LeBron: The Team Behind King James

Editor’s note: As the NBA embarks this week on a new season, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James stands as the league’s most iconic figure. In Part One of a three-part series on James and his place in the league, we take a look at the people behind James, who have helped shape him into an international marketing force and a difference-maker for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

In Part Two (Monday), we’ll examine how his on-court game has changed since he burst onto the scene straight out of high school in 2003, and how his early failures shaped the player he is today. And in Part Three (Tuesday), we’ll weigh in on where James stands in the greatest-of-all-time argument.

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VIDEO: The LeBron Series — Business of an MVPa

LeBron James has won two straight NBA titles with the Miami Heat. He is a four-time league MVP (and only the second to win it four times in five years), was the only player in the league to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists last year (he fell just one vote short of becoming the first ever to win the MVP with a unanimous vote) and is the youngest player to reach 20,000 points.

LeBron James

LeBron James (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE )

He is considered by many as the best player in the game today, and one of the greatest ever to play. And as dominant as he is on the basketball court, he’s just as successful off of it.

The NBA recently announced that, for the first time, LeBron has the NBA’s most popular jersey in worldwide sales. According to a recent report in Forbes, LeBron has the most popular sneaker in the NBA, “outselling his nearest rival’s signature sneakers 6-to-1.” (Nike recently debuted LeBron’s eleventh signature shoe, The LeBron 11.) His popularity extends into fields unrelated to sports. He’s currently producing a comedy series for the Starz Network, and he has hosted “Saturday Night Live.” James, an avid user of social media, has over 15 million Facebook  “likes” and over 10 million followers on Twitter.

LeBron’s popularity has translated into runaway success in the business world: James has partnership and endorsement deals with many brands, from Coca-Cola to McDonald’s to Audemars Piguet. Forbes recently ranked James as the fourth-highest earning athlete in the world (behind Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Kobe Bryant), while estimating James’ endorsement income around $42 million a year. If that’s accurate, that would make him the NBA’s endorsement leader.

As James recently told Rachel Nichols on CNN’s “Unguarded,” as they accompanied him on a Nike promotional trip to China …

“When I became a professional athlete I became a business as well, you know, so I couldn’t just worry about the game of basketball 24/7, without understanding the business side of it as well.”




VIDEO: LeBron in China

An NBA player supplementing his basketball income with endorsement dollars is nothing new. But doing it with the kind of global reach that James has demonstrated places him in rarified air. Longtime NBA executive Rick Welts, the current president and COO of the Golden State Warriors, points out that James seems to have taken the marketing template presented by a certain previous NBA superstar and expanded upon it.

“He’s obviously a great student because I think Michael Jordan was probably the first contemporary athlete that realized that he could create a brand around his own persona, surround himself with really smart business people who could guide him in that endeavor,” Welts says. “LeBron, if anything, has taken that to whatever the 2013-14 equivalent is of that, which is probably more sophisticated, more international in focus. He’s obviously a guy who listens to advice and has a good innate sense of where he wants to take his career. I think watching the evolution of the professional athlete, he represents to the contemporary athlete today what Michael Jordan represented to the contemporary athlete of his time.”

How has LeBron been able to transform himself into the NBA’s most marketable personality? Certainly, piling up titles and MVP awards and gold medals doesn’t hurt his popularity. But when it comes to his business dealings, James has surrounded himself with talented people whom he trusts. His inner-circle is a trio of men he grew up with in Akron, Ohio. And as James’ stature and skill-set have grown, the members of his team have grown along with him.

Maverick Carter (left), with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates

Maverick Carter (left), with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in 2008 (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Maverick Carter is the CEO of LRMR Marketing, the company LeBron launched in 2006. (LRMR’s name is a nod to the quartet’s first names: LeBron, Randy Mims, Maverick and Rich Paul.) Carter oversees all of LeBron’s business partnerships, and has spearheaded LeBron’s ascendance as a worldwide marketing force. Part of Carter’s role includes putting together deals such as the strategic partnership between LRMR and Fenway Sports Marketing, a transaction that gave James part-ownership in the legendary Liverpool Football Club.

