Inspire Bold Leadership
LeBron James talks about being a first-generation money maker and betting on himself
Chase and UNINTERRUPTED have partnered to create "Kneading Dough," a series of intimate and honest conversations with professional athletes about how they've navigated their unique financial and career pathways. We hope our readers are inspired, informed, and empowered to make the best financial decisions.
A note from Lois Backon, Head of Corporate Partner Marketing at Chase:
It was an incredible experience to get a front row seat to a candid conversation between two people who've been friends since childhood, reflecting on the trajectory of their finances and their lives. Now consider that this duo includes one of the greatest athletes in the world and his entrepreneurial manager and business partner, an extremely accomplished figure in his own right.
Witnessing the back and forth between lifelong best friends LeBron James and Maverick Carter up close was an experience as incredible as it was improbable. It was part of the Kneading Dough interview series, an idea that was produced by James and Carter's digital media company, UNINTERRUPTED.
While shooting the latest episode, there was a point when the cameras seemed invisible, and it was just James and Carter, talking about their journey, and what it's meant for their finances, family life, business and friendship.
Despite the pair's meteoric success, there are lessons for everyone.
First-generation money maker
James and Carter grew up in some of Akron, Ohio's roughest neighborhoods. Seemingly overnight, though, James went from being a nationally renowned high school basketball star to a multi-millionaire in the span of about one month.
No one before him in his family had ever earned a reliable income, so James had no road map for what it meant to earn, save and spend money.
"Being a first-generational money-maker in the household is a scary thing for an 18-year-old," James says. "I went from sitting in classrooms and, in May, graduating high school, to being a multi-millionaire a month later, in June, which is insane."
Diversify to keep your options open
During James' senior year in high school, he had a meeting with the president of Reebok, who offered him $10 million on the spot if he promised not to meet with competitors Nike and Adidas. After giving it a few moments of thought, James turned it down. Even as a teenager, he understood the importance of hearing what all sides can offer.
"I started thinking, if this guy is willing to give me a $10 million dollar check right now, what is to say that Nike or Adidas is not willing to give me 20 or 30 up front. Maybe the upfront money is not even the biggest thing. Maybe, let's start thinking about the back end," James says. "I've always known—and it comes from my uncles as well—never put all your eggs in one basket."
Bet on yourself
As his success grew, endorsement deals rolled in, and James started to seek ways to grow those partnerships. It didn't take long for him to realize that he didn't always have to hold a product to make an impact. He could come up with his own ideas and work with a partner to help create something new. He would later invest into Blaze Pizza, because he loved the product and knew it could be successful.
"You started from the bottom and you created something that you can look at it and say, 'Wow, we did that. We did that and we own it.' That's a really cool thing," James says. " And if it doesn't become successful, then I can only blame myself."
Plan for life off the court
It's a rarity to play basketball for a living, but James is aware that his time playing ball is finite. It's those post-play years that he is already starting to think about now.
"I know that once I get off the floor, there's going to be more time of my time spent off than on," he says. "So from age 9 to—if you make it to 40—that's 31 years of your life. But from 40 to 85 or 90—hopefully I'm lucky to get to 90—that's 50 years. I still have to live life , beyond the hardwood."
Retirement can take many forms, from leisurely trips to second careers. James, for instance, has launched several ventures beyond his sports career. It's important to plan for the lifestyle that you want. Even if you work for yourself, there are ways to plan, so that your future self will thank you.
Mariah Summers is a Chase News contributor. She writes about finance, food and travel. Her work has appeared in the Financial Times and BuzzFeed.