We all know the heroics of LeBron James. From the first time he stepped foot on the basketball court, he made it known that he was going to dominate at the highest level.
From even before James stepped foot on the court as a pro, he was attracting the attention of interested parties.
In a story by the Undefeated, it was revealed that Reebok tried to pay him early to not sign with any other brand when he turned 18.
Reebok chairman and CEO Paul Fireman was a man of theatrics, with a win-at-any-cost mentality. In 1996, he signed Iverson, the top selection in the draft that year, although he’d played in Nike at Georgetown University and his college coach, John Thompson, served on Nike’s board of directors. Fireman wanted to secure another surefire No. 1 pick in James, and he was willing to pay more than anyone to do so. He escorted James, his mother and Goodwin into a private room and whipped out a cashier’s check. LeBron could leave with it, Fireman said. But there were two conditions: He had to sign with Reebok and give his word that he wouldn’t engage in conversations with Adidas or Nike.
“I was lost for words … looking at a $10 million check,” James said in 2017 during a conversation with Maverick Carter on UNINTERRUPTED’s Kneading Dough, an interview series focusing on athletes and business.
LeBron made the decision, then, to hand the check back.
The kid then indeed made a man’s decision. “LeBron understood that he had to give that check back to Paul Fireman,” said Goodwin. “Gloria did not. Gloria wanted to keep that check and walk out. But even with that being offered, we had to see what Adidas had to say, and then finally what Nike had to say.”
He would end up signing with Nike, later, for over triple the amount Reebok was willing to pay. It's fair to say James made the right decision.
Τoday, Bron is one of the most wealthy athletes in the world with a net worth of about $450 million. Fair to say he's come a long way since that first check-in the early 2000s.