Paul represents LeBron as his agent. Before opening his own agency, Klutch Sports, in 2012, Paul spent several years working at the mega-agency CAA, learning the ins and outs of the agency business. Since opening Klutch Sports, Paul has signed several clients alongside LeBron, including NBA players Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland) and Kevin Seraphin (Washington).

Mims is LeBron’s day-to-day manager, overseeing all of LeBron’s business relationships, meetings, commercial shoots and appearances. Of the LRMR group, Mims spends the most time with LeBron, and ensures that each day’s obligations are executed properly.

As James told Nichols, being able to build a successful organization off the court is made that much more meaningful precisely because he was able to do it with his longtime friends:

“I mean it’s the ultimate, you know. You grow up, throughout the struggles with your friends, and to be able to reap some of the benefits makes it that much more pleasant at the end of the day.”

Another person who plays an integral part in James’ off-court life is Michele Campbell, an Akron native who is the executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. For many years, James sponsored a Bikeathon in his hometown of Akron, a one-day event to unite the community and give bikes to kids. A few years ago, James decided he wanted to create something with a year-round impact. In 2011, they launched the “Wheels For Education” initiative.

“We call the Bikeathon kind of a one-and-done,” Campbell says. “Because it was a great event, but LeBron didn’t really know who the kids were after that. He was ready to make a difference and you can’t [do that] with a one-and-done. So this is a long-term commitment from him and foundation.”

Beginning in 2011, the LeBron James Family Foundation targeted 300 at-risk Akron third-graders. The kids go to a two-week summer camp and then are monitored closely throughout the school year. James regularly posts messages to them and sends them letters. If they miss a few days of school, they might get a phone message from him. Part of the deal is that the kids regularly recite a pledge called “I Promise,” vowing to be committed to doing their best. Aside from the constant interaction and encouragement from James, he shows the kids his support every time he takes the court: During games, he plays wearing an “I PROMISE” wristband.

It’s a massive promise: Each year, the program adds a new group of third graders while continuing to monitor the rising students. Since its start three years ago, there are now about 700 kids in the program. By the time the initial class graduates from high school in 2021, there will be over 3,500 kids at various levels.

“This is not just an athlete giving a check,” Campbell says. “LeBron is the force over this whole thing. He kicks off the program when they enter the program. He’s there, he welcomes them into the program. When they see the Foundation walk into the school or the after-school program, they see LeBron. It’s amazing how they feel his presence.”

His connection to community and the importance of family is obviously significant to James. This summer he married his longtime girlfriend, Savannah Brinson. Together they have two boys, LeBron Jr., and Bryce. LeBron’s mother, Gloria, is also still an integral part of James’ life.

[Even being family won’t save you from being pranked, as LeBron and his wife recently pulled an early Halloween trick on her father and posted it on Instagram.]

As the NBA embarks on the 2013-14 season, the Heat are favored to win another title and LeBron is poised to take home a third straight MVP. There seems to be no stopping James, on or off the court.

It is good to be the King.

“You draw strength from your own character and he has a great public persona now that is drawn from who he is as a person,” says Welts. “He’s not trying to be anybody else. Being able to kind of find yourself within that image is something he’s done as well as any player who’s come before and probably any player to go after. It creates a genuine personality around him, which I think attracts people and is part of the reason he’s been so successful.”

67 Comments

  1. 任消遙 says:

    “in the work the academic society work, the academic society studies in the study”. Three year university life,

  2. Dr Anthony Brew says:

    My prayer is the good Lord will continue to imbue in LeBron James the Holy Spirit to guide him in all things, the humility to continue to inspire children of all races; and finally the strength of purpose to achieve something that nobody has been able to achieve. To God be the glory. Amenoooo

  3. HangtimeBlogTroll2013 says:

    Too bad he can’t grow the “fro”

  4. HangtimeBlogTroll2013 says:

    LBJ is the best SF since Dr.J !!!!!!!!

