LeBron James laid bare his expectations for his post-playing career, in an interview with Ken Berger at The Athletic.
“I will own a team someday. That’s my next thing.”
While James has ventures in media and entertainment, owning an NBA franchise is something he’s obsessed with.
“Why do I want to own team?” he said. “I think it’ll be cool. I’ll stay part of the game and still be able to put people in positions of power. I’ve always loved that, putting people in a position of power to feel like they can make a change and make things happen.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers star, in the days before his seventh consecutive NBA Finals and first title defense as a member of the Cavs, also relayed that his business partners Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and agent Rich Paul are “gonna still be together” when James ascends to his ownership throne.
During the 2016 offseason, following his first title in Cleveland, James spoke with Joe Vardon at Cleveland.com about the same plan:
“And I would love to be a part of a franchise, if not at the top. My dream is to actually own a team and I don’t need to have fully hands on. If I’m fortunate enough to own a team, then I’m going to hire the best GM and president that I can.
“But I have a feel like I have a good eye for not only talent, because we all see a lot of talent, but the things that make the talent, the chemistry, what type of guy he is, his work ethic, his passion, the basketball IQ side of things, because talent only goes so far.”
Basketball talent does indeed only go so far, as Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is the only former player to count himself as a majority franchise owner, the first in NBA history to act in such a capacity. James, however, has already proven an adept businessman and, since the fallout from 2010’s ill-fated Decision, a solid judge of tact and reason when presiding over his off and on-court advancements.
Ex-players like George Mikan and Dave DeBusschere worked as ABA commissioners, Magic Johnson held a percentage stake in the Los Angeles Lakers for over two decades, Grant Hill owns a part of the Atlanta Hawks and ex-Hill teammate Christian Laettner once tried to spearhead an ill-fated group bent on purchasing the Memphis Grizzlies, but only Jordan went all the way to the top with his ambitions.
Partially because Jordan (then working as team president) was in the right place at the right time to assume the debts and take over the moribund then-Charlotte Bobcats, who had frittered away years under former owner Robert Johnson. Mostly, though, because Michael had the cash.
James seems well on his way to his particular pool of gold coins, he’s made over $177 million in pre-tax salary thus far in his career, and recently signed a three-year, $100 million deal that will take him to his 34th birthday. LeBron’s reported “lifetime” contract with Nike could earn eventually pay him ten figures’ worth of salary, and he’s made a series of smart off-court investments in technology that already rival the Jordan Brand line MJ set up just prior to his final season with the Chicago Bulls.
The issue here is that even all of that might not be enough.
LeBron James couldn’t help but become this, evolving as he has. That context and condition and drive doesn’t guarantee NBA team ownership, there are only 30 of those to go around, but it certainly makes for one notable, motivated buyer.
Someday. His time in short pants isn’t over just yet.
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