LeBron James is a four-time NBA champion, 16-time All-Star, four-time league MVP, and third on the all-time scoring list. That's impressive. But his business resume might be even more jaw-dropping.
Among his entrepreneurial accolades, James owns 14 Blaze Pizza franchises, signed a $1 billion "lifetime deal" with Nike in 2015, has stakes in Beats Electronics and Liverpool F.C., and owns his own production company, SpringHill Entertainment.
Bill Reiter, NBA insider for CBS Sports and host of CBS Sports Radio's "Reiter Than You," joined Cheddar's Closing Bell on Thursday and said that James' vision didn't happen overnight.
"LeBron James is executing what's been a very clear plan going back 10 years ago," said Reiter. "I can remember sitting in a bar in Cleveland, Ohio, with some of the people around LeBron James, and those sources saying his ultimate goal, sure, to pass Jordan, but his main goal was to become a billionaire entrepreneur."
Reiter also credited James for his approach to venturing into business projects, saying he, "has very studiously and very prodigiously used his massive brand...and what's been a pretty uncanny business sense in surrounding himself with smart people to quietly, and I guess now not so quietly, build a very impressive business empire he plans to run when he's done playing."
However, James isn't alone in his ambition. Several superstars, including Steph Curry, who has invested in several tech startups, and Kevin Durant, who launched his own business portfolio, Thirty Five Ventures, are also establishing a plan for their post-playing days while they are still in the prime of their careers. Reiter explained that priorities have changed and that athletes are using their platforms to take advantage of their brand and their connections to set the foundation for projects after they retire.
"Guys are realizing that you don't start after. You get ahead of the game. You have access to people that you need access to while you're a celebrity, while you're playing, while you bring, frankly, that fame and that glit that comes with the game," he said.
Athletes are also taking on more responsibility when it comes to their playing careers. For example, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman negotiated his own contract when he signed a three-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the 2018 season. "Those players that are adept at this, that are good at this, that are good at understanding their contract, taking matters into their own hands...are going to have a lot of success," Reiter said. However, he also cautioned that "There will certainly be athletes who attempt this and don't do a good job. It really is situation to situation."
Reiter expects that there will be a change in the status quo with athletes not only negotiating their own contracts but creating platforms to tell their stories, in their own words. Just days after playing his final game with the New York Yankees in 2014, Derek Jeter launched The Players' Tribune, a media outlet where Kevin Durant would eventually tell the world he was signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2016. A year later, Gordon Hayward used the platform to announce he was leaving the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics.
"I think you're going to see some disruption for teams (and) the media," Reiter said. "We've already seen it in dealing with people who are multi-faceted and the leverage that they bring and the levers they can pull beyond being good at putting a ball in a bucket or throwing a football into the end zone."