  5. Detroitbasketball says:

    Hope he takes the time to thank ESPN, ABC and David Stern for ten years of free publicity. They have been promoting him before he even set foot in the NBA. He is sure talented but this superstar has been forced down our throats.

  6. Daine says:

    At what age do you think Lebron will call it quits and retire??

  7. Dillon says:

    All these people hating on LeBron are just jealous of our team, they are bobcats and jazz fans that need a way to vent their anger because their team cant get over the .500 mark and make the playoffs.

  8. Charlie's Park says:

    This article was about LeBron’s handlers. How can such an article ignore the fiasco of his press conference at which he announced — circus style — that he was ‘taking his talents’ to Miami. That’s where LeBron’s marketability and popularity took a huge hit. Where were his handlers then????

  9. Cripple Rapist says:

    @dreadyjun you maybe right but no he got 2 rings???? Even if you cry a river that won’t change anything… He’s up there, and you’re still crying… Want some tissue??? You got watery eyes…..

  10. Cj E. says:

    it was much easier for jordan back then!!!!!!! defense has picked up, people are way more athletic.. chokers don’t win multiple MVPS..

    • LeggoHEAT says:

      LOL Easier back then? How is it easy to be clotheslined in the face when you’re trying to get in the basket? That’s the kind of defense they had back then. Defense is a lot more complex now because teams have adapted to rules that have evolved in time. That doesn’t mean it’s easier back then or now, it’s just a different challenge. I’d say players are more athletic now because the science of conditioning has evolved a whole deal, we have more guards jumping like leapfrogs and forwards running like runaway freight trains. Doesn’t mean though that players have better basketball IQ, a lot of players now tend to outrun or out-jump the opposition instead of out-thinking them. So it’s not easier back then, nor is it harder today, it’s just a different ballgame, different challenge.

  11. Cj E. says:

    all you haters read the article, just to hate. you’re not supposed to be fouled, everyone wants the call! so STFU lebron isn’t overated, Hedoesn’t even brag.. hating for no reason….

  12. goldinboye says:

    lebron doesn’t use usb keys, he is still with the FLOPPY disks

  13. Gregory Phillips says:

    Great story, and Lebron is doing wonderful things for the kids following their education.

  14. Bigtom says:

    So many here are of jealous of talent

  15. cbc says:

    He is (will ever be) no compare to Michael Jordon, whether in terms of charisma, basketball play and outlook.

  16. dreadyjun says:

    He better get better cause right now he’s just choker. Without Allen lebum will sill only have one ring.

    • Joe says:

      You Idiot that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard…..LOL! Without Pippen guess who would have 0 rings……Jordan…….Hey guys guess what without Tony Parker the spurs wouldn’t have made it to the finals sad spurs can’t do it without Parker…….Like that’s literally what you are saying.

    • Joe says:

      Oh yea and he is a choker…..Who scored the fade away jumper to put game 7 out of reach for the spurs……Who scored the 3 to give the heat another chance in game 6 to give Allen that opportunity. Who has the highest PPG of all time in elimination games? Oh yea its “lebum” hahaha like that isn’t getting old

    • LeggoHEAT says:

      Choker? What is this 2010? People should just stop living under a rock, seriously… :D

  17. dreadyjun says:

    The most over rated choker in the history of the game. Considering the nba crown him the king before he actually achieved anything, it is not surprising that the nba is still trying to market this guy. He would have been better off staying with the cavs. How can anyone respect this guy after what he has done.

