LeBron James with SpringHill co-founder Maverick Carter (George Pimentel/Getty Images)
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

SpringHill is LeBron James’ Springboard to NBA Team Ownership

The superstar’s production company is inching towards a valuation of $1 billion, and has no shortage of potential buyers.

Back in March after a blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, LeBron James re-stated his goal to own an NBA franchise one day.

“And it’ll be sooner than later,” he said.

This isn’t just a superstar player pumping himself up after a huge Los Angeles Lakers win, a game in which he had a 25-point, 12-rebound, 12-assist triple-double. In fact, his path to achieving this goal has never been more clear or achievable.

Last week, the 36-year-old became the first active NBA player to ever surpass $1 billion in career earnings thanks to $330 million from salary and $700 million from endorsements and investments. This is coming off the heels of his long-term pet project Space Jam: A New Legacy, earning nearly $100 million worldwide at the box office (and counting) in just two weeks.

Just days before the movie’s release, reports emerged that LeBron’s production company and entertainment firm SpringHill, co-owned with business partner Maverick Carter, was exploring a sale at a valuation of up to $750 million. Nike is reportedly one of the companies in early-stage talks about a possible acquisition.

If the four-time NBA champion and MVP is able to sell SpringHill for a figure approaching $1 billion and achieve a significant level of liquidity in the process, we could be witnessing King James taking a major step toward purchasing an NBA team.

Let’s imagine that LeBron was interested in buying, say, his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. With the caveat that there’s no indication whatsoever that the Cavs are for sale, Forbes recently valued the franchise at $1.56 billion, 22nd among the 30 NBA teams. If LeBron can rally a crew of fellow investors and hundreds of millions of his own fresh cash from a SpringHill sale and take the case to a current NBA governor, James ought to have no trouble gaining league approval to achieve his dream in purchasing a franchise.

The only question may be when. After all, he’s already gotten his feet wet in the big-time sports ownership game as an equity partner in global soccer juggernauts Liverpool FC.

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Even if SpringHill sells for a full $1 billion tomorrow, however, the party won’t start right away. LeBron probably won’t be able to buy into an NBA team at any level his playing career is over, as the league and the NBPA’s current collective bargaining agreement through 2024 prohibits active players from holding team ownership stakes.

But his current situation symbolizes exactly why we need to have a prompt conversation about changing the rules and opening up the equity floodgates.

James is the first example of someone with a non-zero chance to achieve majority ownership of a major sports franchise while still an active player. But until the rules drastically change — he’ll be 39 when that CBA expires — LeBron is highly likely to have to wait until retirement.

But as it stands, his path to buying into NBA ownership has never more conceivable.

And SpringHill is looking like the key to the whole thing.

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