From the most loved to the one everybody loves to hate, LeBron James is a player that dominates sports conversations. As much as fans—especially those on Cleveland or any other city that didn’t get him—may question the basketball star’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat, the one thing that cannot be argued is the economic impact that James has had on the sports world and businesses associated with his brand. As an athlete who may one day rival Michael Jordan’s global status, BlackEnterprise.com decodes the 26-year-old’s empire and influence to see how he’s become such an accomplished business, man!
NOTHING BUT NET WORTH
What’s a king if he isn’t worth anything? Back in December of 2007, James was ranked No. 1 in Forbes’ Top 20 earners under 25 list, with annual earnings of $27 million. Fast forward to 2010 with a new Florida zip code and James’ earnings hit $43 million, courtesy of the $15.8 million he made in the last year of his Cavs contract, $10 million from his Nike deal extension, $4 million in McDonald’s endorsement money, and other endorsement deals with Sprite, State Farm, Power Strips, Upper Deck, etc. His current net worth stands at $90 million. When you make that much, you can easily spend ridiculous amounts in Vegas and not even flinch as evidenced by the rumored bar tabs that recently surfaced on the net.
THE DECISION (MONEY) MAKER
Whether you agreed or disagreed with ESPN dedicating an hour and fifteen minutes of airtime to LeBron James’ decision to smash the proverbial cream pie in the face of the city of Cleveland, chances are you were one of 9.95 million people who watched “The Decision.” With sponsors, including Microsoft’s Bing, Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater and McDonald’s, airing spots in exchange for donations to the Boys & Girls Club, the organization raked in $3 million in contributions and $6 million in ad revenue. The 7.1 rating made the James special the highest rated show on both broadcast and cable television on July 8, 2010 and attracted more than 300,000 unique visitors to ESPN3.com, which is one of the largest audiences for a non-World Cup event.
LEAVING OHIO & DRY
Local sports fans may have been upset about James’ departure to heighten his chances at a championship, but the city of Cleveland is still reeling from the impact James has had on its economy. It wasn’t just disappointment about their King skipping town for the sunshine and beachfront property of Miami, it was what he left behind. The Atlanta Post gauges the economic downturn since James’ departure at around $50 million for the downtown Cleveland area when you factor in nearby restaurants, ticket sales, and surrounding businesses. The King’s Court has been decimated to a pauper’s poverty; which means the money James took with him, he also brought in. Who else has that kind of impact on a community?
HEATING UP SOUTH BEACH
What LeBron’s departure did to the city of Cleveland became a coup for the economy in Miami. Heat ticket sales quickly became a hot commodity with a 9.9% increase and the viewership for the Miami games increased a whopping 69% from last season. As you can imagine, advertising and surrounding businesses in the Miami area are feeling the boom. Estimates state that despite the $329 million in player contracts Miami is bound to until 2016, the collective financial impact in South Florida could exceed $1 billion. King James’ presence also impacted other cities this season when LeBron and company came to town. Before the season started, 18 of 30 NBA teams had sold out their games against Miami.
SELLING THE SHIRT OF HIS BACK
Although LeBron James went from beloved Cavalier to the South Beach phenom everyone loves to hate, the fact of the matter is that his jersey is a hot commodity. What has become the “Darth Vader Mask” of the NBA; King James’ #6 jersey soared to the No. 1 spot on the list of top selling jerseys in the NBA for the 2010-2011 season. NBAStore.com revealed the results as James eclipsed Kobe Bryant for the No. 1 spot.
CORNERING THE MARKET
James’ finances aren’t limited to the realm of playing on the court. Just as any good businessman would know, expanding the portfolio has been key in his financial growth. After firing agent Aaron Goodwin in 2005, James and his friends would launch the LRMR Sports Marketing Company, which has been instrumental in securing the all-star’s blockbuster endorsement deals. In May, the company entered a business partnership with Fenway Sports Management to expand James’ global reach. It also led to James becoming part owner of the Liverpool F.C. Soccer Club, which raked in revenues of $322.5 million in 2010. If James wants to become “like Mike,” ventures like this inch him closer to his dream.