There are four words that define LeBron James, a statement regarding his role in society that goes beyond being one of the greatest basketball players to ever live: “More than an athlete.” James’ unique talents on the hardwood are matched and, in some cases, surpassed by the work he’s done off the court, where he’s acquired wealth through a myriad of business ventures that gives him as unique of a portfolio as anyone to ever take a court, field, or any other venue upon which sports occur.
From the time James was a highly-regarded high school basketball player in Akron, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has documented his journey. He’s written extensively about James’ basketball career, but in his upcoming book, “LeBron, Inc.: The Making of a Billion-Dollar Athlete,” Windhorst takes a deeper dive into his off-court activities and how lessons learned over the course of his life have gotten the Los Angeles Lakers star to a point where he is, perhaps, the savviest businessman of any professional athlete in the world today.
The book touches on a number of moves James has made off the court, from his initial negotiations with sneaker companies at the start of his NBA career (spoiler alert: he signs with Nike), to a series of shrewd business moves involving, among other organizations, Liverpool Football Club and Beats headphones, to where he is now as an emerging entertainment mogul with aspirations of improving the lives of those less fortunate, Windhorst gives as comprehensive of a look as you will find into James’ various business dealings.
Prior to the book’s release on Tuesday, April 9, Windhorst sat down with Dime for a conversation regarding what readers can find inside.
The place we have to start: Why write this book now?
That is exactly what Maverick Carter said to me. He said, “Why write it now? We’re just really sort of at the beginning of our journey.” And I said, “Because you guys have done some things that have changed the game.” And there have been some business stories and business profiles done. Forbes did a story at one point. I think he did a profile with Fast Company. Maverick participated in a Harvard case study, which in his world is kind of a big thing. But there had never been anything comprehensive done like this on their business.
I think that if it was up to them, I would have waited until Space Jam was a huge success, or they had sold Uninterrupted for $500 million, or something like that. And so I what said to him, I was like, “Well, Maverick, you guys have done a lot here, and if you are further successful down the line, we can write another book down the line.” But in all honesty, the last book that I wrote was a best seller, and it was because the story was so wonderful, which was the story of their 2016 title. I mean, on the last page, they won. If you were a LeBron, or a Cavs fan, it had a happy ending, and the publisher was interested in another LeBron book, and I just didn’t want to do another book about LeBron and basketball.
This is what was interesting me, not only the business decisions LeBron’s made over the last 10, 12 years, but the pivot that they’re making to him being a media mogul. Just like he’s been the leader on the court, he’s been a kind of a leader off the court, and I just wanted to, frankly, go through another … I wanted to stretch my legs in another direction, so that’s one of the reasons why I went this route.