LeBron James passes Michael Jordan's NBA points tally, but has a long way to go on net worth

Key Points
  • LeBron James moves above Michael Jordan on the all-time points list but is a long way short of matching his fortune.
  • Both men have lifetime sponsorship deals with sportswear brand Nike.
  • James is set to star in Space Jam movie reboot, following on from Jordan’s turn in the 1996 original.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) moves to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) during the second half at Staples Center, March 6, 2019.
Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters

LeBron James passed basketball legend Michael Jordan to move into fourth place on the NBA career points-scoring list on Wednesday night.

His teammates congratulated him, a tribute video played, and at the next timeout James sat emotional and alone on the bench with his face covered by a towel.

"I don't know, man, a lot of the stuff I've done in my career, this ranks right at the top," the 34-year-old said after the game. "For a kid from Akron, Ohio, that needed inspiration, needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me."

James personal achievement of 31 points for the Lakers' on Wednesday wasn't enough to prevent a 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets, but was more than consoled by bettering Jordan's career points total of 32,292 points.

"(I) wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ," said James after the game.

"It's crazy, to be honest. It's beyond crazy."

According to Forbes at the end of 2018, James has a total net worth of $450 million, which is still some way short of Michael Jordan's total net value of almost $2 billion, although some estimates put both men's figure even higher.

CNBC takes a look at how the dollars stack up.

"Air Jordan" vs "King James"

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA.
Vince Bucci | AFP | Getty Images

In July 2018, James signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers — bringing his second stint at the Cleveland Cavaliers to an end.

During that last season with the Cav's, James would eventually come up short in the finals, but still earned $35 million in salary, with a further $52 million in endorsements.

Understandably in Jordan's era of the NBA, his salary was comparatively more modest and had career wages totalling $90 million. However, since retiring in 2003, he has earned another $1.4 billion (pre-tax) from corporate partners

Sports team investments

Anthony Devlin | AFP | Getty Images

Post-retirement has seen Jordan invest heavily in basketball and in 2010 he became the majority shareholder in NBA franchise the Charlotte Hornets for a grossed-up value of $175 million.

However, despite Charlotte only managing to reach the NBA playoffs once since rebranding back from Bobcats to Hornets in 2014, the value of Jordan's 90 per cent stake has rising to over $1 billion.

By contrast, James has looked to allocate his money outside of the sport he plays and has had a two per cent stake in English Premier League soccer team Liverpool since 2011. It's been estimated his initial $6.5 million investment is now worth around five times that amount.

Sportswear endorsements

Michael Jordan attends a press conference for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan Shoe during the 'Palais 23' interactive exhibition dedicated to Michael Jordan at Palais de Tokyo in Paris on June 12, 2015 in Paris, France.
Catherine Steenkeste | Getty Images

Michael Jordan has been signed with American sportswear brand Nike, since graduating from North Carolina in 1984, with the now iconic 'Air Jordan' shoe created shortly after. At the time the initial deal was worth just $2.5 million plus royalties.

However, such is the enormity of the brand; it has brought in over $3 billion in revenue for Nike since that time, with Jordan's lifetime partnership deal providing him a considerable yearly income.

James was already following in Jordan's footsteps back in 2003 when he first signed with the sportswear brand for $93 million over seven years. Nike has since seized the opportunity to keep him on its books long-term as well, signing another lifetime deal.

In a 2016 GQ interview James' business partner Maverick Carter hinted that Nike had agreed a lifetime deal with the player, worth more than $1 billion.

Big-screen appearances

LeBron James attends the 'Trainwreck' premiere at Alice Tully Hall on July 14, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew Toth | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Both men have tried their hands at acting, with varying amounts of success. James received positive reviews for playing a parody version of himself in the 2015 comedy "Trainwreck", starring Amy Schumer and has made several other cameo appearances.

Michael Jordan's cinematic career most famously included the 1996 animated film "Space Jam" where he starred alongside the Looney Tunes cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Jordan and James look set to have their performances compared again, after LeBron was announced as the lead actor and Executive Producer for the Space Jam reboot, scheduled for release in the summer of 2021.

James' Springhill Entertainment company has partnered with Looney Tunes studio Warner Bros to make the film.

NBA legacy

Michael Jordan #45 of the Chicago Bulls stands against Reggie Miller #31 of the Indiana Pacers on March 19, 1995.
Barry Gossage | Getty Images

James has three NBA titles to his name and has appeared in eight straight finals, with previous teams in Cleveland and Miami. However, he's still got some way to go to match Jordan's championship ring count of six, which he achieved during his two stints with the Chicago Bulls.

And if James is going to add to that total this season, he and his Lakers will need to get things going in the other direction in a hurry, given they are still some way off securing a playoff spot.