LeBron James signs lifetime deal with Nike: Other major sports sponsorship deals

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James during a game against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov 27.
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James during a game against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov 27.PHOTO: AFP

Basketball superstar LeBron James has just signed an unprecedented lifetime contract with sports apparel giants Nike on Monday, with the deal estimated to be valued at US$500 million (S$704 million).

The 30-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers star was signed by Nike since 2003 when he entered the National Basketball Association (NBA), and has released at least 13 versions of his signature shoes.

Such an open-ended deal is very rare. Football star David Beckham reportedly has a lifetime deal with Nike's rivals adidas, according to ESPN.


Nike also has a longstanding partnership with basketball legend Michael Jordan, but has never announced a lifetime deal before. Jordan, 52, is officially the chief executive officer of the Jordan Brand, which continues to release new shoes. Sales of Air Jordan brand shoes topped US$2.6 billion last year, according to Forbes.

Besides these three sports superstars, who are the other athletes with the most significant endorsement deals?

1. Kevin Durant (basketball)

Deal: US$280 million over 10 years with Nike


The Oklahoma City Thunder star inked a blockbuster, 10-year deal with Nike last year that could be worth up to US$300 million, including royalties. It was the richest endorsement deal of any active athlete, until James' latest contract signing on Monday.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (football)

Deal: US$105 million over five years with Nike

Cristiano Ronaldo posing with the Nike CR7 Mercurial Superfly. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ CRISTIANO RONALDO

The reigning Fifa Player of the Year is arguably the world's most popular athlete, with 102 million Facebook and 35 million Twitter followers. His commercially good looks have landed him the mega sponsorship with Nike.

3. Lionel Messi (football)

Deal: US$140 million over seven years with adidas


Originally signed with Nike when he was 14, the Argentinian eventually became adidas' biggest marketing star. A Messi icon line of shoes and apparel launched by adidas has exceeded company sales expectations, even in the United States.

4. Derrick Rose (basketball)

Deal: US$185 million over 13 years with adidas


The Chicago Bulls star owns the current record for the sponsorship deal with the longest time-span. However, his injury problems in recent seasons have put the deal in jeopardy.

5. Maria Sharapova (tennis)

Deal: US$70 million over eight years with Nike


The top-earning female athlete since 2006, her Nike deal - signed in 2010 - is the most lucrative deal ever for a sportswoman, dwarfing the previous record, which was Venus Williams' US$43 million deal with Reebok.