    • LeggoHEAT says:

      You can’t respect him because obviously you are too stuck living in the past. He choked a couple times back then but that was before he got his 2 rings. NBA markets him because with your exception people actually like him a lot for his accomplishments as an athlete. Better off staying with the Cavs? You mean 7 years of grinding in Cleveland with no rings over 2 Finals MVPs and 2 rings in Miami? Please… ;)

  18. Ao1 says:

    NBA during MJ’s and Kobe’s early years were so differently than today’s one. Rules have changed. It is not as tough as it used to be. If MJ’s was in today’s NBA he would have average 40pg. 7rpg. 6apg. He and his team would have dominated. LBJ would’ve not won a single ring even with DWade as long as MJ, Pippen together along with Dennis Roman. Remember that season when they went, 70w-12L? Yeah! THat’s right. So please stop comparing LeBron to MJ. Despite tough rules MJ manage to score 32ppg and win several championships. James panic when under pressure. Can you imagine that if he was in Jordan’s era?

    • LeggoHEAT says:

      There’s no denying that MJ is more accomplished than LBJ, and yes I guess it’s tougher back in the 90′s. But no one can say if LBJ cannot adapt to that era as MJ would to this era. The previous rules ask for players to be tougher, LBJ can do just that specially with the kind of physique that he has. But todays rules do not ask players to be a thug in the court that’s why floppers dominate this era. Bashing heads back then isn’t as graceful as flopping today. Jordan is the type of person that would do anything to win, and if he were to play now we might actually see him flop his way to a championship. LJ can very well be shooting 40pts a game if he wanted to, but that doesn’t guarantee them a win. I’m sure MJ can do that as well, or even better, but he knows all too well that it’s not the best way to win. James used to panic that’s a given, but he’s improved a lot, he’s clutch now. MJ is the most accomplished to date, but LJ has the potential to set the bar a notch higher.

    • Dillon says:

      It was 72 wins and 10 losses not 70 and 12 fyi

  19. Ao1 says:

    Is this LeBron or Gregg Oden? I can’t really recognize….

  20. xavi says:

    Do not know if Lebron James, is or will or may be better than Michal Jordan, the only real thing now is that he has everyone’s attention, makes us look at the NBA as MJ did so without a doubt he already has won a place in the NBA stardom.

  21. Aw yeaa says:

    I thought it was Global Bald King James

  22. Ron says:

    MJ goat LBJ #2

  23. Agudo says:

    I am a big Jordan fan as well as an LBJ fan. The reason why I think LBJ is better than Jordan, is his ability to play 1 through 4 (probably even the 5 if he really wanted) and defend 1 through 5. Don’t think it will be a question of IF he will win DPOY, but when. Gotta love these haters though, why do you even read about/follow this guy if you hate him so much. Fans in denial LOL

  24. Vanessa says:

    Go Lebron! You are the best!!! Three-peat!!!!!!!!

  25. R4 says:

    still the most hated player in the NBA. He has just as many enemies as he does fans. Here is something for corp. to listen too, I never buy anthing to do with LB4

  26. celentano says:

    letravell,the magig traveller!!!lol.

  27. john doe says:

    really ? best of all time? you gotta be kidding me!!! lmaooooooooooo

  28. TOBA LaCrown says:

    I am inspired by this writing. I have always loved LeBron and whenever I watched him doing sth, either on and off the court, it’s as if I am the one. Whenever he’s granting interview, I feel like offering him the choice of words. He has never disappointed and I just love him specially. To read about all this philanthropic works about him, and the network of ppl around him, I am glad for him. I started sth like this years ago when I left Aftica, but the family issue ran it down. Now, I rarely go home. With this write up, I will visit my village next year to revisit my dream for the needy. As for the ring this season, we’ll be praying for you LeBron James and you will surely be crowned. Don’t worry the comment made about the three Boston Musketeers is in place. You put them in their place, hypocrites indeed

  29. LBJFANS says:

    NOT DONE YET 3PEATS Inshallah

  30. dom says:

    he looks 45-50 years old in that picture with him wearing that suit.

  31. Eugene says:

    LBJ sold out for the $$$.. we won’t even get the Finals.. Heat their 2 rings there done. sad to say

    • LBJthaking!!!! says:

      Lololol last i remember Lebron can win a game all by himself just liek in the past and he’s getting better. With him on the heat they will make it to playoffs for sure!

