A legendary career on the court, a host of high-profile endorsements and a starring role in the new Space Jam movie have helped LeBron James break new ground by becoming the first active billionaire in the NBA, a new report says.
According to a report by Sportico.com, James’ career earnings have finally eclipsed the $1 billion mark after 18 seasons in the NBA, during which time he has earned an estimated $330 million on the court along with a gargantuan $700 million from his various endorsements and businesses. The staggering figures mean James becomes the first to hit the milestone while still one of the league’s top players.
Michael Jordan, the man to whom James is most often compared, has also achieved the same feat but he didn’t pass the billion-dollar mark until after his playing career had concluded.
James’ bottom line has no doubt been helped by the smash success of the recent family-friendly movie ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’, again matching the footsteps of Jordan who starred in the first film. He is also listed as a producer of the movie and appeared to take a shot at some of his detractors amid reports that the film had delivered a healthy box office of $32 million on its opening weekend – with James’ status as star and producer meaning that he would be apportioned a not-insignificant percentage of that sum.
James and Jordan have long held something of cold war-style rivalry, or at least this is the predominant narrative that the media have snapped on to.
James likely won’t beat (or even match) Jordan’s record of six NBA titles (James has four), though Jordan’s record of five NBA MVP awards could conceivably be matched or bettered by James, who has four.
But one category where James does take the lead is in career earnings… Or at least their earnings by this stage of their respective careers.
Social justice warrior James has taken advantage of a landscape in which there are more sponsorship and endorsement opportunities afforded to players, while also seeing the benefits of the league-wide salary cap being far in excess today of what it was in Jordan’s time.
James has endorsement deals with the likes of AT&T, Beats, Blaze Pizza, GMC, Nike, PepsiCo, Rimowa and Walmart which are thought to earn him around $100 million per year.
But as ‘MJ’ might point out, this is a marathon and not a sprint. Jordan began to earn his biggest paydays AFTER his career had ended thanks to his association with Nike – with latest estimates suggesting that Jordan has taken in a cool $2 billion throughout his career.
James, though, isn’t the first active athlete to have surged past $1 billion in career earnings – and surely won’t be the last – after the same feat was also achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Floyd Mayweather and Lionel Messi.