Nike Earns $3 Million Every 5 Hours from $1.7 Billion Worth Michael Jordan, But Couldn’t Replicate It for Billionaire LeBron James

Published 08/23/2022, 10:00 AM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the GOATs of the NBA. People often debate between the two and this is no secret. Everyone knows this, and everyone has read this. Both the legends have their own brands affiliated with Nike. MJ has the Air Jordans, whereas LeBron’s collection is simply called the LeBron James Shoes. Both MJ and LeBron have had the same major brand represent them all their career, and that is Nike. However, the surprising fact still remains the massive difference in success between the two.

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When Nike signed the deal with Jordan, they aimed to gain $3 million in the next 4 years. Over 37 years later, Nike earns $3 million every 5 hours from the sales of Air Jordans. 

Michael Jordan vs LeBron James – A Breakdown of Nike Earnings

Nike and Jordan have been a massively successful partnership. Where Nike helped MJ earn more than a billion dollars over the years, the Jordan brand has also helped Nike to reach more than $32 billion in net worth. Michael Jordan has a net worth of over $1.7 billion in 2022.

As of now, Nike annually earns $2.6-3 billion in sales of the Jordan brand alone. Out of the total earnings, according to the deal, MJ earns $130-150 million per year. This amounts up to 5% of the total sales, the company generates from Air Jordan.

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On the other hand, Nike also signed with the next big thing in the NBA right after MJ retired. They certainly went after the right guy to carry the legacy around but did not see the same results. Nike signed with LeBron James. Almost 2 decades later, the deal is worth more than a billion dollars, but it is still nowhere near the Jordan brand.

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The LeBron brand helps Nike earn approximately just 11% of what Nike makes from the Air Jordans. While Nike earns $3 million every 5 hours from MJ sales, they only earn about $347,222 every 5 hours from LeBron James Shoes. In comparison between total sales, Nike earns over $600 million every year in sales of the brand.

LeBron earns $30 million per year from that. This is also 5% of the annual sales, same as MJ. However, the difference in amount, $130-150 million to just $30 million, is a massive one. Here, “just” is the keyword only for the billionaires Michael Jordan and LeBron James!

The difference in original deals, Nike made with 2 GOATs

Nike signed with MJ in his rookie year, 1984. The deal was worth just $500,000 per year at the time. They were determined to chase after MJ even though he was not that big a star at the time. There were a lot of complications in the deal, including the designer of the project backing out and presenting the designs to Jordan himself. 

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That was when Nike especially visited MJ and showed him the vision of having his own brand. Years later Air Jordan is one of the most profiting and most loved athlete brands in the world. 

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Just like MJ, Nike signed with LeBron in his rookie year, that was 2003. LeBron’s deal was worth $90 million over 7 years in 2003. Now the lifetime deal is worth more than $1 billion. LeBron also had a decision on his hands when Nike approached him simply because of the pressure of his reputation as a rookie and the success everybody expected of him. 

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Safe to say LeBron delivered, and so did Nike. Today LeBron has earned almost 40% of his net worth from his NBA contract. But a large part of the remaining earnings include massive Nike sales. It would be perfect to say that in this comparison between the deals with MJ and LeBron, Nike won big time!

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Written by:

Chaitanya Sharma

587Articles

One take at a time

Chaitanya is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He completed his engineering from SRM University. Having determined an interest in football and basketball, he was inclined towards having a job in the sports industry.
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Edited by:

Pritam Priyedarshi

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