Michael Jordan reportedly wanted to sign with Adidas when entering the NBA, but the shoe company deemed him too short.
Did Adidas also blow it with LeBron James when he entered the league?
According to Sonny Vaccaro, who was an Adidas executive in 2003, the plan – which apparently reached LeBron before it was formally presented to him – was to offer a 10-year, $100 million contract.
Vaccaro, via The Ringer:
That number, I talked to [Adidas’s owners], looked them in the eye … and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ I never would have [offered $100 million] to LeBron James [if they hadn’t said yes]. I mean, what advantage was that, to lie? They OK’ed it. So they knew, $100 million. I didn’t spring it on them that day. They knew for nine months.
So now we come down to the presentation. We bring him and his whole team on. Private airplane. We’re going to get them [to] a Lakers playoff game. Imagine in Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and we lay out the plan. And the number [was] supposed to be $100 million. I sat down that day [with] Gloria James, [LeBron’s] lawyer, and … LeBron, and all these people. I saw the contract. It wasn’t $100 million. It was like $70 million, and they had incentives on it.
It wasn’t so much the number, $70 million or $100 million, because $70 million was a hell of a lot of money, right? But you have to understand what it was to me. The reason I was, and I still am respected, I believe, in that world, is [that] if I said something to you, you [would] believe me. If we had a deal, we had a deal. [Adidas] changed the number on me. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.
We went to a little corner of this mansion. Gloria, me, LeBron … and I apologized. I’ll never forget what they did. They put their arms around me and they said, “Sonny, we understand. We know what you did. We’re going to be fine.”
Here’s the rub: Vaccaro admits he isn’t certain LeBron would’ve taken the offer. Even without the leverage of a $100 million Adidas offer, LeBron still reportedly got more annually from Nike ($90 million over seven years).
Perhaps, LeBron would’ve valued the security of more overall money from Adidas. More likely, he would’ve leveraged an even more favorable offer from Nike.
Either way, something would’ve probably gone differently had Adidas followed through on its $100 million plan.