Forget Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi, LeBron James just put a massive marker down in the battle to be recognised as the world’s biggest sports star.
The Cleveland Cavaliers forward has just signed a landmark lifetime sponsorship deal with American sportswear giants Nike, in what is being described as comfortably the company’s biggest financial outlay in their 44-year history.
No exact figures have been released as yet, but according to ESPN, James’s contract easily surpasses the 10-year, £199.3 million deal Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant signed with Nike last year.
Nike has made 13 versions of James’ signature basketball court shoe, and annual sales in 2015 for his line are estimated to top the £266 million mark.
But to give James, 30, a lifetime deal is unprecedented, with no athlete currently on their books in possession of such a contract. Nike now plan to build their American market around James, even after he has retired.
A statement released via Nike.com read: “We can confirm that we have agreed to a lifetime relationship with LeBron that provides significant value to our business, brand and shareholders,” Nike said in a statement while not disclosing the terms of the agreement.
“We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond.”
According to financial experts Forbes.com in June, James is the sixth highest-earning athlete in the world with annual earnings of £43 million – around £826,000 per week – although that looks set to climb after today’s announcement.
Wow, incredible figures.
Can you hear that? That’s the sound of Wayne Rooney ringing up his agent as he reads these numbers.