LeBron James: 'My dream is to actually own a team'

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

LeBron James already locked up his immediate future this offseason, signing a three-year, $100 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Wednesday, he provided a glimpse of what his post-playing plans could look like.

"I feel like my brain, as far as the game of basketball, is unique," James said, appearing as a guest on the "Open Run" podcast, a show that recently partnered with the multimedia platform "Uninterrupted," a company which James co-founded.

"I would love to continue to give my knowledge to the game. I would love to be a part of a franchise -- if not at the top. ... My dream is to actually own a team. I don't need to [be] fully hands-on. If I'm fortunate enough to own a team, then I'll going to hire the best GM and president that I can. But I feel like I got a good eye for not only talent, because we all see a lot of talent, but the things that make the talent. The chemistry, what type of guy he is, his work ethic, his passion, the basketball I.Q. side of things. Because talent only goes so far."

Even with the price of NBA teams on the rise after ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion in 2014, owning a team is an achievable aspiration for James. Counting the extension he signed this summer, James will have earned more than $270 million in player salary in his career. He also inked a lifetime contract extension with Nike last year worth more than $1 billion, according to his business partner Maverick Carter. Also, his annual income from endorsements, Nike included, totaled north of $50 million, according to Forbes.

Michael Jordan is the only former NBA player that currently serves as the principal owner of a team. (Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets.) Last season James said he was "always kind of watching," Jordan's run as a businessman for inspiration but stopped short of outright declaring that he intended to own a team. "I mean, I've positioned myself for a long time for whatever I want to do, if I want it," he said at the time.

James referred to Jordan earlier this summer in a story reported by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, in which he told a group of campers what drives him as he enters into the 14th year of his storied career.

"My motivation," James said, "is this ghost I'm chasing. The ghost played in Chicago."

Jordan, with six championships, six Finals MVP awards, five regular-season MVPs and the fourth-most points in NBA history, is widely considered to be the best basketball player of all time.

James, with three championships, three Finals MVP awards, four regular-season MVPs and the 11th most points in history (and counting), also acknowledged his pursuit of Jordan on the podcast.

"I have to continue to stay focused on the job at hand for my guys. And for me to start thinking too much about what my legacy is, what this does for my legacy and things of that nature, it would be a disservice to my 14 guys who busted their ass for the last nine months to help us get to this point," James told co-hosts Jesse Williams and Stefan Marolachakis when asked what he thought when the Cavs were down 3-1 in the Finals before their dramatic comeback.

"But it does creep into the mind. I am a guy who is a perfectionist and wants to be the greatest of all time. So that creeps into my mind, but not where it oversteps what the main thing is."

In the nearly 90-minute podcast, James touched on a variety of topics, revealing that he was watching the "Eddie Murphy Raw" stand-up special in the middle of the night after Game 4 of the Finals when he sent a group text message to his teammates, readying them for an improbable comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to take the title.

As for the Warriors, without specifically mentioning Kevin Durant, James offered his opinion about star players coming together to join the same team. James once joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and now Durant has similarly joined his star power with that of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for Golden State.

"You look at Fortune 500 companies and you look at great CEOs, they don't go hire a CFO that's [considered] 50th on the chain," James said. "They go hire the No. 1 guy. They go hire the No. 1 guy. It's like they all go hire the best guys because, listen, they know those guys are going to help them be successful. It's different how it's portrayed in our sport, which is fine, because I love the competition."

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