In 2006, NBA star LeBron James launched a marketing company, LRMR Innovative Marketing & Branding, and tapped Maverick Carter, a former high school teammate who was then just 24, to run it. The business helps James sign up and work with corporate sponsors such as State Farm and McDonald's. Carter spoke with senior reporter Jason Del Rey about what it's like to manage the brand that is LeBron James.

When LRMR was founded, some observers suggested that LeBron shouldn't put a friend in charge. What was your take on that?

You know, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, they were friends, and they started their business together, and it wasn't a big deal. But obviously LeBron is a high-profile guy, and the nature of the sports business is that when a young athlete turns pro, he hires an agent who's been in the business forever, and if he does anything different than that, there will be an uproar.

Do you carry a chip on your shoulder as a result?

Not necessarily a chip, but the criticism was like fuel for my motivation. I'm a man, so I have a bit of an ego. I knew I could build a successful business and wanted to prove that.

What kind of pressure do you feel?

Just pressure from myself. It's the same thing LeBron will tell you about playing basketball: We put pressure on ourselves to perform, because we know we are capable.

What's it like to work with a close friend?

It's awesome. I've known LeBron for 20 years, so we know what we are capable of and what we are not capable of, and we both know we are going to work hard.

What's the toughest part of your job?

Time allocation and the balance of working with clients you have and going after new business.

And the best part?

I have the freedom to go after any idea I can dream up. And I have the best people in the world around me to help me make those ideas happen.