LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers has become the first NBA player to become a billionaire while still actively playing.
On Thursday, June 2, Forbes’ Chase Peterson-Withorn reported that James’ net worth surpassed $1 billion after earning $121.2 million in 2021.
James is the highest-paid active player in the NBA, earning more than $385 million in total salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers, according to Forbes. The majority of his fortune stems from endorsements and business ventures worth more than $900 million, including a lifetime contract with Nike that pays him tens of millions of dollars per year.
In 2021, the four-time NBA champion earned $41.2 million from the Lakers and $80 million from off-court activities, trailing only soccer star Lionel Messi.
According to Forbes, LeBron sold a minority stake in The SpringHill Company, his entertainment and production company behind his film “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which grossed $162.9 million worldwide, and his talk show “The Shop,” which moved from HBO to YouTube, to a group of investors in 2021 for $725 million.
An estimated breakdown of James’ fortune by Forbes shows he has a $300 million stake in SpringHill, where he remains the largest shareholder; $90 million in the Fenway Sports Group, which includes a minority stake in the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool F.C. and the Pittsburgh Penguins; $80 million in real estate. This includes homes in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and his hometown of Akron, Ohio; $30 million in Blaze Pizza, after a reported initial investment of less than $1 million; and more than $500 million in cash and other investments.
James, set to make $44.5 million next season in the second year of his two-year deal, has been selective in his investments, famously turning down massive offers from Reebok and Adidas as an 18-year-old to hold out for what proved to be a more lucrative deal with Nike.
In 2021, James confirmed his desire to become the owner of an NBA franchise.
“I got so much to give to the game. I know what it takes to win at this level. I know talent,” he told reporters. “I also know how to run a business as well. And so, that is my goal. My goal is to own an NBA franchise, and it will be sooner than later.”
If it happens, he’d be following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, who became the first NBA player to hit $1 billion in net worth after his on-court retirement.