Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

It isn't easy being LeBron James.

Oh, what am I saying? I'm sure it's hugely entertaining.

When it comes to money, however, James had to learn from a very young age. There he was, straight out of high school, suddenly being offered millions overnight.

Now, though, he understands business. And one thing he wants out of it is to be part of projects that he can call his own.

In an illuminating interview with his business partner Maverick Carter -- as part of the "Kneading Dough" series via James' and Carter's Uninterrupted digital media company -- James explained why he'd walked away from a lucrative endorsement deal from McDonald's.

He realized, after a few years of earning perhaps $4 million a year, that it might be better to "bet on yourself." He wanted to start from the bottom and make something he considered his own.

Carter came to him and said: "Let's get rid of McDonald's, you won't make that money." Instead, he offered James a pizza.

Why did James go along with an idea that would, in the short term, cost him money?

"I believed in the actual product first," says James.

The product was Blaze Fast Fire'd Pizza. The first time James tried it was, of all place, at UC Irvine in California.

The Cavaliers star describes his eating experience as "phenomenal." How phenomenal? "I actually took a pie back to the hotel as well," he says.

NBA stars are big. They eat more than you do. (I hope.)

What James and Carter decided to do was to get themselves a regular supply of these pizzas by becoming Blaze franchisees.

There was huge potential, they decided, "if we could just put the time and effort into it."

The emotional pull, though, was even stronger than the financial pull. Not every businessperson thinks like that.

"More importantly, for me it was, like, oh wow, we get to actually build this," James says.

But what if it hadn't worked? "I could have only blamed myself," insists James. Well, he might try to blame all those who weren't enlightened enough to like his pizzas, perhaps.

Or he might try to blame J.R. Smith just for being J.R. Smith.

James wants to feel more satisfaction from his business, because he knows that he's likely to spend more of his life not playing basketball than playing it.

Last year, Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza was named the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US. Sales rose 83 percent.

McDonald's announced only yesterday that revenue was edging up. It hasn't, however, yet managed to reverse a four-year decline in customer visits.

It's easier for an NBA star of James's magnitude to take risks.

But if you believe his motivations, there's at least something to learn from those. Does anyone really feel proud about being corporate lifer anymore?

Doesn't everyone have the urge to say: "I started at the bottom and did this."? All you need now is guts and a good idea. Some money would help.

Of course, having a steady $33 million a year income helps a lot.

Published on: Apr 26, 2017