Smart Money

Breaking Down Lebron James’ Net Worth

August 6, 2019 by
lebron james

They say that it’s “good to be king,” and that certainly holds true for the man nicknamed “King James.” Throughout his prolific (and ongoing) basketball career, Lebron James has redefined the sport and become the face of the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a whole. Along the way, he has made a pretty penny on the back of his unrivaled performance and association with success.

While he continues to play in the prime of his career, some financially-minded fans and observers have begun to wonder where Lebron James’ net worth currently stands. While estimates vary when it comes to a precise figure, what is certain is that this All-Star player has built his net worth through a remarkable set of player contracts and lucrative endorsements.

In order to fully appreciate the financial portfolio amassed by Lebron James over his career thus far, you’ll need to break down his various revenue streams. This guide will help you do that as well as provide context for where Lebron James and his net worth stand within his industry and within the sporting world at large.

Lebron James’ Net Worth as of 2019

As you may expect, Lebron James’ precise net worth is not a matter of public record. James himself doesn’t discuss his current wealth, though some prognosticators have begun to estimate James’ net worth based upon his current income and future earnings potential. That means everything from his current playing contract with the Los Angeles Lakers to his potential future team ownership would need to receive some consideration in the calculation.

Currently, the most cited estimate of Lebron James’ net worth stands at a whopping $450 million. This estimate takes into account the nearly $270 million he has taken in from his playing contracts over his 16 year career, as well as income provided by James’ diverse endorsement portfolio with major brands like Nike and Beats by Dre. Several other estimates have also arisen recently, including a slightly high $480 million estimate. This primarily takes into account James’ income from his playing contracts and endorsements, as well as how those two factors may gain value in the immediate future. Also, this estimate takes royalties payments from his signature shoe lines (among others) into direct consideration.

James’ also has several current and future revenue streams relating to his ownership stakes in several sports and media entities. For example, as part of a deal to become the exclusive global distributer of his various marketing rights, Fenway Sports Group provided James with a partial stake in English Premier League side Liverpool FC. James also owns a stake in SpringHill Entertainment and the Uninterrupted network (both of which he played a part in creating).

Looking towards his post-retirement plans, James may end up taking the route of his legendary predecessor, Michael Jordan, and follow up his prolific career by taking ownership of an NBA team. While estimates of the value of such an arrangement are unclear, such a move would only serve to increase his net worth further.

Basketball Career

Lebron James didn’t pick up his “King James” moniker for nothing. Indeed, his already star-studded career has featured a great deal of athletic prowess that has led his to be an immediate star on any team he joins. This athletic prowess has also made him a keystone in several award-winning squads, making him a valuable commodity in the NBA at large.

James’ skill commodification has translated into hefty playing contracts time and again, resulting in a multi-hundred million dollar earnings total over the course of his 16-year career thus far ($387.2 million). By examining each of these contracts over his career, you can begin to better appreciate how Lebron James’ net worth has grew out of his core occupation.

Cleveland Cavaliers (Round 1) – 2003-2010

Lebron James is a native of Akron, Ohio, and was a star throughout his high school career. As such, it only made sense that his first step into the NBA would be through his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected him first overall in the 2003 league draft. At that time, James signed the first of his many lucrative playing contracts for $12.96 million – the most for any rookie at the time.

James immediately became a league star, shining as a beacon of performance on what was otherwise a middling team. Cleveland was unwilling to give up their star player after his rookie contract expired. Accordingly, they inked him for 3-year extension in 2006 worth an even more remarkable $60 million. At this point, James’ value within the league was already becoming clear, setting the stage for his soon-to blossom net worth.

Unfortunately, James was unable to pull together a championship during this extension period. Because of his rising stock in the league, many began to wonder if James would stick around or find a new team who could pay him more and better apply his top-tier prowess. After holding the sporting world in an uneasy tension for a week, James eventually announced his intention to “take his talent to South Beach” and join the Miami Heat.

Miami Heat – 2010-2014

Lebron James’ move to the Miami Heat was part of the team’s larger attempt to create a dream squad with fellow NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. James’ was the final piece in that grouping, and he courted a contract appropriate of his new keystone position in the Heat’s starting five. James’ first contract with the Heat clocked in at around $110.1 million over its 6-year period. However, it also included an early termination clause that would come into play down the road.

During the second year of this contract, James’ stock as a top-tier NBA player reached a new peak as he finally cemented his place with an NBA championship win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though he didn’t pick up any awards that year, it became apparent that his net worth would only grow larger with each new team he joined. This factor was redoubled again as the Heat repeated as champions the next year, with James taking home the regular season 3-point shooting percentage title.

