Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, the man who has defined a generation of NBA, now has a net worth of $1billion according to Forbes – becoming the first active NBA player to make the billionaires list
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LeBron James is an 18-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA champion, four-time NBA MVP, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Now, the King is also a billionaire.
Despite a disappointing campaign with the Lakers in 2021-22, which means he must watch the NBA Finals from the sidelines after missing the playoffs, James has achieved something no NBA star has ever done. According to Forbes he has officially become a billionaire while still operating as an active player.
He is the first active NBA player to make the billionaires list, as Michael Jordan – the only other basketball billionaire – joined the ranks in 2014, nine years after the Chicago Bulls legend retired. James has surpassed the billion mark for his net worth after a year of earnings totaling $121.2 million (£97m).
While Jordan achieved his wealth largely through his iconic Air Jordan brand and his purchase of the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise, James has maximized his business ventures to make $1.2 billion in pre-tax earnings. He revealed his plans to execute such a lucrative off-court career back in 2014, when he told GQ he wanted to be a billionaire – and James has now achieved the hefty objective eight years later.
Across his illustrious career, James has secured more than $385 million (£307m) in salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA’s highest-paid active player. Even away from the sport, James has earned over $900 million (£717m) in income stemming from other business ventures and lucrative endorsements due to his stature and popularity with fans around the world.
This path, from teenage prodigy to billionaire active athlete, is particularly impressive given where the King hails from. Born to a 16-year-old single mother in Akron, Ohio, James reportedly moved a dozen times in three years but his basketball talent shone through as he became the most anticipated high school prospect of all time, which came with a crushing weight of expectation.
At age 18 in 2003, James turned down offers from Reebok and Adidas to sign a deal with Nike and after more than a decade of success, he inked a lifetime agreement with the brand to pay him tens of millions on an annual basis. Alongside deals with the likes of AT&T, PepsiCo and Walmart, the 37-year-old was the second-highest earning athlete in the world in 2021.
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How has James masterminded a billion-dollar fortune? Well, he’s intelligently organized deals to grant him equity in brands he has associated himself with while also leading various ventures himself.
James’ key venture is The SpringHill Company, which is worth around $300 million (£239m). The entertainment development and production company-founded by James and business partner Maverick Carter in 2020-was named after the apartment complex where James and his mother finally settled amid his tumultuous youth.
It allowed James to combine three companies – marketing agency Robot Company, athlete platform Uninterrupted and SpringHill Entertainment, which was founded in 2007 to produce the award-winning documentary More Than A Game, which chronicles James’ high school career. The SpringHill Company was launched after James and Carter received $100m (£80m) in investment, with backers including Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of billionaire Rupert. Last October, James sold a minority stake at a $725m (£578m) valuation to investors including Fenway Sports Group, Nike and Epic Games.
SpringHill helped produced 2021 movie Space Jam: A New Legacy after it starred James, as well as the recent Netflix docuseries about tennis star Naomi Osaka. It is currently working on a biopic about James’ young life.
James has openly spoken about owning an NBA team one day, but the Lakers star already holds stakes in baseball, soccer and hockey teams among others. The basketball star has a deal with Fenway Sports Group, who owns a wide portfolio of sports teams, and it means James has a minority stake in Liverpool FC, the English Premier League team which claimed the FA Cup and League Cup double in 2021-22 .
The 37-year-old acquired the stake when his sports marketing agency partnered with FSG in 2011, and he and Carter exchanged their stakes in Liverpool for part ownership of the group last year. James is estimated to own around 1% of the group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, Liverpool and NHL franchise Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as half of Roush Fenway Racing and 80% of the New England Sports Network. His stake from him is valued at around $90 million (£71.8m).
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In 2015, James left his endorsement with McDonalds to invest in and partner with Blaze Pizza. He has helped promote the company spectacularly, often going behind the counter and taking to the streets to aid the brand’s operation. Forbes estimates James’ stake in the chain – plus his cut of 18 Blaze franchises in Florida and Illinois run by restaurateur Larry Levy – to be worth about $30 million.
On top of these investments, James has more than half a billion dollars (£399m) in net assets beyond what has been mentioned. This includes equity in brands like Tonal and rideshare mammoth Lyft, as well as Beats by Dre and publicly traded fitness company Beachbody, which James co-founded with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
James also has a property portfolio valued at $80 million (£64m) thanks to homes in Akron and Los Angeles, and he recently purchased a 13,000 square-foot Beverly Hills mansion for $36.75m (£29.3m).