At 18 years old, LeBron James was a well-known commodity in the basketball world and the soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. James was about to become a millionaire, but the kid from Akron was still looking at things as someone that had grown up in poverty.
However, he knew his earning potential, and that kept him from simply jumping at the first big offer that he received on the shoe market. That offer came from Reebok chairman Paul Fireman, who wisely tried to keep James from visiting with Adidas and Nike by offering him a check for $10 million on the spot to not go through with his meetings with the two shoe giants later. James and his business partner Maverick Carter discussed that meeting on a recent episode of Carter’s show “Kneading Dough” on Uninterrupted.
“Being a first generational money maker in the household is a scary thing for an 18-year-old,” James said. “I go from being in a classroom in May to being a multimillionaire in June.
“I flew in from Akron, Ohio, from Spring Hill, from the projects,” James said. “Our rent was like $17 a month. And now I’m looking at a $10 million check that I can leave with and go back to high school the next day.”
My favorite part of the exchange is at the beginning of the story where the thing that sticks out for James to this day is how big the damn board room table was. James was wise to not take the money, eventually getting a $70 million deal with Nike, which has now turned into a $1 billion lifetime deal. It’s crazy to imagine what would’ve happened had James taken the check and signed with Reebok over Nike. That could’ve changed the landscape of basketball shoe culture, if Reebok (now without a current signature shoe) had the world’s biggest star on their payroll, not Nike.