Stephen Curry might be the biggest name in the NBA right now, but no one has a more significant brand than LeBron James. Nike is well aware of this fact, and has capitalized on it by officially signing James to a lifetime contract.
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While Adidas and Reebok have offered lifetime deals to some of their athletes, this is the first time in its 44-year history that Nike has chosen to do so. The agreement is hardly surprising, as the business marriage between the two has existed since James first entered the league.
Before ever playing a single minute in an NBA uniform, James and Nike agreed to a seven-year, $90 million endorsement deal. Since that contract was signed in 2003, Nike’s annual revenue has jumped from $10.3 billion to $30.6 billion. With James’ shoe line expected to bring in $400 million this year, it’s easy to understand why Nike chose to extend its first lifetime contract in company history to LeBron.
Of course, James isn’t the only basketball star heavily contributing to Nike’s profits. Michael Jordan and his ‘Air Jordan’ brand has been a staple among Nike products since 1985, and is estimated to generate $2.2 billion in revenue this year. However, there isn’t an official athlete-company contract committing Jordan as a lifetime member of Nike.
With LeBron considered by many as the modern era’s Jordan, it’s only fair that both superstars’ off-court achievements be compared. LeBron still has a long way to go in matching Jordan’s accomplishments on the court, but in the endorsement realm, this new contract certainly levels the playing field.