Before LeBron James dribbled a basketball professionally, he signed a seven-year, $87 million deal with Nike. That was just the first of multiple lucrative contracts James brokered during his life. From his 2% ownership stake in Liverpool to his new lifetime contract with Nike, James has taken his talents on the court and turned them into millions off of it.
In the latest annual Forbes ranking of the highest-paid players, James finished fourth. According to Forbes, James generated $119.5 million last year, with the only three athletes in front of him being soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
James has been featured on such top 50 lists since the beginning of his career, but the fact he still generates this type of revenue at age 38 is unheard of. Steph Curry is the second highest-rated basketball player, making an estimated $110.4 million, proving that Curry and James are connected and in competition in almost every aspect of life, with both players aiming to earn their fifth championship this season.
For fans, how much James makes might not have a direct impact or concern in their lives, but it's a good sign that you see several basketball player's names on these lists. It shows that the sport is popular and lucrative. These are jobs and if the pay is good, more people will attempt to play at a high enough level to earn these types of figures and with more people playing, it snowballs into more interest in the league and an influx of young talent yearning to participate.
Compare that to, say, football, where the potential for injury is much higher and no players are in the top ten highest paid. In 20 years, the NBA and soccer could be the two most popular sports due to their safety and financial security.
James has a player option for 2023-24, so it will be interesting to see if he picks it up and continues his Lakers tenure or potentially declines it and settles for less money to play with his son Bronny James wherever he is drafted if he declares. Until then, the Lakers are in great financial shape, ranked as the 15th most valuable franchise while paying the fourth highest-paid athlete.
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