The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James is reportedly the first NBA player to become a billionaire while still actively playing.
Forbes‘ Chase Peterson-Withorn reported Thursday that James’ net worth surpassed the $1 billion mark after he earned $121.2 million in 2021.
The 37-year-old Ohio native is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. He lived up to the hype as a generational prospect in 2003 to become one of the greatest basketball players in history, highlighted by four NBA championships and four MVP awards.
Based on Forbes‘ valuation, James has tallied $385 million in on-court earnings as part of a 19-year career with the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. He’s set to make another $44.5 million next season in L.A. as part of his two-year contract.
He’s added another $900 million from off-court ventures, including endorsements contracts, per Forbes.
That revenue stream was bolstered last year by the release of Space Jam: A New Legacy, which featured the NBA’s longtime gold standard in a starring role and also included his SpringHill Company as one of the movie’s production groups. It’s generated $162.9 million in worldwide sales.
James is the largest stakeholder in the SpringHill Company, which itself carries a $725 million valuation, according to Forbes.
Other aspects of his estimated net worth include $90 million from the Fenway Sports Group, which includes MLB’s Boston Red Sox, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and the EPL’s Liverpool, $80 million in real estate and $30 million from Blaze Pizza.
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 that comes to fruition, 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.
James continues to play at a high level, although injuries have become a bigger factor in recent years, and he’s stated his desire to finish his playing career alongside his oldest son, 2024 draft prospect Bronny James.
“My last year will be played with my son,” James told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic in February. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
As a new member of the billionaire club, James can afford to push contract value to the back burner for one year to close out his Hall of Fame career. There’s no indication he’s getting close to walking away from the NBA, though.
Credit: Bleacher Report