By Charlie Hackett
Air Jordan or The King? Although hundreds of millions debate on whether or not LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan within the confines of a 94 by 50-foot wood floor, most people often overlook the competition between the two in respect to their cultural and economic impact.
Now I know it may seem like Jordan is far ahead of LeBron in these aspects if you make this argument based on the present. But keep in mind MJ is 22 years older and therefor has had more time to accumulate money and build up his Jordan Brand empire, while LeBron is still playing in the latter part of his prime. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to solve the debate of MJ vs. LeBron on the court by facing a 55-year-old Jordan against a 33-year-old James.
During MJ’s reign of supremacy in the NBA, he was a major trend setter who set a path for future basketball stars on how to make money off the court as well as on the court. His Airness was the first to have his own signature shoe, the Air Jordan I, which was released in his ‘rookie of the year’ season. Jordan was quickly making a big impact in the league, so Nike made another shoe for him… then another… then another. Today we have 32 different models of the Air Jordan, each one different from the next, with countless different colorways to choose from. These shoes have stood the testament of time, providing “clout” and style points to anyone who finds themselves lacing up a pair of fresh retro Air Jordans.
However, MJ’s partnership with Nike wasn’t the only big time moneymaker off the court that he was involved in. When MJ began taking the league by storm; winning championships, MVPs, Finals MVPs, and pretty much every award you can get in the NBA- he became the face of a relatively new sports drink at the time, Gatorade, and helped boost the company’s profits almost exponentially. Today, Gatorade sits at #86 in Forbes’ Most Valuable Brands in the world and was worth $4.8 billion in 2012, yet the most recognizable and memorable ad campaign for Gatorade remains to be the “Be Like Mike” campaign, which released in 1992.
Jordan has yet to fully satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit, as he has become the first former player to be majority owner of a franchise when he bought two-thirds share of the Charlotte Bobcats, which has now doubled in value since it was sold to him in 2010.
I’m going to clear the smoke right here, right now. LeBron James is the most talented player to touch a basketball. Period. On paper and statistically, LeBron bests MJ in almost every aspect of the game. So why is it that most say MJ is still on top? Sure, people will say ‘Count the rings!’ or ‘six for six in the finals!’. Yeah, well the all-star duo of Jordan and Pippen never had the luxury of facing off against the all-star quartet of Curry, Thompson, Durant, and Green, so I count that argument as invalid. The truth of the matter is, Jordan has a coldness, a disdain, towards the players sitting on the opposing bench that sets him apart from the rest. MJ didn’t want to just beat you on the court, he wanted to end you. This extreme competitiveness carried its way outside the court, and now many have come to the conclusion that Michael Jordan is just NOT a nice guy. LeBron on the other hand, even though he strives to beat his opponents just as much, if not more than any other current player, he doesn’t have Jordan’s cut-throat attitude and heartlessness, and is therefore more relatable to the rest of the world.
LeBron has recently gotten involved in current political issues and expressed his opinion on matters like the president Trump and racial and gender equality, and it doesn’t matter whether his only job is to “Shut up and dribble,” because when someone as popular and influential as LeBron speaks out, people listen. LeBron has become a leader of the equality movement through his actions, and most people (sorry, FOX NEWS lady), love him for it.
Whether or not LeBron will ever catch Jordan financially is hard to determine. James has a massive contract with Nike, where he earns as much as $30 million annually just for being LeBron James. Other major endorsements of his include companies such as Coca-Cola, Intel, Kia Motors, Beats by Dre, and Verizon. James also owns a production company called Springhill Entertainment and holds a 10% stake in fast-growing Blaze Pizza, a restaurant that serves made-to-order pizzas. LeBron looks to vastly increase his portfolio once he retires, and has plans to buy an NBA team, which could propel him past Jordan, however distant in the future.
Michael Jordan Current Net Worth: $1.65 billion
LeBron James Current Net Worth: $400 million