When James signed the deal back in December, it was reported by ESPN to be worth more annually than the 10-year, $300 million deal the shoe company signed with Kevin Durant. A definite amount was not disclosed, but it was estimated that at an annual rate higher than $30 million, a lifetime deal for the 30-year-old James would be worth more than $1 billion.
When asked during the GQ interview whether the deal was worth that amount, James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, smiled and pointed upwards.
“It’s a fantastic deal,” Carter said. “Nike feels great about the deal. That’s the most important thing. As great as I feel, as great as LeBron feels — Nike feels fantastic about it. It’s the largest deal in the history of the company. Their hope is he makes even more. And our hope is that, too, obviously.”
James has been signed with Nike since his NBA career began in 2003. According to Forbes, he was making an estimated $44 million in endorsement deals at the end of 2015. In 2014, he signed a two-year, $42.1 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is expected to sign a much more lucrative contract this summer as the NBA’s league-wide salary cap climbs.
As part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Players Association, the salary cap is set at approximately 45 percent of the league’s entire basketball-related income. Next season, the NBA will enter into a new TV deal worth $24 billion over the next nine years, meaning that the potential income for the league’s players — especially top stars like LeBron James — will dramatically increase.