Though he would lead the league in shooting percentage the next season, the Heat failed to make a dynasty with a third consecutive championship. Some pieces began to move around him and at that time, James began to reevaluate his net worth as a player, should he choose to remain in Miami. In the long run, he chose to opt out of his contract early and take a chance at a better athletic and financial gain back in Cleveland.

Cleveland Cavaliers (Round 2) – 2014-2018

Even for their disappointment at his first departure, the Cavaliers were glad to have Lebron James back. This appreciation showed in a fresh $42 million contract for a 2-year period (which was smaller in total value, but more valuable in terms of per-year salary). Undoubtably, his twin championship rings influenced this massive contract.

James’ return almost immediately made an impact on the previously woeful Cavaliers. In the second season of his 2-year contract, James helped to lead the Cavaliers to their first-ever NBA championship over a star-studded Golden State Warriors team. This feat also marked the city of Cleveland’s first major sports championship in 52 years, thus cementing James’ cultural net worth for the rest of his career.

James had earned a new contract with the Cavaliers, which this time weighed in at $100 million over a 3-year period – nearly double the per-year salary of his previous largest total contract in Miami. While earning $31 million in the contract’s first year, James’ net worth hit yet another peak as he became the highest paid player in the NBA for the first time in his career.

The next year, James passed the previous all-time single season salary record with a $33 million paycheck, a record previously held by legend Michael Jordan during his prime. Over the next two years, James lead his team back to the NBA Finals, though lost both times to the Golden State Warriors. This frustration may have led him to make his next major move, which itself further raised his net worth.

Los Angeles Lakers – 2018-Present

In 2018, Lebron James made the most financially lucrative move of his career so far by leaving his hometown and heading to Hollywood to join the storied Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers were looking to build a championship with James at its core and paid him accordingly to the sound of $154 million over a 4-year period. This, again, set a new peak for James’ per season salary.

James is still on this contract today, with the implications on his overall net worth unclear beyond adding to his already impressive player contract earnings total. Given his past tendencies to leave teams that he does not expect to win a championship on, James contract-related net worth may again spike as his contract comes up for expiration in a couple years’ time.

Endorsements

As to be expected of a league-wide star and cultural icon of his stature, Lebron James possess other income streams through with which he can grow his net worth. As with nearly all other sports stars, one of James’ auxiliary incomes comes through his endorsement of particular products. These endorsements have, by some estimates, netted him more money over his career than even his enormous player contracts.

Over his time in the limelight, James has gained endorsement deals from everyone from Coke and McDonalds to State Farm and Beats by Dre. That last endorsement paid off big time, as his endorsement contract included a stake in the company that paid out $30 million when Apple bought out Beats Entertainment.

Another key endorsement can be seen in his backing of Blaze Pizza, a rapidly growing chain that has soared from a mere $1 million in profit to an exponentially larger $25 million. With a $250 million evaluation, James’ 10% stake in the company is worth upwards of $40 million as of 2017.

Signature Shoes

Few of Lebron James’ net worth-increasing endorsements compare to his endorsement of his so-called “signature” shoe line with Nike. Athletic shoes have long been at the core of NBA player’s side profiteering and James was quick to benefit from this trend. Though Adidas and Rebook bid for his endorsement when he entered the league, he signed his shoe preference to Nike in 2003 for a huge $90 million sum.

Though some called it a gamble on an unproven rookie player at the time, James’ endorsement has mutually paid off ever since. Nike remains the top sports shoe seller on the market due to James’ shoes courting the second largest market share of any endorsed shoe (behind only Michael Jordan’s brand). James, on the other hand, most recently signed a “lifetime” contract with Nike worth upwards of a billion dollars or more.

It’s also worth noting the per-unit price of James’ shoes, given they hold the potential to raise his net worth through royalties even after he retires from the NBA. His first signature shoes, the “Air Zoom Generation”, retailed at around $110. However, his most recent model, the “Lebron 15”, retails at a high $185 – a price many are still willing to pay.

Conclusions

Altogether, it’s clear to see why Lebron James’ net worth is so sky high at this point in his professional and business career. Between his ever-growing value in the player contract market and his diverse portfolio of product endorsements, James’ certainly has a fruitful income set for well beyond his playing career.

James’ net worth is not showing any signs of slowing down and diminishing anytime soon, either. Should he remain healthy and performing at his peak, further NBA championships and MVP awards may serve to increase his core net worth. If he follows in Michael Jordan’s footsteps, he may also find himself even more valuable through his post-career business endeavors and ownership pursuits.

This is all to say, Lebron James’ current $450 million net worth doesn’t tell the whole tale. Should his stock continue to rise on the court and in the business world, James’ may become a real financial giant in the annals of American economics.