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LeBron James’ new Lakers contract will make him the best-paid NBA player — ever.
LeBron James is a perennial NBA All-Star with four Most Valuable Player awards and three championship rings, including the one he won most recently, in 2016, with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. But, starting next season, James, 33, will also have a new work address, thanks to the four-year, $154 million contract the basketball star agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
It will likely make him the best-paid NBA player ever and pushes him down the path to becoming a billionaire.
Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents James, announced his decision to join the Lakers, which came only two days after the NBA star opted out of his contract with Cleveland to become a free agent. James, who owns multiple homes in the Los Angeles area, has a new contract that will pay him $35.6 million for the upcoming 2018-2019 NBA season and its annual value will increase each year until it hits $41 million for the 2021-2022 season, according to sports contract website Spotrac.
After the fourth and final year of James’ new deal with the Lakers, he will have earned over $387.2 million, which will make him the highest-paid player in the history of the NBA, based on all-time career salary, according to Spotrac. After the most recent NBA season, which ended with James’ Cavaliers losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, James has earned a total of $233.9 million in NBA salary over 15 seasons since he entered the league in 2003 as an 18-year-old rookie.
Spotrac’s ranking of the NBA players with the all-time highest career earnings currently has only five players ahead of James. Four of those players (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan) are retired, so they won’t be earning any more salary as NBA players. The fifth player ahead of James in career salary is Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, who earned just $5 million last season and, at 40 years old, is likely to retire after another season or two and will not earn any further blockbuster NBA contracts.
Part of the way through his third season in Los Angeles, James will pass Garnett’s career earnings of $334 million, according to Spotrac, to take the top spot. And James isn’t the only active NBA shooting up the list of all-time career earnings. Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul’s, 33, new four-year contract, which will also pay him $35.6 million this year, will leave him with a whopping $346.5 million in career salary after the 2021-2022 season, which will place him just behind James.
Because of the NBA’s rigid salary structure, which does not allow players to earn more than a maximum amount that’s set for each season, it is extremely unlikely that any player will be able to swoop in with a mega-deal to pass James on the career salary earnings rankings over the next four years.
Of course, LeBron James’ income is not dependent on his NBA salary. The future hall-of-famer will collect an estimated $52 million in 2017 (or about 60 percent of his annual income) from massive endorsement deals with brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola’s Sprite and Beats By Dre headphones, according to Forbes.
In total, Forbes estimates that James has already made $765 million between his NBA salary and off-court earnings since he turned pro 15 years ago. So, James might not be quite to the billion-dollar mark overall yet, but with a liftetime endorsement contract with Nike that’s reportedly worth roughly $1 billion overall (according to a James associate), he’s certainly on his way.