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Nike, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan

LeBron James’ Nike shoe deal compared to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan

Earning a signature shoe deal is a right of passage for any NBA superstar. From a young age, players around the globe dream of signing that big contract, then lacing up in their own kicks. This holds true for some of the greatest of all time, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan — all owners of Nike shoe deals over the years.

Nike has been at the forefront of recruiting the brightest young prospects around the globe for quite a while. The popular sports apparel manufacturer has signed several talented players over the years, dating all the way back to 1984, when Jordan became the first NBA player to sign with the company.

In this piece, we’ll compare LeBron James’ deal with Nike to the contracts Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Michael Jordan signed with the sports giant.

Kevin Durant

Several companies had their eye on Durant when he was coming out of the University of Texas in 2007. Ultimately, though, the D.C. native chose to ally himself with Nike, signing a seven-year, $60 million deal, with a $10 million signing bonus. At that time, it was the second-largest rookie deal. According to several reports, he actually turned down a higher from from Adidas.

Durant signed a 10-year extension with Nike in 2014 that “has the potential to reach $300 million and includes a $50 million retirement package,” according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports. Under Armour offered him a huge deal, but Nike had the ability to counter — and they did.

Via Bleacher Report:

Rovell and Marc Stein previously reported for ESPN.com that Nike countered an offer from Under Armour in the $265-285 million range. Nike felt the amount was enough to retain Durant, and Sunday’s news proves it indeed was.

In 2019, Durant earned $89 million in total revenue, according to Forbes — $32 million of which came from his shoe deal with Nike. As his marketability continues to grow, so too does his brand.

Kobe Bryant

The late, great Kobe Bryant signed with Adidas as rookie. However, after just a few installments of his signature shoe with the company were released, The Black Mamba decided to make the jump to Nike.

Avid sneakerheads will remember Kobe’s first shoes with Adidas well (the KB8 I, II and III). Many argued that the sneakers were less than appealing. Critics noted that later models were too bulky for slashing guard play, and they were bombing in stores.

A 24-year-old Bryant signed a four-year, $40 million contract with Nike in 2003. There were ongoing legal issues that prevented him from being given his own signature shoe line at that time, so he adopted a generic Nike shoe — the Huarache 2K4.

In 2006, Kobe got his first official shoe with Nike: the Zoom Kobe 1. From there, the Philadelphia native would go on to become one of the most successful endorsements in the company’s history. Even after he retired from the Lakers in 2016, Nike continued to crank out his signature kicks.

Sadly, Kobe was killed in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles in January at the age of 41. All nine passengers on the flight, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, perished in the tragic accident.

Though he was taken too soon, the Mamba Mentality that Kobe left behind will live on forever, and new Kobe kicks continue to come out.

LeBron James

With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected James, an up-and-coming phenom from nearby Akron, Ohio.

Knowing his potential, Nike offered James what was the largest annual rookie shoe deal in league history — estimated to be worth roughly $12 million per year. For comparison, Durant’s rookie sneaker deal was worth $9 million per year.

In 2015, Lebron signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike. According to several reports, the contract could pay the three-time champion over $1 billion by the time he’s 64 years of age, marking the largest single-athlete guarantee in the company’s history.

“I’m very humble, man,” James said after signing his lifetime deal with Nike, via ESPN. “It’s been an unbelievable time for myself and my family, and I’m just grateful that Nike and [Nike founder] Phil Knight and everyone over there just believed in a skinny-old, skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio, and I’m happy to be a part of such a great company.”

According to Forbes, James raked in $89 million in the 2019 fiscal year. $32 million of that total came from his shoe deal with Nike. $36 million came from his NBA salary, while $21 million came from various endorsements.

LeBron’s line of shoes with Nike has grown in popularity over the years. Which variant is your favorite? We’ll take the VIIs.

Michael Jordan

According to a report from Forbes, wholesale revenue at Nike’s Jordan Brand subsidiary hit $3.14 billion in the fiscal year ending May 2019, which was up 10 percent from 2018. As of August 2019, His Airness was taking in an estimated $130 million annually from his shoe deal, which was four times more than James, who was No. 2 in sneaker earnings at $32 million.

Jordan’s line is further bolstered by the players who wear his shoes on the court. In fact, a host of stars represent the brand, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley Jr., Blake Griffin, Maya Moore, Chris Paul, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook (to name a few). The latest major addition to the Jordan stable was Zion Williamson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

A bit of perspective on Jordan’s current financial situation, via Forbes:

Michael Jordan’s massive haul in Nike royalties make up 90% of his current annual income and now totals $40 million more than the $90 million combined he made during his 15 years playing for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.

As previously mentioned, Jordan became the first NBA player to sign with Nike. You’d better bring your wallet if you’re looking to buy a pair of Air Jordan 1s, though. In good condition, they often fetch thousands of dollars.

Jordan hasn’t played in the NBA for years, but the six-time champion is still the undisputed king of sneakers.