When life gives you a $10 million opportunity, it's sometimes best to say "no thanks." That doesn't apply to everybody, but for LeBron James, it was one of the smartest moves.
James, who grew up in the projects of Akron, Ohio, relayed his story this week on "Kneading Dough," a web series on James's media network, Uninterrupted. The Cleveland Cavaliers player was just 18 when former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman slid him a $10 million check in 2003. The agreement was simple: to reject any future meetings with Nike or Adidas. Taking a tip from his uncle to "never put all of your eggs in one basket," James decided to wait for other options instead.
"I started thinking, like, 'If this guy... if he's willing to give me a $10 million check right now, what is it to say if Nike or Adidas isn't willing to give me $20 or $30 [million] upfront,'" James says on the episode. "Or, to say if maybe the upfront money isn't the biggest thing. Maybe lets start thinking about the backend."
That business savvy paid off. James's first deal with Nike was for a reported $90 million, before his lifetime deal with the company in 2015. Today, he's got a net worth of $275, by Forbes's estimates.
Playing the long game has worked for a handful of star athletes and tech entrepreneurs. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel turned down a $3 billion cash deal acquisition offer from Facebook in 2013. The company's stock started trading in early March, and has set a precedent for many of Facebook's new innovations.
In 2015, Soo, Dawoon, and Arum Kang, the sister co-founders behind dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, turned down Mark Cuban's offer to buy their company for $30 million on Shark Tank. The sisters believed their company was worth more, and after the episode aired, its user base doubled and the company raised $7.8 million in external funding.