LeBron James is getting rooked, cheated, swindled, bamboozled or whatever else describes the compensation for the most important athlete of our time.
You still don’t get it?
He’s underpaid, dude.
He remains peerless on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers by doing extraordinary things at nearly 36, with the most agile of 250 pounds you’ll ever see wrapped around a frame of 6-foot-9.
As a Forbes.com columnist (OK, me) wrote this summer, he’s also the prime candidate among athletes to sit in the Oval Office someday.
So when you put LeBron’s paydays of now and of later into perspective, well, um, he deserves more.
Yeah, according to Forbes, LeBron ended this summer as the world’s fifth-highest paid athlete for 2020 with $88.2 million in earnings. (I mean, fifth for King James?)
Yeah, the Lakers spent Wednesday signing this guy who helped the franchise win its 17th NBA championship and his fourth overall to a two-year extension worth $85 million. (Given LeBron’s player option for the 2021-2022 season worth $41 million, he could have become a free agent afterward for gaga bucks).
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Yeah, ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks said the end of LeBron’s new Lakers contract will give him $435 million in career earnings courtesy of playing in the NBA from 2003 through the end of the 2022-2023 season. (Granted, nobody in league history ever has made that much as a player. It’s just that nobody ever has matched LeBron’s speed, power and durability along the way to four NBA Most Valuable Player awards, four NBA Final MVP honors and 16 trips to the All-Star Game).
Then there are LeBron’s slew of endorsements that keep him a long way from soup kitchen lines.
Not when you consider everything.
For one, LeBron is so significant beyond picks and rolls that he dribbles inside the head of the President of the United States.
Soon after that Pennsylvania rally, Donald Trump lost by a bunch on November 3 during his bid for re-election, and LeBron got an assist.
When James wasn’t regularly calling Trump “a bum” among other things, he was enticing premier athletes to combine with noted celebrities to form a group to urge minorities and others to vote.
You know, not for Trump.
In case you’re wondering, LeBron wasn’t displeased when Joe Biden flattened Trump by more than six million popular votes while receiving 36 more votes than the required 270 in the electoral college.
There’s also LeBron, the philanthropist and the humanitarian.
- In March 2012, when LeBron played for the Miami Heat between his two stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he organized a group photo featuring his teammates and himself wearing hoodies to resemble the one of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American gunned down by a misguided vigilante in a Florida neighborhood.
- Two years later, LeBron spent pregame warmups in Brooklyn with an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt to commemorate Eric Garner, a Black person suffocated by a New York police officer.
- In 2016, LeBron was the first person of notoriety to support Colin Kaepernick when the Black quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.
- Earlier this year, after a Minneapolis cop used his knee to choke George Floyd to death, LeBron was the spark to force the NBA to respond more with action than words, ranging from the league turning many of its arenas into voting places to forming a social justice coalition.
All of that complements the other stuff LeBron does (too much to mention for this tiny bit of cyberspace), including the $8 million per year running of I Promise School, his own public elementary operation back home in Akron, Ohio.
So how much should LeBron pocket now and for the future from the Lakers, Nike and everybody else?
A lot more than this.