With the Cleveland Cavaliers playing the Orlando Magic in China, I decided it would be good to run our story on the marketing of LeBron James on CNBC today. I sat down with him last week to discuss his endorsement roster and other things, including his relationship with Warren Buffett.
Darren: How much more marketable are you now, thanks to the trip to the Finals last year?
LeBron: I don't play basketball to hope that I can get companies to be a part of what's going on with me. I don't do that. I think things are going to fall into place if they want to. But I don't go out and play basketball and say, "Hopefully, I can get an endorsement deal out of this. It's not what it's about."
Darren: You've been doing this for a while now, what does it take to be a good endorser?
LeBron: First of all, you have to perform well out on the court and you have to be liked by the people. I'm very authentic. I don't fake anything. I love being out, talking to people when I get the opportunity to and then out on the basketball court I like to produce. So you have to do it on the court first and then let everything take care of itself.
Darren: A lot has been made of your unique relationship with Warren Buffett. Do you have any shares of Berkshire Hathaway? Did he advise you on your purchase of the stake you took in Cannondale bicycles?
LeBron: I don't, but he owns shares of Coca-Cola, which I've obviously partnered with (for Powerade and Sprite). He basically told me to follow my gut if I decide to make an investment on anything I know and for the most part, your first decision is always going to be your best decision.
Darren: A lot of Hollywood types have told me that you're a natural for a movie a la Michael Jordan and "Space Jam," what's your thoughts on doing a movie?
LeBron: I haven't been really thinking about it. I'm just going to take the opportunities when they're given and seeing if its authentic to LeBron James. I'm not ready to give up my whole summer to do a movie right now.
Now let's talk about the Air Zoom LeBron V, which will come out on Nov. 15 for $140 ($10 less than last year's version). Out of all the LeBron's ever made this is my favorite shoe. Here's the simple reason why. There are enough design elements to make it different, but the drive to do something innovative doesn't get in the way of things.
The inner sleeve that Nike has been putting in the LeBron shoes really do help make it the most comfortable basketball shoe out there. I like the fact that the strap that goes across the top (the straps are call outs to the milk crates that used to serve as hoops when LeBron was growing up in Akron) is removable, which nicely changes the look of the shoe.
The only major problem I have with the shoe is the on the inside heel there's a backwards Nike swoosh. I'm not sure if it was for symmetry purposes, but it looks very weird. In fact, I can't believe that Nike's brand police allowed the logo to be messed with like that. The only time I've seen a backwards swoosh before was on a fake Nike that I bought in New York City as part of a counterfeit segment I was doing.
One more thing. I got a preview of LeBron's new apparel line for the fall. The people at Nike know that I'm the No. 1 critic of LeBron gear. It hasn't sold well because it just hasn't been good. This year that will change. The LeBron apparel is tremendous and I'm betting that it will finally sell well.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com