LeBron James is the most important player in the NBA for a wide variety of reasons. He’s an international sports star in a way few American athletes are. His social awareness makes him an important political voice. And his expanding entertainment empire and acting experience means he’s going to be in the public spotlight long after his playing days are over.
But he’s also so valuable as an NBA player that he’s costing the team he plays for in a direct financial sense. James makes himself and the Cavaliers so much money playing in Cleveland that the Cavs reportedly operate at a net loss.
ESPN reported on Tuesday that nearly half of NBA franchises operate at a loss before revenue sharing. And even after revenue sharing and luxury tax payments, LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers are one of nine teams that finished in the red in 2016.
It’s all part of a complicated equation that involves the ever-shifting requirements of revenue sharing, which gives money from national television deals and other revenue streams to smaller, less-profitable teams if they are struggling to turn a profit.