According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, that’s all it would take to convince one of the NBA’s brightest stars to take his ball, go home, pack his bags, and catch a private jet to Europe to continue his professional career.
James, who’ll pull down roughly $13 million in 2007-08 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, will be a free agent following the ‘09-10 season. Broussard writes that several NBA teams are clearing salary cap space to make a run at LeBron, but none of them will come close to matching $50 million and will struggle to approach $20 million.
Which is why we probably shouldn’t rule out Europe as a potential destination.
The Russian team CSKA Moscow and the Greek team Olympiacos, which recently gave Josh Childress a contract approaching $30 million over three years, have already contacted James, according to the person close to him. The person added, however, that no monetary or contractual discussions have taken place.
While $50 million a year seems outlandish, it is within the realm of possibility, considering the reportedly $250 million contract David Beckham received two years ago to join Major League Soccer, the $33 million Michael Jordan was paid by the Chicago Bulls for the 1997-98 season, the strength of the euro in comparison to the dollar, and the fact that European clubs are not bound by a salary cap.
There is the whole issue of James leaving the NBA in his prime to cash in (I think this defines what it means to “sell out”), but as FANHOUSE’s Matt Watson points out, LeBron could make a cool $100 million in two years overseas and return to the NBA in the summer of 2012 at the ripe old age of 27.
It would certainly go a long way in helping him realize his dream of becoming a “billionaire and global icon.”