Although LeBron James has been with Nike turning pro, the NBA icon was offered a $10 million deal from Reebok… when he was just 18 years old and was exiting high school.
The brand were ready to right a check on the spot, but asked him to do one thing: not to meet with Nike or Adidas at all. James ultimately turned down the deal.
“I flew in from Akron, Ohio, from Spring Hill… from the projects,” James recalls, in a recent interview on Uninterrupted. “Our rent was like $17 USD a month. And now I’m looking at a $10 million USD check that I can leave with and go back to high school the next day.”
At 18, James was smart and thought long-term. He thought to himself, if Reebok was willing to give him $10 million up front, how much would Nike or Adidas give him? $20, $30 million?
“Maybe the up front money isn’t the biggest thing. Let’s start thinking about the back end,” he added.
Ultimately, it paid off for James, who signed a seven-year deal with Nike, worth $90 million… before playing his first game in the NBA. Then, in 2015, he extended the partnership with a lifetime deal, reportedly worth $1 billion.
“Being a first generational money maker in the household is a scary thing for an 18-year-old,” he said. “I go from being in a classroom in May to being a multimillionaire in June.”