It’s good to be LeBron James these days. The Cavaliers star is in the middle of another deep playoff run, trying to bring Cleveland a long-awaited title. He’s also in the process of getting extremely rich.
Not only is James due for another big contract at the end of this season, he also signed a lifetime deal with Nike back in December that will ensure he’s very comfortable financially for the rest of his life. While the official financial parameters of that deal haven’t been disclosed, initial reports of its worth being ~$500 million were reportedly significantly off-base.
Some sources claimed the deal will pay LeBron in excess of $30 million annually, in which case the math says there’s a good chance it would gross him more than a billion dollars. Kanye West backed up that idea on his song “Facts” with the lyric, “[Nike] gave LeBron a bili’ not to run away.”
GQ recently sat down with LeBron’s business partner, Maverick Carter, and asked him about several aspects of LeBron’s off-the-court ventures and how they’re typically approached. The interviewer tried to pry some additional details out of Carter about the lifetime deal from Nike.
Though he wouldn’t confirm or deny any number on record, he may have hinted that a 10-digit sum isn’t out of the question.
So you just negotiated an unprecedented lifetime contract for LeBron with Nike. What’s your secret to being a great negotiator?
You have to go into the room understanding a couple things. You have to know what you want. You have to know how to clearly articulate those things. You have to know what’s important to the other side and what they want. Be able to articulate those things, too. And then you have to be willing to not take everything. If you go into the negotiation like, I’m gonna get every dollar, every piece of real estate — I’m just gonna take this guy’s f*cking pants off — you may be able to do that once, maybe twice, but after that, people aren’t going to want to do business with you. When you’re negotiating something like the Nike deal, it’s gonna last a lifetime, literally. The minute this negotiation’s over, we’re gonna work with these people every day. So you don’t want to leave them with a bad feeling.
How much was the deal for?
I can’t say.
Come on, Mav! Can you ballpark it?
What are people saying?
Kanye said a billion. So a billion.
[Maverick smiles and points one finger skyward.]
Yeah. It’s a fantastic deal. Nike feels great about the deal. That’s the most important thing. As great as I feel, as great as LeBron feels — Nike feels fantastic about it. It’s the largest deal in the history of the company. Their hope is he makes even more. And our hope is that, too, obviously.
Holy s**t indeed.
It’s easy to recognize how great LeBron is on the basketball court, but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how successful he is off the court as well. Alongside Carter, he’s done a great job setting up long-term business plans to keep him successful (and financially flush) for years to come, even when basketball is in the rearview mirror.