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LeBron James is the first active NBA player to become a billionaire

LeBron James poses at the premiere of the film <em>Hustle</em> on June 1 at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. James' net worth recently broke $1 billion, making him the first ever active NBA player to become a billionaire.
Chris Pizzello
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Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
LeBron James poses at the premiere of the film Hustle on June 1 at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. James' net worth recently broke $1 billion, making him the first ever active NBA player to become a billionaire.

LeBron James, the basketball legend with four NBA championships, three Olympic medals and 18 NBA All-Star appearances under his belt, is the first active NBA player to achieve billionaire status.

Forbes reported Thursday that following an incredibly lucrative year — raking in just over $121 million – James has officially become a billionaire. The breakthrough makes the 37-year-old player's nickname, King James, all the more fitting.

Michael Jordan, often referred to as the greatest player to ever take the court, is the richest athlete of all time, according to an earlier Forbes article. But even he didn't break a billion until after he had retired from the NBA. Jordan currently sits at a new worth of $1.7 billion – down from $2.1 billion in 2020 — attributed to endorsements with Nike, Gatorade and Haines as well as his investment in the Charlotte Hornets basketball team.

James' basketball career has brought in more than $385 million, according to Forbes, but the lion's share of his wealth comes from his business ventures and endorsements, including with Nike, Walmart, Beats by Dre and the Blaze Pizza chain.

When James was first drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, he signed a four-year $18.8 million contract, according to Spotrac, an online sports finance tracker. That salary more than tripled when he resigned with the Cavaliers for another four years in 2007.

The Los Angeles Lakers signed James for a whopping $153 million in 2018, and recently re-signed him for another two years at $85.7 million, a base salary of just under $44.5 million.

But King James doesn't keep his money to himself. In 2004, James founded the LeBron James Family Foundation to better the lives of children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The foundation teamed up with Akron Public Schools in 2018 to open the I PROMISE School, geared towards helping at-risk students and their families in Akron.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.