The debate over just who is the GOAT when it comes to basketball continues to divide viewers around the world, but when it comes to the most lucrative active player, LeBron James can now rightfully accept such an accolade. The Los Angeles Lakers star has officially become a billionaire, with Forbes estimating that given his current billionaire net worth, he’s the first active NBA player to reach such a milestone.
Naturally, Michael Jordan comes to mind – a man who was known simply by his last name and who kids grew up watching only to utter the phrase, “I want to be like Mike.” Jordan not only was a dominant force on the court, but he also drew in a number of wide-ranging endorsements and sponsorship deals, not to mention the Jordan sneaker line. While Forbes has his net worth pegged at $1.7 billion, Jordan didn’t reach billionaire status until 11 years after he retired, whereas LeBron is estimated to have earned $121.2 million last year, a figure only eclipsed by Lionel Messi who brought in $130 million.
His prowess as a basketball player saw LeBron earn a salary close to $400 million over a career that has seen him play for the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. But LeBron really owes his fortune to his off-court earnings, with Forbes estimating that the basketball star brought in more than $900 million from business investments and endorsements.
LeBron sold a minority stake in his entertainment group, SpringHill, for $725 million, with the company going on to produce shows like The Shop and a docuseries on Naomi Osaka, as well as the new Space Jam: A New Legacy, which LeBron also starred in. Alongside this, he’s got a 1 per cent stake in Fenway Sports Group, which owns Liverpool FC amongst others. LeBron also bought a 10 per cent stake in Blaze Pizza for less than $1 million in 2012, which is now worth $30 million, according to Forbes.
And of course, there’s the 37-year-old’s real estate portfolio which boasts an estimated worth of $80 million, thanks to a $10 million property in Akron, Ohio and two homes in Los Angeles worth a combined $60 million.
Previously, LeBron spoke about what it would mean to him to achieve billionaire status in an interview with GQ. He said at the time, “If it happens. It’s my biggest milestone. Obviously. I want to maximise my business. And if I happen to get it, if I happen to be a billion-dollar athlete, ho. Hip hip hooray! Oh, my God, I’m gonna be excited.”
It’s certainly a milestone worthy of celebration, particularly as LeBron continues to give back to the community. Raised by a single mother in Akron, LeBron has continue to invest in his hometown, opening a school and planning housing and a community centre to better assist families and children. He may have won four NBA championships and been crowned MVP four times, but LeBron is a man that continues to inspire both on and off the court – it’s no surprise then really, that for most he will always be the GOAT.