LeBron James is already deep in the conversation for greatest basketball player of all time, but The King's off-the-court ventures have solidified him as an icon. Over the years, James has made it clear that he's more than an athlete.
Immense talent, hard work and love for the game has kept The King on top of the NBA for 15 years, but what makes him the best businessman in the entire sports world? It comes down to these key areas.
1. Talent Magnet
LeBron changed free agency as we knew it when he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, going to the Finals four straight years and winning back-to-back NBA titles. With the league firmly in the player empowerment era, we're now seeing stars force their way to new teams while still under contract, and playing with LBJ is generally irresistible. Anthony Davis is the latest talent to join forces with the King, catapulting the Lakers into the championship picture.
2. The Mogul Life
Media has taken over the world, and LeBron recognizes that. He and business partner Maverick Carter cofounded a production company, SpringHill Entertainment, that oversees a wide portfolio of projects. There's James' show on HBO, "The Shop", in which he kicks back to have freewheeling conversations with other athletes and celebrities. There's Uninterrupted, an all-digital sports programming network, which gives athletes their own platform to speak their minds and unleash their creative spirits. Oh, and “Space Jam 2” is set to hit theaters in 2021. LeBron is proof that an athlete doesn't have to wait until retirement to take over the media game.
3. The Swoosh
Akron's finest released the 16th edition of his signature shoe last season with the Nike LeBron 16, and he also has the LeBron Soldier line besides. Retro versions of his previous sneakers have released as well -- like the LeBron 3 and the Zoom Air Generation -- so there’s no way that the Laker star's footprint in the shoe game is lessening any time soon. LeBron is Nike’s top athlete, signing a lifetime deal with the brand in 2015. In so many ways, he's only just begun.
4. Those Short-term Contracts
LeBron’s business savvy has permeated onto the court through the structuring of his contracts. Many were shocked by James’ four-year commitment to the Lakers last summer after sticking with shorter-term deals with the Heat and Cavaliers in the past. Going with one- or two-year contracts provides little breathing room for a front office, but gives the best player in the game a ton of flexibility to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of the perfect times to re-enter free agency. Of course, such things can also lead to speculation of having one foot out the door. Right, Kevin Durant?
5. TACO TUUUUESDAY!
LeBron’s Instagram stories have been a crutch for getting antsy NBA fans through the dog days of summer, and the weekly "Taco Tuesday" series is an absolute hit. LeBron showed off “Taco Tuesday” t-shirts this past week, sneakily making this silly diversion into a marketing opportunity. LBJ has always been a superstar, but there’s no doubt that his business acumen has contributed to the success he’s sustained since coming into the league in 2003 as a teenager.