LeBron James hits one billion dollar earnings | Sunday Observer

LeBron James hits one billion dollar earnings

25 July, 2021
Lebron James
Lebron James

LeBron James, 36, will be hard-pressed to beat MJ’s six NBA titles—he trails by two—but he already tops Jordan in another category—first NBA player to crack $1 billion in career earnings while still active.

Michael Jordan fell short of $1 billion during his playing career, even adjusted for inflation. Don’t shed a tear for MJ, though. His highest annual earnings have come in retirement, thanks to skyrocketing revenue at Nike’s Jordan Brand, and Jordan’s total earnings are now roughly $2 billion since he left Chapel Hill for the NBA in 1984.

Since being drafted in 2003, James has earned $330 million in playing salary—net of recent escrow deductions—and another $700 million off the court from endorsements, merchandise, licensing and his media business. Current endorsement partners AT&T, Beats, Blaze Pizza, GMC, Nike, PepsiCo, Rimowa and Walmart help James earn more than $100 million annually. The latest addition is Epic Games, where Fortnite players will have access to a pair of James-themed outfits or “skins.”

His closest comps among active players are Kevin Durant ($580 million in career earnings) and Stephen Curry ($430 million). The only other athletes to earn $1 billion while still active are Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Roger Federer.

James is the first player in a U.S. team sport to hit the three-comma club, but he won’t be the last, as a new generation of athletes hunts for big scores through equity deals, and as changes to name, image and likeness rules can start the clock earlier on sports stars making bank.

“Each player is their own little business conglomerate,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising. “It is more on the equity side and creating side; it is less holding up a product for 30 seconds and saying I shave with this.”

The NBA is the quickest way for U.S. team sports stars to stockpile earnings. The league, with some assistance from Nike and Adidas, turn All-Stars into global icons, goosing endorsement deals beyond what an NFL or MLB player could earn.

Salaries are also surging. Luka Dončić, 22, is eligible for a five-year contract extension this summer worth $200 million. The Dallas Mavericks star could bank more than $700 million in salary alone by the time he is 36 if the NBA salary cap continues to rise and the two-time All-Star maintains his elite play.

The rules in marketing are changing as well. “We are living in a borderless world where athletes now have a chance to take advantage of global opportunities,” said David Carter, a principal of Sports Business Group, an industry consultant. “The filters have also been removed; no longer does an athlete need to worry about a focus solely on his brand coming from how the media filters it or what his team or his league does with his intellectual property; they can reach out directly.” (Sportico)