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How much is a lifetime (or more) of shoe sales worth? $500 million sound about right? That's the reported figure, on the low end, of LeBron James' lifetime contract with Nike. The world's largest sporting goods company had the chance to lock up the second-best player in the NBA for life and they jumped at it.
So does this really mean that King James and the Swoosh are stuck with each other forever?
A Few Dollars for the Rest of Your Days
LeBron's lifetime contract with Nike may not be the only one of its kind, but it might be the richest. Adidas allegedly has lifetime deals them with Derrick Rose and David Beckham, and Reebok has a lifetime deal with former Philadelphia 76ers point guard Allen Iverson (we would love to see the figures on this particular agreement). But Nike has never announced a lifetime deal before, not even for Michael Jordan, although it's believed his contract is at least a de facto agreement for life.
Current reports peg LeBron's Nike deal as paying about $30 million per year, and a source close to the negotiation says the total figure was far more than the $500 million being reported. LeBron turns 31 later this month, and has been with Nike since he entered the NBA at age 18.
A Lifetime of Service
But what does a lifetime contract really mean in this context? Just because both parties put pen to paper, there are provisions that can make a contract unenforceable. And non-compete agreements are some of the hardest to enforce. For the most part, courts are reluctant to force people to work somewhere they don't want to, they're picky about non-compete clauses and agreements.
So the LeBron/Nike marriage could break up someday. But "lifetime contract" sure has a nice ring to it, even if it is a bad idea.