A star like LeBron James comes across once in a lifetime. When Michael Jordan left the NBA for the final time in 2003, there was doubt if the NBA would ever see a player of his magnitude ever again.
Just a few months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected LeBron James number one overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. James was heralded as 'the chosen one', the player to take the NBA into the next generation.
While the weight of expectation on James was incredibly high, it is safe to say that James delivered and even surpassed those expectations. James became a star the instant he entered the league, becoming a true overnight sensation.
Because of James' incredible ability, skill, and style of play, he became a valuable commodity. The NBA worked quickly to make him the face of the league. On top of that, several high-value brands wanted to work with James and make him a representative.
Fast forward almost 20 years later, James is now one of the richest athletes in the NBA. His career earnings have surpassed $1 billion, and he represents some of the biggest brands in the world like Nike, Mountain Dew, and many others.
James being a supremely valuable asset to the league comes as no surprise. But what is surprising is the fact that LeBron was 31 years old when he became the single highest-paid player of a team he played for.
When James entered the league in 2003, he was on a rookie-scale contract that meant he could never earn more than what was stipulated in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NBPA.
When he signed an extension in 2006, his salary increased, but the big money was always reserved for the star teammate the Cavs brought in to help King James. By the team James moved to Miami, he still wasn't the single-highest paid player.
He would share those honors with fellow All-Star teammate Chris Bosh, who signed a contract that paid him the same amount of money as James. Both Bosh and LeBron earned the same amount of money in Miami as the team's joint-highest paid players, with Dwyane Wade earning just a little less than them.
LeBron James Salary Ranked In Team (Till 2014)
2003/04: $4,018,920 (5th In Team)
2004/05: $4,320,360 (3rd In Team)
2005/06: $4,621,800 (5th In Team)
2006/07: $5,828,090 (5th in Team)
2007/08: $13,041,250 (2nd In Team)
2008/09: $14,410,581 (2nd In Team)
2009/10: $15,779,912 (2nd In Team)
2010/11: $14,500,000 (T-1st In Team W/Chris Bosh)
2011/12: $16,022,500 (T-1st In Team W/Chris Bosh)
2012/13: $17,545,000 (T-1st In Team W/Chris Bosh)
2013/14: $19,067,500 (T-1st In Team W/Chris Bosh)
It was only when LeBron rejoined the Cavs in 2014 that he became the single-highest paid player on his team.
But James will hardly care. He has shown that he isn't too concerned about his salary, as he earns more from his off-the-court endeavors than his NBA salary. On top of that, James has also admitted to being the cheapest player in the NBA, so he must be careful with his money.
At this point in his career, James is more than willing to take pay cuts in order to accommodate other All-Stars who want to play with him, and will likely continue to do so until he calls time on his career.