LeBron James became the most profitable player in the NBA in 2021 with $95.4 million, and the Little Emperor led the NBA revenue list for seven consecutive years.
James’s salary is $31.4 million and off-site sponsorship is $64 million, according to Forbes. James also set a record for the highest income of NBA players and set the record for the highest income of American team sports players.
James joined the NBA in 2003 and played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. At present, his 17-year career total income has exceeded the $1 billion mark, of which $700 million came from off-court income.
As a result, he also joined the active service of Woods, Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. Athletes “earn $1 billion club”.
Over the past 30 years, NBA salaries have soared. In the season before the COVID-19 epidemic hit sports events, the average salary of NBA players was $9.5 million, 10 times that of 30 years ago.
The Little Emperor was supposed to be paid $39.2 million under James’ contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the epidemic-induced empty games have shrunk that number by about $8 million. However, business endorsement is still an important source of income for James.
After ending his cooperation with Coca-Cola since 2003, the Lakers star became the spokesperson of Pepsi, which shows James’ commercial influence.
According to the American media “Key Points”, James has always been a smart businessman – he owns the “Flame Pizza” chain, signed a $1 billion “life agreement” with Nike in 2015, and owns shares in the headphone brand Beats and Premier League team Liverpool, and also founded a media company.
“Spring Mountain Entertainment”. In 2018, James partnered with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cindy Crawford and Lindsey Vaughan to create the Ladder Health Supplements program.
Like O’Neill, a famous Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles has brought new business opportunities to James. In addition, James can get an average of about $53 million in advertising endorsements a year, which is the largest number of all NBA players.
In addition to raising $100 million to create Spring Hill Entertainment, James and his business partner Maverick Carter have created the media company Uninterrupted to build a platform for athletes to tell their stories, according to Bloomberg.
The company also participates in a video program of JPMorgan Chase Bank, which allows the world’s sports leaders to discuss financial issues.
It is worth mentioning that Carter is James’s best friend.
The two began to work together to build James’s personal brand in 2005. The Little Emperor made a decision in 2010 (transferred from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat) caused dissatisfaction among Cleveland fans.
This incident gave Carter the idea of business – to let star players have their own stories and rely on social platforms to influence public events.
While James played in Miami, the Heat team wore hoodies to take group photos in memory of Trevorn Martin, a black boy who was shot dead.
In 2014, James denounced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was eventually expelled from the league.
Last year, James also actively participated in social movements such as “Black people’s lives are also lives” and called on people to vote during the U.S. election.
Carter stressed that while stars expand their influence through social activities, they need to really build their own businesses, rather than relying on endorsements alone to make money.
The new generation of sports stars “cross-border gold”
High-level athletes belong to the high-income group, and they are usually able to sign enviable work contracts. However, some sports stars’ sponsorship or endorsement contracts are of higher value than the salary on the field.
According to Forbes data released in 2019, off-court endorsements tend to account for more than half of the income of veteran players: Durant (basketball) 56%, Federer (tennis) 84%, Mickleson (golf) 90%, Djokovic (tennis) 94%, Koiori Kei (tennis) 95%; sprinter Bo Ert and golf superstar Woods even accounted for 97% of the total revenue.
Different from the traditional “gold-making” way, the new generation of sports stars have more diversified financial paths.
The Los Angeles Times said that although Kobe Bryant has passed away, the huge business empire he built, including investment companies and multimedia production companies, is still booming, setting a new example for retired players who want to get rich.
Naomi Osaka, a three-time Grand Slam champion and Japanese women’s tennis player Naomi Osaka, has joined the North Carolina Courage of the American Women’s Football League (NWSL) team, CNN said on January 28.
“To people outside the net world, Naomi Osaka is a fresh face,” says David Carter, a professor of sports industry at the USC Marshall School of Business, and she has a rich “story” – her dual cultural background of youth and Japan and the United States has helped her resonate with young people around the world, and her success is a reflection of the idolatization of global sports marketing.
According to Forbes’ analysis, Naomi Osaka is deeply influenced by Kobe in building a business empire.
She hopes that while balancing her tennis career, she can extend more possibilities, instead of thinking about future development after retirement.
In addition to endorsement, Naomi Osaka also expands its commercial influence through equity participation. In 2019, Naomi Osaka invested in BodyArmor, Hyperice and Muzik, and was named an “starter-minded athlete”.
Why are sports stars more and more enthusiastic about “cross-border gold”? According to the American media “The undefeated”, Kobe Bryant once pointed out that athletes need to consider two questions after retiring: What is my identity next? What kind of work can arouse my enthusiasm? The famous Lakers’ answer himself is investment.
In 2014, Kobe invested $6 million in Sports Drink BodyArmor, which in 2018 has brought in a return of $200 million. In 2019, the brand also became an official MLS partner.
Like Kobe, Paul, Williams, Durant, Anthony and other sports stars are also investment experts. According to the Guardian, NBA star Harden has invested in Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer.
Although this league can’t compare with several other major sports leagues in the United States, it can bring room for Harden’s investment to grow.
According to the Australian Financial News, 25 Australian sports stars, including NBA player Matthew Delavidova, co-founded an investment company. Delavidova said that although professional athletes should focus on sports, they are interested in the business world because they still need to consider the future development path