Being the country’s biggest and most well-known athlete for nearly 20 years has meant huge money for LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers and “Space Jam 2” star has earned enough over his career from his salary, endorsements, and production company to put him into a new echelon for NBA players: the $1 billion club.
According to Sportico, James is the first NBA player to surpass $1 billion in career earnings while still active.
He’s earned $330 million from his NBA salary and $700 million from merchandise, endorsements, his media company, and other off-the-court endeavours.
While Michael Jordan has surpassed the $1 billion mark — and the $2 billion mark — he didn’t get there until after his playing career ended.
It’s not hard to see how James got to that massive number. He was a sensation even before he made his NBA debut and then went on to earn 17 All-Star nods and four championships.
He’s taken that fame and spun it into a lifetime contract with Nike that may be worth $1 billion, numerous other endorsements (GMC, AT&T, Walmart, Beats, Pepsi, and more), and a thriving media company that has produced an HBO show, an ABC game show, several documentaries, and “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which has been a hit at the box office.
James is the first player from a U.S. team sport to earn $1 billion during his career while still active, but athletes from other sports and other countries have also done it.
Golfer Tiger Woods, boxer Floyd Mayweather, tennis player Roger Federer, and soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have all earned $1 billion while still active in their sports.
Sportico notes that there are a few other NBA players who might be able to reach the $1 billion club before they retire. Kevin Durant, who is 32, has made $580 million in his career, and 33-year-old Stephen Curry has made $430 million. Of those, Sportico says Durant is most likely to join James.
Durant, 32, is the most likely to reach $1 billion among active players. He is still owed $84 million from the Brooklyn Nets over the next two seasons and roughly $85 million from Nike through 2024, when his 10-year Swoosh deal expires. KD has largely eschewed new endorsements in recent years and focused on his investment vehicle, Thirty-Five Ventures, which has made more than 75 investments and has a couple of huge wins with Coinbase and Postmates. Elite athletes have access to opportunities typically reserved for billionaires, venture capitalists and Wall Street insiders.