Welcome to 2014, where you can make $30 million by doing nothing more than wearing a pair of headphones, for no other reason than you just so happen to be...a basketball alien the likes of which we may never see again.
We’re talking about LeBron James, of course, with the above-mentioned chunk of change getting mere passing mention by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst in a story ostensibly about the Miami Heat’s desire to target soon-to-be free agent Carmelo Anthony:
James' off-court business is booming, thanks to a string of investments paying off massively and the prospect of new opportunities in endorsements and entertainment projects promising to expand his wealth significantly in coming years.
In a recent example, while James was leading the Heat to a victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, sources say the 29-year-old was finalizing what is believed to be the biggest equity cash payout for a professional athlete in history as part of Apple's recent $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics. Sources briefed on the situation say James realized a profit of more than $30 million in cash and stock in the Beats sale after he had struck a deal to get a small stake in the company at its inception in 2008 in exchange for promoting its high-end headphones.
Here's SB Nation's Rodger Sherman on just how lucrative this endorsement payout really is:
It's believed to be the largest such payout for an athlete in history. Darren Rovell tweeted that David Wright's stake in Vitamin Water, reported to be about $20 million, was actually much less, so this payday might not even really have any competition.
To recap: James received a small stake in Beats Electronics back in 2008 for doing nothing more than agreeing to wear said product on his head.
To recap: James has made $30 million for occasionally wearing a contiguous piece of plastic that transmits music. Doesn't have to wear them in the shower or anything.
And, according to the latest reports, $30 million might even be a conservative estimate of James' cash-in:
To recap: Where did I go wrong in life?
James’ Beats deal is cited as an example of how the four-time MVP may be gearing up to sacrifice basketball bullion in the event Anthony can be lured to South Beach.
How much of a pay cut LeBron is willing to take is an open question, of course. But for someone whose only recourse for constant criticism may be to surpass the championship prowess of his positional peers, it certainly seems like a risk well worth taking.
And that’s just fine by King James:
I have not had a full max deal yet in my career -- that's a story untold. I don't get (the credit) for it. That doesn't matter to me; playing the game is what matters to me. Financially, I'll sacrifice for the team. It shows for some of the top guys, it isn't all about money. That's the genuine side of this, it's about winning. I understand that.
That kind of bling is reserved for guys who win championships and then invest in hot start-ups with nothing more than a promise to wear whatever they make. Headphones, snorkel gear, a copper wire that’s guaranteed to center your chi or your money back—whatever.