LeBron James Makes NBA History with $500 Million in Lifetime Earnings

LeBron James Makes NBA History with $500 Million in Lifetime Earnings

LeBron James has set more records and achieved more milestones than perhaps any player in NBA history. He’s the league’s all-time leading scorer. He’s the only player with 40,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists with a club. He’s the all-time leader in playoff wins. And he’s a leader in many other areas. But on Wednesday, James hit a different kind of milestone that a mogul like him would surely be grateful for. His new contract with the Lakers makes him the first NBA player to earn $500 million a year.

According to Spotrac, James had earned $479,466,457 in salary during his NBA career as of the end of last season. If his new contract does indeed hit the cap, he will be paid $49,987,718 next season. This would obviously put his total career salary over $500 million. No other player, active or retired, has ever earned as much as $400 million. Even if he had been willing to sacrifice salary to help the Lakers, as many media outlets reported, virtually every scenario reported would have resulted in losses totaling more than $500 million.

Of course, James also makes a lot of money off the court. While he may have only made $500 million during his NBA career, he is reportedly a billionaire, at least as of 2022. In addition to his NBA salary, James has a lifetime contract with Nike that is reportedly worth around $1 billion alone. He has had numerous lucrative endorsement deals throughout his career and has also developed a strategy that has become popular among athletes of demanding to be included in such partnerships. A notable example of this is his partnership with Beats Headphones. When Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion in 2014, he reportedly made around $30 million.

James has long been interested in becoming an NBA owner with his accumulated wealth. He has publicly touted the idea of ​​becoming the owner of an expansion team in Las Vegas, which has yet to be confirmed but is widely speculated. James has also become a prolific figure in Hollywood through his own production company, The SpringHill Company.

James may be the first player to break the $500 million mark, but he certainly won’t be the last. In fact, he will be joined next year by Kevin Durant. Spotrac currently estimates Durant will make about $397 million. With two years and about $106 million remaining on his contract with the Suns, he will be a $500 million player in the 2025-26 season. The only other player guaranteed to reach the $500 million mark on his contract is Paul George, who makes an estimated $305 million and is due another $212 million in his new deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

But Stephen Curry, who will make an estimated $354 million, could be No. 1. The problem is that he only has two years left on his contract, meaning he’ll need to extend or re-sign at some point to beat George. But at his current salary, he’ll probably get it done in three years, whereas George would need all four years of his contract.

While LeBron’s earnings may seem historic at this point, he’s almost certain to hold the title of the NBA’s highest-paid player forever. Consider the five-year, $314 million contract extension Jayson Tatum signed with the Boston Celtics. In five years, he’ll make more than half of what James made in his entire career. That’s because the league’s maximum salary is tied to a percentage of the salary cap. The salary cap has increased significantly during James’ career, and his successor will benefit from that. The proposed 11-year, $76 billion TV deal would take effect in the 2025-26 season and would impose a 10% salary cap. It’s not impossible that players could make $1 billion in the NBA in the coming decades.

James is almost certainly not going to be that player, but that doesn’t mean his salary record will be broken anytime soon. Consider one of Michael Jordan’s strangest records: In 1998, the Bulls paid him $33.4 million. At this point in the league’s history, there was no max salary. He made about 123% of the salary cap this season alone, a number that will never be exceeded as long as cap rules exist. Even with serious salary cap inflation, no Chicago Bull has earned more in a single season than Jordan did in The Last Dance until Zach LaVine in the 2022-23 season, 25 years from now. He was eventually surpassed, but it took a long time to get there.

James’ record will also fall, but that probably won’t bother him much. After all, he’s already a billionaire and wants to own a team someday. He’s achieved and maybe exceeded the most outrageous financial dreams as an NBA player. And now he has this milestone to prove it.

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