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LeBron James on life after basketball

  • The four-time league Most Valuable Player opens up about the business deals that mean the most and the ones he walked away from.
  • "Bet on yourself," he says.
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Getty Images
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

LeBron James is experiencing enormous wealth. And, as with many professional athletes, it first came on very suddenly — and at the tender age of 18.

"Being a first-generational money maker in a household is a scary thing," James said.

Today James, now 32, is one of basketball's most celebrated athletes and also its highest paid. When the NBA superstar returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he signed a deal for three years and $100 million, earning $31 million for the 2016-17 season. He will make $33 million for 2017-18, the highest single-season salary in the league's history, according to published reports.

James, who has had his share of lucrative endorsement deals from McDonald's to Coca-Cola, says he has learned about creating partnerships with brands such as Blaze Pizza and Nike. Additionally, he has enjoyed doing something on his own — "That's a really cool thing," James said — even when it meant walking away from other multimillion-dollar opportunities.

"Bet on yourself," he said in a conversation with his business manager Maverick Carter in an episode of "Kneading Dough," a new series by JPMorgan Chase and digital media company Uninterrupted. (James and Carter launched Uninterrupted in 2014.)

The small forward said he has learned to increasingly take the long view when it comes to basketball and business.

"I know there will more time of my life spent off the floor than on the floor," he said. "I still have to live life beyond the hardwood."

Still, even now, old money habits die hard, James explained.

"If there's one thing I still do, I would never pull my money out in front of somebody," he said. "You would never know how much money I got in my pocket — that comes from me being from the bottom."

The four-time league Most Valuable Player shared the lessons he learned, how he picked his deals and what will come after basketball in the second episode of the "Kneading Dough" series. The first episode featured Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

For other young players, "plan out what you want your life to look like once the merry-go-round stops," advised Marc Minker, who has worked with professional athletes and is the lead managing director at CBIZ MHM, a New York-based national accounting and professional services firm.