Photo Credit: GQ.com
It’s levels to becoming the face of any team, company or organization. In Lebron James’ case, he’s not only the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he’s also the face of the National Basketball Association. Rapper Jay-Z says it best, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” James is every bit of this quote, because he is a talented athlete who has leveraged himself into a profitable business. What does this have to do with him being the face of the NBA? Some qualifications of having this honor consist of superb talent, good character, clean image and strong fan support. The fact that James meets all of these qualifications – and has since he stepped foot into the NBA – has led to a brand that is normal of a white, male athlete and multiple endorsements (Mocarski & Billings, 2014). James, similar to Michael Jordan, is the opposite of the negative stigma of African American, male athletes. It starts with character. Since entering the league as an 18 year old in 2003, James hasn’t had any run-ins with law enforcement, such as being cited for a DUI, possession of marijuana, domestic violence or sexual assault. Not saying that every male of color has issues with the law, but this phenomenon is problematic among males of color and has been quite for some time. It’s even becoming more prevalent among African American college athletes. There are also other talented males of color who have good images, but none of them have been able to garner the respect that James has. Now, I do not agree with James overruling his head coach in public – that’s cancerous to any team – or holding out to resign his contract with the Cavs. If you’re the franchise player, you should be confident enough to know that your franchise will put the right players around you in order to win. In this instance, James is abusing his power and he needs to humble himself.
On the other hand, I do agree with the way James has put himself in position to be able to put those around him in a better position. The 2012 ESPN 30 for 30 film “Broke” documents former NBA, NFL and MLB players giving testimonies of how they went bankrupt shortly after retirement. According to Sports Illustrated, sixty-percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retirement and 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt within three. However, James has ensured this will not be the case for him by figuring out how to maximize his gift of basketball and creating generational wealth for his family. It seems that he can’t do any wrong. When he decided to announce that he was taking his talents to Miami on national television, Cleveland fans deemed him a trader and burned his jersey. However, Miami fans welcomed him with open arms because they knew with James, Wade and Bosh playing together, winning championships was upon them. Then – after winning two championships in Miami – James decided he wanted to return to Cleveland, and the same fans who burned his jersey and called him a trader were excited about his return.
The result of these two decisions led to money being for charity, bus loads of money for the Cleveland and Miami franchises and both cities, respectively. So many people and companies have profited off James, it’s only right that he receives a profit, right? To my knowledge, James has been able to create five sources of income – the average millionaire has five-to-seven – and these consist of jersey sales (percentages are shared among NBA players), NBA contract, endorsements, television and film deals and LRMR Marketing. James and his family can live off only one of the five. The most important source of income of them all is television and film, due to the fact that James will have residual income from these deals (income that comes in every month – even after death – regardless if an individual works or not). Usually, only book authors, musicians and actors and actresses have the means to receiving residual income, but James has put himself and his family in position to have generational wealth. As the executive producer of the Starz series “Survivor’s Remorse” and co-starring in the new film “Trainwreck,” he’ll forever get cut a check as long as both pieces are exhibited on television and sold in stores as DVDs.
Hate him or love him, he’s arguably the best men’s basketball player, the most beloved athlete, and now one of the most successful businessmen in the world. Besides Michael Jordan and Floyd Mayweather, what other athlete has been able to do what James has? Furthermore, all Jordan, Mayweather and James have done is maximize their gifts to generate multiple sources of income. Jay-Z, Diddy and 50 Cent have done the same thing within the Hip Hop industry. All of these males of color have beat the odds and created generational income for their families. Most of them come from low socioeconomic statuses and single-parent homes, but they did not allow themselves to be another statistic. Everything is a business, and either you beat the system or the system will beat you. Everyone may not be an athlete – male or female – but everyone has a gift. Figure out what it is, perfect it, monetize it and create generational wealth for your family.