Why LeBron James Gave Up His Contract With McDonald’s and Lost $15 Million

LeBron James has spent his NBA career making millions off sponsorships. From Nike to Powerade, he’s one of the most successful spokespeople in history. Sometimes, James chooses to walk away from a lot of money offered by companies that can make his star shine brighter. However, in his departure from McDonald’s, there was a reason behind his decision to walk away from a lucrative deal. 

LeBron James’ endorsements

NBA player LeBron James
LeBron James of the Lakers eats on the bench | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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James has made headlines since he was 15 years old. As soon as he exited high school and became the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, things changed forever. He immediately followed the Michael Jordan path by signing with Nike as his official shoe sponsor, although his portfolio of deals has grown much bigger with every passing year since then. 

James earned an astounding $35.7 million from his NBA salary. This is more than many icons of past decades made throughout their whole careers. However, that is chump change next to his endorsement deals. Coca-Cola, Beats By Dre, 2K sports, and several other companies have partnerships with the basketball legend.

James has always been a different type of star. Yes, he takes the basketball side of his career seriously. On the flip side of that coin, he embraces his side career as a celebrity and businessman. Now, calling him a basketball player is underselling his impact. He’s shown players that the business side can be as important as any other aspect of the game.  When he walked away from $15 million in 2017, reports Forbes, he showed how this mindset can still be lucrative. 

LeBron James ditches McDonald’s

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Like Michael Jordan before him, one of James’ earliest partners was McDonald’s. The fast-food giant featured James in several promotions throughout his career. However, in 2017, James left the company with $15 million on the table. It was a movie that many questioned, although James let everyone know exactly why this was the case. 

According to James, the partnership could not coexist with his large-scale ownership of Blaze Pizza. James was one of the pizza chain’s earliest big-name investors, details Business Insider. Since latching onto the chain, James has purchased over 10% of it. He also owns 17 Blaze franchises throughout the company. The company may be worth as much as a billion dollars shortly. This was the reason he walked away, as he told Maverick Carter on his web series. James said:

“I believed in the actual product, first. I remember going to UC Irvine, the first-ever Blaze, and we tasted the product and the product was phenomenal … And you came to me with the proposition that we actually own our own and be franchisees of a couple cities in America. And the numbers that you were showing me, the numbers that we could make if we just put the time in effort into it, would be exceeding what McDonald’s would be giving me guaranteed over the next four years.”

Still, McDonald’s isn’t hurting for other celebrity sponsors. 

McDonald’s reaches for the stars

McDonald’s has always pulled its endorsements from several pools, reports Barron’s. Everyone from Tony Hawk to Kobe Bryant to JB Smoove has endorsed the chain throughout the years, and it’s ramped up its celebrity connections in recent months. After Travis Scott’s meal proved to be a wild success story, the company is now searching for more talent to endorse its products. 

James may have left the company three years ago, but his impact on the endorsement world could be linked to the Scott meal. Whatever the case may be, however, James is all in on Blaze Pizza. However, despite being in his 17th NBA season, James still has his day job to worry about before taking his business practices to yet another level.