Lebron James: Even Better at Business Than Basketball…Success Steps You Can Learn From Him!

When I think of the power of some of the brands out in the world right now, it blows my mind. Names like Oprah Winfrey, Lebron James, Beyonce, Ellen Degeneres. These aren’t just artists/celebrities/performers. They are powerful brands that have grown into sprawling empires across the social landscape. And these names, and many more, are INSPIRING, not just because they demonstrate people triumphing over race, gender and cultural restrictions, these brands are the best of the best!


How did they do it? This is a question I want to explore in a series of posts about powerful celebrity brands. How were these empires built? What do they have in common? And what can you and I both take from their successes?

First, Lebron James, who like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods before him, is now soaring towards Billionaire-athlete status!


King James and his Covenant

By the time he was just 18 years old, Lebron James had already earned $90 million from Nike. Universally recognized as the greatest basketball talent since MJ, James earned the name King James and quickly grew to become a global icon for the NBA.

But unlike other athletes, James wasn’t content to take the money, show his face at sponsorship and endorsement deals, and bask in his celebrity…James was looking at the Bigger Picture.

Lebron James Created a New Financial Model

Together with childhood friend Maverick Carter, CEO of LeBron Inc., James has worked to create a new financial model for 21st-century athletes.

Really? Yes!

Lebron James only opts into business partnerships when he will receive equity in the companies he’s working with. He has parlayed his basketball talent into an empire, working with an incredible variety of companies and business moguls, including Bubblicious, Cannondale, Beats Electronics, Jay-Z, and Warren Buffett, who says James is “very smart financially.”

Lebron James Business Success

Brand Management

Hard as it is to believe, there was a time not too long ago that James was one of the most hated figures in sports. Why? Because he changed teams. He left the Cleveland Cavaliers and his hometown of Akron, Ohio and signed with the Miami Heat to forge a glitzy new dream team and image in South Beach.

Fans reviled him, calling him a sellout and a quitter. The Darth Vader song was his soundtrack during the starting lineups at virtually every arena in the country. What has happened since? He weathered the storm, continued with his mission of Basketball and Business, and as a result has guided the Heat to 2 NBA championships and mind-numbing success with his LRMR marketing brand.

During this time he has even launched a TV show, Survivor’s Remorse, a show developed and produced entirely by companies owned by James and his affiliates.

Lebron took a huge risk. He left his hometown and the comfort and prestige of a city that worshipped him. Why? Because he wanted to WIN, and he didn’t believe he could do that in Cleveland. He was thinking long term, Big Picture. He had a mission.

What Business Owners Can Learn From the King

Lebron James has been studied by Harvard business schools, why shouldn’t you? It’s a great way for MBAs and small-to-medium sized business owners to learn how to weigh the pros and cons of different deal structures.

His leadership presents 3 game changing approaches to business that entrepreneurs–that’s you–need to consider:

1) Are you willing to swallow your ego in order to partner with people who can move you to the next level?

Lebron James gave up being the King of Cleveland–and a bigger contract–to become part of a dynasty, both on and off the court. In today’s world, sometimes you need to collaborate with competitors.

2) Are you thinking short term profits or long term Big Picture assets?

More importantly, do you have a strategy? Do you know exactly where you want to be in 2, 5, 10, 20 years? If you don’t, it’s time to get organized.

3) Are you prepared to deal with criticism and adversaries?

In life, you can’t always make everyone happy. You’re going to make a few enemies. Winston Churchill famously said that means you’re doing something right, you’re taking a stand!

The real test is not whether you are defeating or outpacing a certain adversary; it’s whether you are living true to your calling, following your heart and making the moves you need to make in order to complete your mission.

Try that and tomorrow you may find yourself King for a day!

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