By Barry Janoff
December 7, 2015: Having already lost the services of James Hardy to adidas, watched as it was outbid by Under Armour for the endorsement support of Stephen Curry and barely averted the departure of Kevin Durant, Nike is making sure that, as Taylor Swift would sing, it never, ever, ever sees LeBron James walk out their door.
As part of his alliance with Nike, which dates back to 2003, LeBron James has gotten signature lines, traveled worldwide as a spokesperson and earlier this month got his own typeface.
Now, he has his own lifetime contract, which analysts are saying is the largest in company — and likely among the largest — in sports footwear endorsement history.
Although terms of the deal were not released, industry analysts said it would top the ten-year, $300 million deal Nike signed with Durant in 2014 at time when Under Armour was moving in to obtain him John Hancock on a contract.
"It's been an unbelievable time for myself and my family," James said to the media after the Nike deal had been unveiled on Monday. "I'm just grateful that Nike and Phil Knight, and everyone over (at Nike) believed in a skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio. I'm happy to be part of a great company."
James' first deal with Nike — seven years, $90 million — was signed just prior to his being drafted No. 1 overall (out of Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School) by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He re-signed in 2010 at some $30 million annually, according to industry analysts.
"We have agreed to a lifetime relationship with LeBron that provides significant value to our business, brand and shareholders," Nike said in a statement.
Nike has released 13 signature shoes with James over the course of their alliance, the most recent, the XIII, this month.
Nike sold $340 million worth of James shoes in 2014, and should top $400 million in 2015, according to analysts.
Nike's main cash cow, the Michael Jordan-led Jordan Brand, hit $2.6 billion in footwear sales in 2014, with apparel and international sales adding another $1 billion.
Similar to its alliance with Jordan, Nike said it would expand and enhance "Team James" to build the product line and brand worldwide. Sales of Jordan items continue to climb depute the fact that he last played in the NBA in 2003, although he remains high-profile via his position as majority owner for the Charlotte Hornets.
"It's a partnership between us (not) an endorsement deal," said James. "It's a partnership where we always come together and figure out the best way possible for both brands to be successful."
"It's a partnership where we always come together and figure out the best way possible for both brands to be successful."
In September, Stephen Curry signed a seven-year extension to his pact with Under Armour (through 2024), in which he also gets an equity stake in the Baltimore-based sports footwear and apparel company.
Curry had been with Nike when his deal expired in 2013 and he signed with Under Armour four four years at $4 million annually, per analysts.
This year, James Harden left Nike for adidas and a 13-year contract estimated at upward of $200 million.
"We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond," Nike said.
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