Digital story, BrainJet, December 2015
Photo by Erik Drost via Flickr Creative Commons
In 2015 and 2016, I was an editor at a local content startup, overseeing two websites and making sure that our stories and slideshows about history, "Star Wars," pets, geography, careers and weird stuff went viral.
I'm not going to lie; it was pretty sweet.
This is one of the sports/pop culture stories that I wrote for BrainJet about a guy who's done a lot of my home state of Ohio.
Awesome basketball player? Check. Savvy businessman? Check. Inspiring philanthropist? Check. Winner of a new quadrillion-billion-gazillion-dollar deal that's set him up for life? Check.
Yeah, LeBron James is pretty much the man. But thanks to a new endorsement deal, he's now the man with truly unlimited dollars and fame.
Nike recently confirmed that it has signed the Cleveland Cavaliers forward to represent the athletic brand FOR LIFE. It's believed that this is the first deal of its kind in Nike history.
"We can confirm that we have agreed to a lifetime relationship with LeBron that provides significant value to our business, brand and shareholders," Nike said in a statement. "We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond."
James has represented Nike products since 2003, when the company signed the basketball phenom to a seven-year, $90-million contract right out of high school. Since then, James has popped up in countless advertisements and designed a highly successful line of athletic shoes, leading all NBA players in shoe sales in 2013 and pulling in $340 million last fiscal year.
But just how much is James' new lifetime Nike deal worth, exactly?
Well, that's the thing -- terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Womp womp. However, experts are saying that James' deal surpasses the one Nike gave to Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, which came in at 10 years and $300 million last year. Some sources are even speculating that James' lifetime deal with Nike is worth $500 million, and one source claims that the figure is significantly higher yet.
$500 million. Holy cow.
"I'm very humble, man," James told reporters recently. "It's been an unbelievable time for myself and my family, and I'm just grateful that Nike and [Nike founder] Phil Knight and everyone over there just believed in a skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio, and I'm happy to be a part of such a great company."
Nike has ponied up for athletes in the past, but none to this extent and none for an entire lifetime -- at least that we know of. Longtime Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan has represented Nike for decades, and even though he left the Bulls for good 17 years ago, his Air Jordan shoe sales -- which began in 1985 -- still pull in billions of dollars. Many say that Jordan has a de facto lifetime endorsement deal with Nike, even though such a deal has never been announced.
James -- who is billed as the best basketball player of his generation -- has built quite a portfolio of profitable endeavors. In addition to the Nike deals, James has been hired over the years by Coca Cola, McDonald's and Samsung, and he has major investments in Beats by Dre and pizza chain Blaze. He's recently received funding from Time Warner and Turner Sports in a digital content platform. James ranks sixth on Forbes' list of highest paid athletes. Forbes pegged him in 2014 as worth $37 million, and James is the king of athletes on social media, with 48 million followers.
Somehow, we don't really see any of that changing anytime soon.