• James previously said he won't pay for a verified Twitter badge
  • Musk said he was paying for some Twitter Blue accounts
  • Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber were among the celebrities who lost their checks Thursday

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has reportedly paid for Lebron James' blue tick after the social media giant began the mass removal of its legacy verification checkmarks Thursday.

James had previously said he would not pay to get verified on the platform.

A Twitter employee recently sent an email to the NBA star to "extend a complimentary subscription to Twitter Blue for your account, @kingjames, on behalf of Elon Musk," The Verge reported.

The player's longtime media advisor, Adam Mendelsohn, confirmed to the outlet that the Los Angeles Lakers star did not pay for the verification.

The 38-year-old basketball star retained his blue checkmark even after Twitter started removing the legacy "verified" blue ticks from all accounts.

"This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number," a pop-up says when the blue check on the NBA star's profile is clicked.

After Twitter announced it would start removing legacy checks on April 1, James said his check will be "gone soon cause if you know me I ain't paying the 5."

Musk on Thursday said he was paying for some Twitter Blue accounts, although he did not reveal the names of the users.

Apart from James, it appears Musk has also paid for best-selling author Stephen King's Twitter Blue subscription. The multi-award-winning author clarified Thursday that he did not subscribe to the service nor provide a phone number.

"You're welcome namaste," Musk replied to King's tweet.

Last year, King made it clear he wasn't going to pay for a blue check. "They should pay me," he said, adding that it wasn't about not paying anything but "it's the principle of the thing."

Twitter initially announced users would lose their blue checkmarks on April 1 unless they purchased a subscription to Twitter Blue. Musk later extended the deadline to April 20. Users in the U.S. will have to pay $8 per month or $84 per year to get Twitter Blue subscriptions on the web. iOS and Android subscriptions will cost $11 a month.

Twitter on Thursday removed verification checkmarks from many celebrities and influential people, including singer-songwriter Beyoncé (more than 15 million Twitter followers), Selena Gomez (67 million followers), Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (17.3 million followers) and former President Donald Trump (87.2 million followers).

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling (14 million followers), reality star Kim Kardashian (75.1 million followers), Justin Bieber (113 million followers) and Oprah Winfrey (42.7 million) also lost their blue ticks.

Some outlets earlier claimed Pope Francis' official account (18.8 million followers) also lost its blue check. But, it was replaced with a gray check, the verification mark meant for "government or multilateral organization" accounts.

Musk previously defended Twitter's checkmark subscription service, saying "any so-called social media network that doesn't do this will fail." He believes Twitter's subscription requirement of providing a phone number will reduce bot accounts.

"That's the reason for really pressing hard on verified where the verified requires a number from a reputable phone carrier and a credit card," Musk said during a question and answer session on Twitter last month.

Nonprofits like Reporters Without Borders said paid verification is a "dangerous tool that introduces two-tier access to information on social media and should be withdrawn." Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart also argued that Musk's "pay to verify" model "erodes trust" among users as Twitter Blue was only a "receipt" that proves whether someone paid for it or not.

"By stripping blue checks from everybody (or just about everybody), the value of having the blue check at all has cratered," wrote TechCrunch's Taylor Hatmaker.

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the 3rd quarter of the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on October 18, 2022 in San Francisco, California. James and author Stephen King previously said they won't pay to get verified on Twitter. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images