Lebron James and The Evolution of the Business Athlete

“I’m not a businessman; I’ma business, man.” – JAY-Z

Nowadays, it’s become popular to tell young Black children to aim for something other than being a rapper or a ball player. And it is good advice. Making it as a professional athlete or an artist is incredibly hard and, according to the odds, damn-near impossible. 

For a long time, those were the predominant pathways to making it out impoverished situations for a large percentage of our youth. In sports, specifically, the seemingly merit-based system that diminished the importance of race and allows for the demonstration of skill and physical prowess to be the basis for advancement makes it extremely appealing for the Black community. It is difficult to deny how fast a person is, how high they jump, or how tall they are. 

Listen to the stories of NBA players today and you will hear how destitute they felt before they entered the league and how that all changed once they started cashing NBA checks. 

Case  in point: Lebron James. 

We won’t give his entire history here but if you’ve done any amount of research on him and/or his life, then you know just how humble his beginnings were. Think about that and think about who has become outside of basketball. He has built a school in his hometown, started a TV and movie production company, as well as a media platform for athletes to tell their stories. Every time we turn around he is changing the game, in some way. 

And we love him for it. 

Recently, Forbes has announced that Lebron James is officially a billionaire. 

For most of us this is unsurprising. But there is something to note here. It is a further reinforcement of what being a professional athlete means. The possibilities no longer stop with putting a ball in the basket, or catching a football. These skills are vehicles; they are means to an end. 

JAY-Z has a line in the song Diamonds Are Forever. He says, “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man.” 

Lebron embodies this idea. The idea that he is more than just a basketball superstar. He is more than just a businessman. Rather, anywhere he is, is a business opportunity. And since day one, he has been leveraging his brand and his image to show how impactful that can be. He has pushed the envelope and paved the way for other athletes to do the same.

And we should all be grateful.

So what does this mean for our community and future athletes?

Whether you play sports or not, Lebron is showing us that there are still walls to break through, there are still ceilings to shatter. They wanted Lebron to “shut up and dribble”. He nodded, smiled and now they are calling him a billionaire. 

Possibilities are endless.