LeBron James just landed an unprecedented deal that gives the Cleveland Cavaliers star forward a highly lucrative source of income for years to come with a sponsorship tie to Nike Inc. The deal, confirmed by ESPN on Monday, is believed to be the first for the Beaverton, Oregon, athletic wear behemoth.
"We can confirm that we have agreed to a lifetime relationship with LeBron that provides significant value to our business, brand and shareholders," Nike said in a statement to the Disney-owned sports network. "We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond."
Nike declined to say how much the deal is worth, but it will surpass the 10-year $300 million deal Nike signed last year with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. While Michael Jordan has adorned Nike’s Air Jordan brand basketball sneakers since 1985, he was never offered a lifetime sponsorship deal. What’s kept Jordan linked to Nike has been the immense popularity of the shoes that bear his name, which generate a staggering $2.2 billion in revenue annually for Nike.
“He’s a Nike guy for life,” James’ business partner Maverick Carter of LRMR told the network. Nike has been making James-branded shoes since 2003 when the company signed a seven-year $90 million deal, which was the largest ever at the time. Nike has made more than a dozen James signature shoes since the deal was signed.
While Nike hasn’t signed a lifetime deal until now, its rivals have. Reebok has a lifetime contract with former Philadelphia 76ers point guard Allen Iverson while Adidas has signed both soccer great David Beckham Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose to lifetime deals.
James was the sixth on the Forbes highest paid athletes list for 2015 with income of $64.8 million.