No 18-year-old should be nicknamed "King".
- Jim Rome
LeBron James hasn't even graduated from high school, and yet he has already made more money that most of us could reasonably hope to see in our lifetimes. Time was that you actually had to prove your worth. Now, hype and headlines will often go just as far as actual demonstrated production>
Things happen fast now. We don't wait for the championships or even the first step on the court in specially designed, two-of-a-kind shoes. From Dempsey to Ruth, DiMaggio to Mantle, Ali to Jordan, athletes have represented their times.
Times have changed.
On Thursday, 18-year-old high school basketball phenom LeBron James signed a record $90 million, seven-year contract to dress in Nike's swooshes, and it was as if another era of athletic celebrity had begun.
Nike won his heart over rival Reebok, making the size of his initial endorsement contract the first record James has set. James' deal is the second largest among endorsers overall, eclipsed only by Tiger Woods' five-year, $100 million deal with Nike.
Then, Thursday evening, in a final stroke of serendipity, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA draft lottery and with it the chance to make James the first pick of the draft next month.
On the basketball court, James is expected to bring the woeful Cavaliers back to life. Off it, Nike is gambling that children across America will embrace him as they did Michael Jordan, whose Air Jordan sneakers became the company's biggest seller.
You have to wonder about a situation where James will make an average of almost $13 million/year from Nike, but "only" $3.6 million/year from his "real" job as an NBA player. It's not a stretch to wonder where his loyalties will lie. Of course, when you make that many millions of dollar, does loyalty even matter?
Too much? Too early? Hell, yes, but such is the way of the world we live in. I just have to wonder about our priorities when an 18-year-old basketball player is making a gazillion dollars a year, and yet teachers are being laid off here in Houston and schools are closing early in Oregon. So much for taking care of what really matters.