When the LA Lakers superstar LeBron James was only 18 years old, he had to make a significant, possibly life-altering financial choice. When king James moved from being a high school basketball star to being selected first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, he almost bagged a million dollar deal.
He recalls flying from Akron, Ohio’s projects to meet with Paul Fireman, the former chairman and CEO of Reebok, in an episode of “Kneading Dough” with Maverick Carter. Fireman made an instant $10 million offer to the senior in high school with one stipulation: James won’t be able to negotiate any kind of deal with Nike or Adidas.
“First of all, it was one of the longest d— boardroom tables I’ve ever seen in my life,” recalls James. “I had no idea what he was doing at the other end of the table. I just see him writing … He had his head down, he was making sure he didn’t get anything wrong on that check, and when he slid it down there, he said: ‘Listen … you just promise me you won’t go talk to Nike or Adidas and you can take this right now.’”
“I was lost for words at the beginning,” James continues. “I flew in from Akron, Ohio, from Spring Hill, from the projects. Our rent is like $17 a month and now I’m looking at a $10 million check.”
Although James was raised in a project in Akron, Ohio, he showed business understanding well above his years from a young age. James also declined the offer since he was “going to homeroom” the very following morning.
“I started thinking, ‘If this guy is willing to give me a $10 million check right now, what’s to say that Nike or Adidas is not willing to give me $20 or $30 [million] upfront” According to James, his uncles advise to “never put all your eggs in one basket” served as inspiration for him that day.
That day, young James’ decision-making skills paid off greatly as Nike reportedly gave the teenager a $90 million contract after a few days. A little more than ten years later, LeBron James signed a potentially $1 billion lifetime contract with the company. The Akron Hammer admits that he still finds it hard to understand that he passed on the $10 million even now.