11282022

LeBron James has penned a lifetime deal with Nike… but what does the $500m contract mean for the Cleveland Cavaliers star and the sportswear giant?

On Monday it was announced that Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has signed a lifetime contract with Nike.

It is believed to be the first deal American sportwear giant’s kind, with the 30-year-old’s contract worth up to $500million (£333m).

Sportsmail assesses what does the enormity of the four-time MVP’s deal with Nike now means for those concerned.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has signed a lifetime contract with athletic apparel giant Nike

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has signed a lifetime contract with athletic apparel giant Nike

The 30-year-old's (right) staggering deal with Nike is believed to be worth up to $500million (£333m)

The 30-year-old’s (right) staggering deal with Nike is believed to be worth up to $500million (£333m)

James (pictured in 2005) has been with Nike since signing a contract before graduating from high school

James (pictured in 2005) has been with Nike since signing a contract before graduating from high school

How does the deal work?

Nike’s eye-watering deal to James’ is based on the assumption that he will stay scandal-free throughout the rest of his career, as well as have staying power in the many years of his life when he is no longer an active player. The sportswear company will probably base their James’ model on the success of their partnership with Michael Jordan.

Nike executives acknowledged that much of the growth for Jordan’s brand has come from the US market and from items sold almost exclusively to men. But women account for half of the NBA viewing audience, and as the sport goes global, there’s potential for the brand to expand internationally as well. James could transcend across both genders in this way.

In October, Nike set a $4.5billion (£3.5bn) annual sales target for the Jordan brand – double where it stands today. With James’ standing on a par with Jordan, who knows what the 11-time NBA All-Star could achieve. 

James' eye-watering deal is based on Nike's assumption that of his staying power beyond his NBA career

James’ eye-watering deal is based on Nike’s assumption that of his staying power beyond his NBA career

What’s it worth per year?

To breakdown the lifetime deal exactly is impossible as you can never predict unforeseen circumstances. However, at present the average age to live for an American is 76. Based on that assumption then James will earn £7.2m a year, £139,000 a week and £19,800 a day. If those figures aren’t mind-blowing enough then to break them down further the Cavs star will earn £826 an hour at £13.77 per minute or 23p a second.

If James lives up to the age of 76, the Cavs' No 23 will have earned £7.2m a year from his Nike agreement

If James lives up to the age of 76, the Cavs’ No 23 will have earned £7.2m a year from his Nike agreement

What have his other Nike deals been worth?

James’ initial deal with Nike came shortly before he entered the draft in 2003, skipping college to turn professional, worth $90m (£59.7m) over a seven-year period. In 2010, James re-signed with Nike and reportedly earned as much as $30m (£19.9m) annually.

James' previous deal with Nike reportedly earned the 11-time NBA All-Star up to $30m (£19.9m) annually

James’ previous deal with Nike reportedly earned the 11-time NBA All-Star up to $30m (£19.9m) annually

Why has he earned it?

James’ was the one player every franchise wanted during the 2003 draft and the Cavs star has lived up to his fabled billing 12 years on. James is a four-time NBA MVP, has won two NBA titles during his time with the Miami Heat and has also won two Olympic gold medals. His global appeal from his on-court success alone means he is often compared to Michael Jordan in the debate of who is the greatest-ever basketball player. That alone makes him a marketing dream. 

James' trophy-laden career includes Olympics golds at the 2008 and 2012 Games (pictured at the latter)

James’ trophy-laden career includes Olympics golds at the 2008 and 2012 Games (pictured at the latter)

What promotions/clothing/footwear has he promoted?

James has had his own line of Nike shoes for years and the company has made 13 versions of LeBron’s signature shoe, with annual sales expected to pass $400m (£265m) for 2015.

James also has a clothing line with Nike and his new agreement could expand into his own brand. 

James already has a shoe and clothing line with Nike, and his new agreement will expand his brand

James already has a shoe and clothing line with Nike, and his new agreement will expand his brand

Annual sales of James' signature Nike shoe  are expected to pass $400m (£265m) for 2015

Annual sales of James’ signature Nike shoe are expected to pass $400m (£265m) for 2015

What will he be doing to earn his money this time around?

On-the-court, Nike will just keep asking him to do what he is doing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Averaging 26.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists so far this season – the 30-year-old’s goal is to win an NBA ring with his hometown franchise. Another victory will help endorse the James/Nike brand even further. 

The 30-year-old came close to adding to his two NBA titles last season against the Golden State Warriors

The 30-year-old came close to adding to his two NBA titles last season against the Golden State Warriors

How does it compare to other deals with NBA athletes?

In truth, it eclipses the deal of his contemporaries in the Association. Last summer, Nike signed Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant to a 10-year, $300m (£200m) contract last summer.

And in August, adidas prized Houston Rockets guard James Harden away from Nike with a 13-year, $200m (£133m) deal. 

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant signed a 10-year $300m (£200m) contract last summer with Nike

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant signed a 10-year $300m (£200m) contract last summer with Nike

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (top) left Nike to sign a 13-year, $200m (£133m) deal with adidas

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (top) left Nike to sign a 13-year, $200m (£133m) deal with adidas

Won’t his retirement affect his appeal?

In a word, no. James is such role model that even when he hangs up his sizeable shoes – children worldwide will still aspire to emulate his magnanimous feats.

As for his business association with Nike once he’s done playing, James said he has had ‘a conversation’ about branching off into his own brand – like Jordan – under the company’s umbrella.

‘We’ll see when we get to that point,’ said James, who has signed three contracts with Nike.

‘If it makes sense for both parties, then we’ll do it. If not, then we won’t. We’ve done a great job of building my brand to this point. We want to just continue it.

‘If it makes sense for us to have a ‘Team LeBron,’ or whatever the name will be, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there. It’s a partnership between us. It’s not an endorsement deal.

‘It’s a partnership where we always come together and figure out the best way possible for both brands to be successful.’

To date Jordan’s Air Shoe has generated revenues over $2.2bn (£1.45bn) since 1985 – something that James will aspire to beat, one day.

Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan's Air Shoe has generated revenues over $2.2billion since 1985

Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan’s Air Shoe has generated revenues over $2.2billion since 1985

What Next?

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