How LeBron James Became The NBA’s Top Scorer, Highest-Paid Player—And First Active Billionaire

How LeBron James Became The NBA’s Top Scorer, Highest-Paid Player—And First Active Billionaire

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The legacy of LeBron James has never been in question, yet the Los Angeles Lakers superstar has managed to pull off another unparalleled accomplishment.

On Tuesday, James scored 38 points in a 133-130 defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. The record of 37,387 points stood for nearly 40 years, and there are now only seven other players within 10,000 points. For James, it’s an exclamation point on a resume that includes 19 All-Star appearances, 18 All-NBA selections, four league MVP awards and four NBA championships.

“To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem means so much to me; it’s very humbling,” said a teary-eyed James during a third-quarter stoppage to commemorate the milestone. “I would never ever in a million years dreamt this even better than what it is tonight, so, fuck man, thank you guys.”

As dominant as James has been on the court, he’s done so equally off of it. Even at 38 years old, he ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid NBA players in October, with expected total earnings of $124.5 million before taxes and agents fees’ for the 2022-23 season. James has excelled as a pitchman, earning $80 million off-the-court thanks to lucrative deals with Nike, AT&T and Beats By Dre, among others. In total, his career pretax earnings are expected to approach $1.3 billion in 2023.

His real sweet spot, though, has been as an entrepreneur, which doesn’t show up in Forbes’ earning estimates. Many of the brands James’ endorses, including fitness tech company Tonal, have included equity as compensation. In 2015, he even walked away from a deal with McDonald’s set to pay a reported $15 million over four years to join up with the Blaze Pizza chain as an investor. James cofounded sports nutrition company Ladder and also recently invested in a Major League Pickleball franchise, German manufacturer Canyon Bicycles and carbon-neutral milk brand Neutral Foods. In 2020, he cofounded an entertainment development and production outfit called the SpringHill Co. Valued at roughly $725 million in a 2021 dealit has helped produce Space Jam: A New Legacy and HBO documentary What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali. James remains the biggest shareholder.

That in turn landed James another accolade–becoming the first active athlete billionaire. Forbes estimates he’s worth north of $1 billion, thanks to stakes in SpringHill, Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC owner Fenway Sports Group, Blaze Pizza, real estate and his cash earnings. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are the only other athletes to reach billionaire status, with the latter doing so more than a decade after he retired from the NBA. Eight years before he became a billionaire, James pondered the possibility in a 2014 GQ interview. “If it happens. It’s my biggest milestone,..if I happen to be a billion-dollar athlete, ho. Hip hip hooray! Oh, my God, I’m gonna be excited,” said James at the time.

He’s not done yet, either, on or off the court. James has openly talked about his desire to own an NBA team, which would follow in the footsteps of his G.O.A.T. counterpart Jordan, who bought the Charlotte Hornets (previously named the Bobcats) in 2010. Following a preseason exhibition in Las Vegas this past October, James expressed his interest in leading the effort to bring an expansion team there.

For now, James is biding his time until his first-born child, Bronny, comes of age for the NBA. James has repeatedly insisted he will close his career by sharing the court with his son. Bronny is eligible for the NBA Draft in 2024. James signed a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension with the Lakers in Augustwhich includes a player option for 2024-25.

“I know I can play a couple more years,” James said after Tuesday’s game.

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