Cover Image for LeBron James shares how a $90 million deal put additional pressure of being a 1st generation money-maker on him

LeBron James shares how a $90 million deal put additional pressure of being a 1st generation money-maker on him

Hemanth Amar
|Wed Aug 17 2022

LeBron James, who became a billionaire recently, discusses being a first-generation money maker and betting on himself.

When LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003, he became one of the last basketball players to be drafted straight out of high school. But he was already attracting a lot of attention before he even graduated.

According to Forbes, LeBron James has officially become a billionaire. This makes James the first active NBA player to reach the billion-dollar mark, and the second NBA player to do so, joining retired basketball legend Michael Jordan.

James, a small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, is the NBA’s highest-paid player, earning $121 million in both on and off the court last year. He was ranked second on Forbes’ list of the Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2022.

James grew up in some of Akron’s most dangerous neighborhoods. LeBron quickly went from being a nationally renowned high school basketball star to a multi-millionaire.

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LeBron James discusses being a first-generation business owner and betting on himself

James, who was born in Ohio, had a difficult childhood because his young mother struggled to make ends meet. Thanks to lessons from his uncles, James made sure to always set aside some of the little money he did have.

Because no one in his family had ever earned a consistent income, James had no idea what it meant to earn, save, and spend money.

“Being the household’s first-generation money-maker is a scary thing for an 18-year-old,” James says. “I went from sitting in classrooms and graduating high school in May to becoming a multi-millionaire a month later, in June,” he says.

During his senior year of high school, James met with Reebok’s president. Reebok offered him $10 million on the spot if he agreed not to meet with competitors Nike and Adidas. After a few moments of deliberation, James declined. Even as a teenager, he recognized the value of hearing what all sides had to say.

“I started thinking, if this guy is willing to give me a $10 million dollar check right now, what’s to say Nike or Adidas isn’t willing to give me a $20 or $30 million dollar check right now?” James says.

This, in turn, led to a $90 million Nike deal. This Nike deal changed into a lifetime deal, which helped him become a billionaire. As his success grew, endorsement deals came in, and James began to look for ways to expand those relationships. It didn’t take him long to realize that he didn’t always need to hold a product to make an impression. He could generate his own ideas and collaborate with a partner to create something new.

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