Wednesday, May 21
Updated: May 22, 12:59 PM ET
Sources: LeBron, Nike agree to seven-year deal
By Darren Rovell
LeBron James is more than a month away from signing with an NBA team, but Wednesday night, the 18-year old phenom -- projected to be the No. 1 pick in the June 26 draft -- agreed in principle to a seven-year deal with Nike, sources told ESPN.com.
Sources said the deal was worth more than $90 million, but less than the five-year, $100 million deal Tiger Woods signed with Nike in Sept. 2000. The deal also includes a $10 million signing bonus.
James' agent Aaron Goodwin and family publicist Alexandria Boone both declined to comment. The official announcement came Thursday.
"Nike is the right fit and has the right product for me at the right time,'' James said in a statement. "They are a good company that has committed to supporting me throughout my professional career, on and off the court.''
The battle for James -- which formally began when he declared for the draft on April 25 but actually had begun years before -- was thought to be only between adidas and Nike.
Nike, a $10 billion company with the largest market share in the athletic shoe business, was willing to spend plenty, but James' St. Vincent-St. Mary team had worn adidas, thanks to the work of adidas' director of basketball Sonny Vaccaro. Vaccaro also declined to comment on James' reaching an agreement with Nike.
But once James turned pro, Reebok executive Tom Shine -- who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night -- told ESPN.com that he kept quiet to respect James' amateur status. Over the past few days, Reebok emerged as the favorite, but in the end James went with the swoosh, less than 24 hours before the league lottery.
Rick Burton, executive director of the Warsaw School of Sports Marketing at the University of Oregon, said watching how Nike shareholders respond to the news on Thursday should be interesting.
"When Tiger Woods signed his first deal with Nike worth a reported $40 million, one analyst said that Nike overpaid and downgraded the stock," Burton said. "A couple weeks later, when Tiger won the Masters, it was concluded that they had bought the right guy. We'll obviously have to wait until October to see the first glimpse of LeBron."
With Nike officials confirming on Tuesday that they had signed Carmelo Anthony, the company could have locked up the first two picks of the NBA Draft, which takes place on June 26. The company also is expected to announce a deal soon with Kobe Bryant, once a penalty clause expires in Bryant's existing deal with adidas in June.
Wednesday was a big business day for James, as he also signed an exclusive trading card and memorabilia deal with Upper Deck. Goodwin declined to give specifics, but one source with knowledge of the deal told ESPN.com it was a five-year contract worth at least $1 million per year plus a $1 million signing bonus.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.