How LeBron James has earned $450 Million During his NBA Career

By: Joe Greco

LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player of this generation, but many consider LeBron to be just as good of a businessman off the court. Since entering the league in 2003, LeBron’s influence on the game has been tremendous. The four-time league MVP and two time NBA champ has been able to use his high profile as a major advantage. LeBron does this through endorsements such as Nike, McDonalds, Microsoft, Cub Cadet (lawn mower maker company), State Farm, and many other endorsements. LeBron signed a seven year ninety million dollar deal with Nike even before getting drafted and was able to earn forty three million dollars through endorsements after his first four seasons in the NBA. LeBron’s ability to market himself has always been his biggest strength. In 2006, James surprised many people when he decided to leave his agent and start his own marketing firm. James, and three of his hometown friends who had no college degrees and no experience founded the LRMR management company. This was certainly a bold move for the then twenty one year old, but James and his partners put together a plan marketing strategy that proved to work wonderfully. This five step marketing strategy is: call your own shots, build a close knit team, negotiate everything, take calculated risks, and lastly question the norm and defy convention.

  1. Call your own shots– one of the few times James went the traditional route was when he signed with an agent right out of high school. He quickly realized he wanted to call his own shots and be in charge, so he left his agent to start his own marketing firm. He was quoted from ESPN that his desire of being in control came from being fatherless as a child; through this step LeBron has been able to understand the power of controlling his own destiny, which has been extremely profitable for him throughout his career.
  2. Build a close-knit team- Surrounding himself with trustworthy people has always been a big deal to LeBron. Instead of searching for marketing geniuses and Ivy League grads when building LRMR, he chose to use his friends.
  3. Negotiate everything: involves exercising leverage, taking your time to make the right decision, and maximizing every marketing opportunity possible.
  4. Take calculated risk: Smart risks can open the door for great opportunity.
  5. Question the norm and defy convention: LeBron has always been a leader, that’s why a lot of business people look for him for guidance. His company is always marching to its own beat, it is known for taking risk

In 2010, LeBron James used his free agency to market himself to full capacity. He was a free agent for the first time in his career and wanted to get every dime out of it, after announcing his own special TV program titled “LeBron James: The decision” which aired on ESPN. During this, he announced on live TV in front of millions who tuned in from around the world that he will be signing with the Miami Heat. This was extremely controversial and his reputation did take a hit, but his wallet did not. The move to Miami ended up being the best move business-wise he had ever made. Although he did take a pay cut basketball-wise, his marketing popularity was at an all time high. He began to accept his “villain role” which produced many products such as his shoes, clothing lines, and other basketball gear. A year after signing with the Miami Heat, James and his marketing firm partnered with Fenway Sports Management, which presented him with many new marketing opportunities and also netted him a seven-figure payout. This gave LeBron the opportunity to market himself globally, especially in Asia where he has done various commercials, marketed his shoe line, and even played a few pick up games in China.

There are often many opinions about LeBron James, but one thing is a fact: he is a smart businessman who knows how to market himself. During the 2013-2014 season LeBron made seventeen million dollars from the Miami Heat, but fifty two million dollars off endorsements. He has done a great job at following his marketing strategy and maximizing his marketing opportunities, as he did once again this past summer with his return to the Cleveland Cavilers this past summer. As he was able to win the love back of many basketball fans and sports fans in general, this has helped him earn $450 million dollars over his eleven-year professional career. At the age of thirty, LeBron shows no signs of slowing down on and off the court, as he will continue marketing himself through the course of his entire life. LeBron the businessman is just as good as LeBron the basketball player.

                                                                                                        Works Cited

Badenhauson, Kurt. “How LeBron James Has Earned $450M During His NBA Career.” Forbes Magazine. 9 July 2014. Print.

Elkins, Kathleen. “5 Strategies LeBron James Used to Become the NBA’s Most Influential Player. Businessinsider.com. 13 Feb. 2015. Web. <http://www.businessinsider.com/success-strategies-of-lebron-james-2015-2&gt;.

