Nineteen years ago, Nike offered Lakers forward LeBron James a multiyear endorsement deal of $90 million right out of high school, according to eastvalleytribune.com.
Nike was able to outbid Reebok and Adidas. The following month, the Cleveland Cavaliers would select James as the number one pick of the 2003 draft.
“Nike is the right fit and has the right product for me at the right time,” James said in a statement. “They are a good company that has committed to supporting me throughout my professional career, on and off the court.”
“We are excited about our new partnership with LeBron James and look forward to a nurturing relationship with him,” said Lynn Merritt, a Nike executive. “LeBron has great worth ethics on the court, tremendous basketball ability and a passion for the game.”
According to thesportsrush.com, James deposited the check and came back out for $2000 and took his friends to an amusement park.
“After I hand-delivered it to him, LeBron took that multimillion-dollar Nike check, deposited it, and came out with maybe $2,000 in cash. He never spent or indulged in a frivolous manner when the money came. He did take his closest friend to an amusement park.”
However, in a recent interview on Scoop B Radio with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, Sonny Vaccaro revealed Adidas intended to offer James a $100 million multi-year deal.
Basically, LeBron and I made a deal way before that. No money was exchanged. I met him and his mother and the company I worked for; Adidas and they gave me their word of honor that I could offer the money. I NEVER gave anybody any money. Including Michael. I was in part of what the number was; but I don’t pay anyone or I don’t give it, but I spoke for the athlete when I represented the company and I always did that. And I met LeBron before anyone else was involved,” said Vaccaro.
“I was told I had to give $100 million. So when the day comes… and that number was off the wall and no one has ever gotten into the millions I promise you… and when I got to the day to present to the James Family and everybody that was involved with him; his attorneys and everything at that time it was Aaron Godwin and a man named Fred Schrye who I knew very well because he worked with me, but I had nothing to do with it. I only had what I did. We opened up the presentation and I’ve never seen it like LeBron and the number wasn’t. It totaled ours with incentives to $90 million. But it was incentives! They didn’t get the $90 million. And there was NO way they were going to get LeBron James for $70 million + incentives.”
Vaccaro added, “The first thing I said to him was It’s cash that day and incentives will come after… and I know what I said and LeBron knows and to this day he knows… he, his mother and I were closely bonded and Maverick was involved with him, but Maverick was a young kid like he was at that time and he is who he is today and they all did well, but mainly history would’ve changed; but couldn’t have changed for the better because he’s turning out to be one of the best players that ever played.
He’s made more money than anyone at this point in time off of shoe contracts and all that, so it was a good decision. My gripe was that I gave somebody my word that I can do it and I didn’t do it and I left Adidas right after that.”
Vaccaro would then explain why he left Adidas.
|They lied to me, too, so that you know. The offer was for $100 million. I knew it was going to be something outlandish. I’m pretty good at setting numbers. During my days at Nike, there were always other people who cleaned it up. But the number I told all those coaches before there were even pro guys before there was Michael? All those colleges?”
“I sent the number out to 85 colleges for over a 3-4 month period to wear Nike shoes. I mean, I gave the number to all 85 of those between John Thompson (RIP), Jimmy Valvano (RIP) and of course Tark (RIP). So that was nothing new to me and I gave it… by the grace of God it was giving me ideas or something. I can’t explain me to you, that’s for sure but I can explain along what’s happened in my life.”
As for James, he would go on and sign a lifetime deal with Nike worth a billion dollars, according to Business Insider.