Off-court earnings propel James into billionaires' club

NEW YORK • National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James has joined the billionaires' club, Sportico reported on Thursday.

His team, the Los Angeles Lakers, failed in their attempt to retain their championship at the first hurdle, with the Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Phoenix Suns 4-2 overall as the Finals concluded on Tuesday.

However, "King James" is on a roll off the court.

The Looney Tunes' Tune squad and the forward, who turns 37 in December, ruled over the court and North American box office charts last weekend, dunking on the competition, including Disney and Marvel's Black Widow.

Despite being savaged in the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, the sequel to 1996's Space Jam starring Michael Jordan earned US$31.6 million (S$43 million) in ticket sales.

James' universal popularity has made him become the first active NBA player to reach the billion-dollar stratosphere.

He has earned US$330 million in player salaries, including stints with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, and a further US$700 million off the court from endorsements, merchandising, licensing and his media business, according to the report.

His current endorsement partners include Nike, PepsiCo, AT&T, Walmart, GMC, Epic Games, Beats, Blaze Pizza and Rimowa.

The only other athletes to earn US$1 billion while still active include golfer Tiger Woods, boxer Floyd Mayweather, tennis star Roger Federer and football greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

A 17-time All-Star, four-time league Most Valuable Player and four-time NBA champion, James averaged 25.0 points, 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds in the 2020-21 season with the Lakers.

He also ranks third all-time in points (35,367) and eighth in assists (9,696) over 18 seasons.

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    LeBron James becomes the first active NBA player to reach the billion-dollar stratosphere, after, earning US$330 million in player salaries and a further US$700 million from endorsements, merchandising, licensing and his media business.

However, James still has plenty to go in order to catch up with Jordan, the first billionaire in NBA history.

According to a tweet by Sportico, the six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls has career earnings totalling about US$2 billion, fuelled by Nike's Air Jordan brand and his ownership of the Charlotte Hornets.

As NBA salaries continue to rise, the digital content company has also predicted that Kevin Durant (US$580 million) and Stephen Curry (US$430 million) could be next in line to reach the billion-dollar milestone after James.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2021, with the headline 'Off-court earnings propel James into billionaires' club'. Subscribe