LeBron James signs lifetime contract with Nike

LeBron James. (APhoto/Wilfredo Lee)

CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James has a contract with Nike that will last long after he hangs up his sneakers.

The NBA megastar has signed a lifetime endorsement deal with the athletic apparel giant, a deal that extends a partnership James began with Nike before he graduated from high school.

“I’m very humble, man,” James said Monday after practice with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s been an unbelievable time for myself and my family, and I’m just grateful that Nike and Phil Knight, and everyone over there just believed in a skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio, and I’m happy to be a part of such a great company.”

Financial terms of James’ deal were not disclosed. James signed a seven-year, $90 million contract with Nike shortly before he entered the draft in 2003, skipping college to be a pro.

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James has had his own line of Nike shoes for years, and his new agreement could expand into his own brand.

“We can confirm that we have agreed to a lifetime relationship with LeBron that provides significant value to our business, brand and shareholders,” Nike said in a statement emailed to the AP. “We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond.”

James turns 31 on Dec. 30, but the four-time league MVP shows few signs of slowing down and could play well into this 30s.

As for his business association with Nike once he’s done playing, James said he has had “a conversation” about branching off into his own brand – like Michael Jordan – under the company’s umbrella.

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“We’ll see when we get to that point,” said James, who has signed three contracts with Nike. “If it makes sense for both parties, then we’ll do it. If not, then we won’t. We’ve done a great job of building my brand to this point. We want to just continue it. If it makes sense for us to have a ‘Team LeBron,’ or whatever the name will be, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there. It’s a partnership between us. It’s not an endorsement deal. It’s a partnership where we always come together and figure out the best way possible for both brands to be successful.”

James was asked why he would sign with Nike now, years ahead of even talking about retirement.

“Because I don’t want to go nowhere else,” he said. “I’m Nike and swoosh for the rest of my life.”