      • LeggoHEAT says:

        He can carry a team but nobody can win a game all by himself. And it’s not just the Playoffs, the way things are going they’re headed back to at least the conference finals.

        @Eugene Sold out for the $$$? Please, he could’ve gotten more money elsewhere. He has to share the pie in Miami with a Chris Bosh and a Dwyane Wade.

  32. dichco143 says:

    He his the dream of any upcoming basketball player

  33. dreadyjun says:

    Rubbish. NBA writers have nothing better to do. Running out of ideas are we?

  34. freal says:

    He’ll finish top 5 all-time

  35. LBJthaking!!!! says:

    Great article!!!!! lebron is the best! I hope he gets a third ring

  36. Floyd says:

    Still cant stand for this guy, crybaby, quiter flopper and very over hyped.

    • LBJthaking!!!! says:

      Floyd Thers alot of players tht do this in the nba. Do u live in Cleveland? I do and I’m sorry but we can win anything… The last time we won was back in 1964. Mike brown wasnt a good coach and we didnt get the players we shuld of had with Lebron we fire mike Brown… Then gets fired at Lakers… Then Cleveland wants him back hahahha lebron was the team in cleveland. You can’t blame him… He’s compared to the best and u can’t be the best unless u have a team that helps you. By the way Manu Ginobli is the biggest flopper.

    • esc says:

      Get a life Floyd, and a personality too- if time allows!

  37. Mister Houdini James!!!! or The Captian James!!!! The Propheet James!!!!!
    I think it´s pretty cool what he is doing with kids in terms how they will grow up with principles and ethical. That´s the world we all want. A healty community not involve in depresion or somenting like that.
    Sports make the people more healty.

    About basketball:

    It will not easy for the heat to win another championship. The Heat will depend on the boards and rebounds therefore Miami have to play and live for a Center as Oden instance.
    I want to be there in the Arena AAA to see what´s going on…We´ll see…

  38. Miami is my team I look forward to them winning again, as that is my dream.
    I know it will be a tough season, but with Lebron there is always a reason,
    He is the driving force, working so hard, because He knows he is the king
    And need to stay healthy and has many games as he can win,

    I wish him the best stay focus and with your teams help just play at your best
    Dont be distracted by the media or the press
    You are the king you wear the crown….. go Miami as the season begins now
    And I try to watch every game somehow..

    • justsayin says:

      He’s overrated.
      King? I didn’t vote for him.
      Bible nickname, really???

      Way too conceited
      Self-love will be his downfall
      Testament over

      Yeah yeah, “Your haiku insults have no effect on me Kyle, I’m NBA champion.”
      Providing the “hate”nutrients LBJ bandwaggoners so desperately crave.

      • Cool Story says:

        Cool story bro.

      • Bigtom says:

        Oh well

      • LeggoHEAT says:

        Nothing wrong with self-love, you probably need it. Conceited? Please, he doesn’t go out there dissing his fans or cussing on his haters. King is a nickname, earned it too. Not close to “His Airness” but he’s basketball royalty, can’t deny it. 2 Olympic gold medals, 4 regular season MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 2 Rings, and still on his prime. Overrated? Please… :D

      • esc says:

        Jealousy, or bogotry? Pick one- you can’t go wrong…

      • Cacanute says:

        Since when do you vote to elect Kings? LBJ’s is a self-proclaimed monarchy over the league, for two years in a row, going on three.

      • manny says:

        overrated !!! come on after taking a bad Cleveland team to the finals. leading the heat to a second championship with wade playing only 4 good games in the entire playoffs there is no way anybody should dare to call James overrated. Miami knocked a very good OKC team at full strength and a Spurs steam that lost only two playoffs games prior to the series with Miami heat. James is the real deal and the top 5 best players in the NBA know that who are we to say he is overrated.

    • Vivek Gondalia says:

      If you have a channel called sun sports then you will be able to watch every game they play… im a lebron fan and that up there was well said

  39. Winston Wynne says:

    this is it guys! LBJ for another trip to finals! give us one more ring KING JAMES!