uncles always taught me — they taught me how to have a savings account. They’d give me a dollar and they’d be like, ‘Listen, nephew, go spend 35 cents of it and keep the other 65.’ Or, if they gave me two dollars, they’d be like, ‘Go ahead and spend a dollar of it, but stash the other dollar.’”
He remembered the lesson: “I’m always in my head about stashing and keeping my money sacred … because I didn’t know when my uncle was going to give me another dollar here and another 50 cents here.”
James Still Playing at MVP Level
Even at age 36, James remains one of the world’s most popular athletes. His move to the Lakers in 2018 opened up new avenues for revenue for him, raising his global profile as he joined one of the NBA’s signature franchises. Being in Los Angeles also helped bolster his entertainment industry credentials.
It helps, too, that James is still playing at a high level. He is averaging 25.2 points, 7.5 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season, shooting 49.2% from the field and 41.3%–a career high—from the 3-point line. He is among the favorites to win this season’s MVP award and his Lakers are in strong position to win a second consecutive championship.
That’s kept him relevant as an endorser.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that James was ending his 18-year relationship with Coca-Cola to sign with Pepsi. While details of that deal are unknown, James is expected to be ambassador for both Pepsi and Mountain Dew’s new line of energy drinks.
James has had a long list of endorsement deals with a variety of companies, ranging from McDonald’s to State Farm to Samsung. He has a stake in the Blaze Pizza restaurant chain as well as FC Liverpool of the Premiere League in England.
He is also releasing the sequel to Space Jam this summer, a movie which he not only produced through his entertainment company, SpringHill, but in which he also plays the starring role. According to Forbes, James stands to net about $10 million from the movie.
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