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6 thoughts on “How LeBron James has earned $450 Million During his NBA Career

  1. Cody J. Russell March 27, 2015 / 3:29 am

    LeBron is one of the best if not arguably the best basketball player past and present. What I did not know is how much he made off of endorsements and how much of a well developed business man he was. The fact that some athletes make more off of endorsements rather than playing the game is beyond me, but I feel the way King James has acquired his money is better than most athletes. Although he has made some great business decisions, I feel the “risks” he took may have been less of a risk for him because of the money he was dealing with. A 10 million dollar risk (for example) for him could almost be considered pocket change compared to his 450 mil. I digress, LeBron is not the stereotypical athlete. Even without a college education/degree, he has accomplished tasks most business men dream of. I just wish everyone knew about “the old villain” of the NBA is as business savvy as his skill on the court. One major positive of this article is my view of LeBron has completely changed since the presentation and article.

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  2. Kendra Van Pelt March 29, 2015 / 7:37 pm

    LeBron James is one one of the very best examples to show any athlete entering the pro field. He is a great example to show any new business owner opening up a new shop. He is a great example to tell a kid that anything is possible. LeBron is absolutely one of the best players on the court, however, I think his career off the court is more notable. He entered the field like no one had before him and proceeded to blow the standards away like they never existed. His methods have been bold, but in turn have produced superb results. When looking at a pay chart for pro athletes, only the very best of the best, of only the most popular sports, receive the very high pay days. Many pro athletes get by well, but never see the money that the best pro athletes do. However, not only do the best of the best get the highest pay days, they also are generally the athletes that receive the most and highest paid endorsements. Within the past few decades, marketers have found new ways to get their products out – such as putting their logos on the shoes that long distance track runner Steve Prefontaine wore, who was the first runner Nike sponsored. LeBron used all this to his advantage and took the market by storm. He is smart and able to calculate risk well, and has a knack for knowing when the right time is to defy convention and call his own shots.

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  3. beaudoinr April 21, 2015 / 9:47 pm

    I agree with most of the steps that you have put up. I also believe that Lebron can do whatever he wants whenever he wants and be successful. He is the face of the NBA and nobody can stop him. He has made some smart decisions through marketing, and even the bad ones have turned good. Think about the move to Miami, he lost all of this cavs fans that he had but he made an outrageous amount of money through jersey sales. Many people didn’t like the way that he moved teams, but it drew media attention and now his quote is used on a daily basis ( “I will be taking my talents to south beach”). Lebron is smart but with as character in society such as himself I don’t think anything he can do would be bad. Besides a major scandal that is.

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  4. Blake Boudreau April 28, 2015 / 6:33 am

    I do believe that Lebron James for the most part is a smart guy but by saying all of this about him regarding how great of a business man he is a little to far fetched. One should take into consideration of not only his personal assistants that he hires but his agents that are paid of millions or dollars that ultimately make and guide him into the right decisions. By being the best basketball player in the world, business opportunities are going to be their and by him hiring the right agents and people are what make him smart but i don’t believe he is making the actual business decisions. He works on playing basketball while his business men take care of the business side.

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  5. Jimmy Clark April 28, 2015 / 11:55 pm

    Even though I am not a fan of Lebron James, he is very smart at marketing himself. There are 3 types of athletes we remember. Those who excelled again’t their their competition, those who had extreme charisma, and those who had a combination of both. If you’re able to market yourself at a high level, you will be able to make more money off endorsements while you’re competing, and also make more money after your career. Sports is a business now a days and it’s all about becoming your own character. He has become a villain in the eyes of many, and it’s something that sports needs, and something that fans love. Being a business man is something that he has developed over the years as a basketball player, and something that will keep him wealthy for the rest of his life.

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  6. Charlie O'Connor May 6, 2015 / 7:48 am

    I firmly agree with Blake, there’s no way this is an individual effort. Although the article says LRMR was by Lebron and his high school pals, you better believe there are otheir voices involved in these endorsement dealings, I can almost guarantee they have a team of attorneys to weigh in. I think Lebron deserves to be in the, ” best ever” conversation. Being the best at anything in the entertainment world automatically yields plenty marketing opportunities on its own.

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