LeBron James now a lifetime Nike athlete after signing a contract that according to some would pay him a $1 billion by the age of 64. But a new report from ESPN Senior Writer and LBJ whisperer Brian Windhorst details Nike almost missed out on landing the King.
We know it sounds ridiculous, right? LeBron James not wearing Nike? No way? It almost indeed happened Windhorst details in his report which is also an excerpt from his new book “LeBron, Inc.: The Making of a Billion-Dollar Athlete.” James could have been wearing either Reebok or adidas if the two companies had its way cause both went hard in the paint to land a young James fresh out of high school.
The stunning excerpt reveals Reebok offered LeBron up to $100 million plus a $10 million signing bonus to sign with them while Adidas also offered “$100 million guaranteed, 10 years at $10 million per year.” Nike, when it came to its pitch at the future athlete/mogul, delivered on the presentation but fell flat with the money offering a $70 million deal with $5 million signing bonus and $5 million to come later.
James, his mother Gloria and Maverick Carter left that meeting with contemplating signing with Reebok, but his heart was set on joining Nike. With the Adidas deal falling apart due to it not being what was initially offered that clearly left Reebok in the lead to land the big fish. Despite having the advantage and offering the most coins, Bron had his reservations with signing with Reebok due to Shawn Kemp’s complaints about his signature kicks. The final push between the companies as detailed is dramatic as you would expect with one company excited and the other pissed.
“It was Wednesday. Reebok was in town, camping out in one room at the hotel ready to finish the deal. In another room in the hotel, Goodwin called Nike back and more or less made it known that LeBron wanted to sign with them. If they improved their offer and agreed on a few points, they could get him. Nike executives went into a frenzy, realizing they were back in the game. Knight was in New York at a funeral for Mark McCormack, the legendary sports agent, and got on the phone. He authorized an increased offer. As the Reebok executives waited, their counterparts at Nike put together a term sheet as evening approached. As they tried to finish, Knight was about to board his plane in New York to fly to his home in Palm Springs; he’d be out of touch for six hours.
After all that, LeBron agreed to a seven-year, $77 million guaranteed contract with Nike plus a $10 million signing bonus that would get the deal to $87 million. The Nike executives faxed the term sheet and said LeBron had to get it back as fast as possible. They waited by the fax machine, pacing, for the paper to come back with LeBron’s signature. LeBron came to the hotel and didn’t go to see the Reebok guys; instead, he went to Goodwin and signed one of the most important documents in his life.
Goodwin went down the hall to give the Reebok executives the news. They were furious about it all: Being used for leverage. Flying all the way in only to be left at the altar. Not being given a last chance to try to sweeten the deal. There were hard feelings all around.”
Wow, we can’t imagine a world where Bron isn’t wearing anything but the Swoosh, though. It’s obvious he made the right decision in the end.