ESPN writers Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, in a story about the Heat's interest in Carmelo Anthony, happened to mention that James, who owns equity in Beats in return for his endorsement of the brand, would profit more than $30 million after the sale.
In a recent example, while James was leading the Heat to a victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, sources say the 29-year-old was finalizing what is believed to be the biggest equity cash payout for a professional athlete in history as part of Apple's recent $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics. Sources briefed on the situation say James realized a profit of more than $30 million in cash and stock in the Beats sale after he had struck a deal to get a small stake in the company at its inception in 2008 in exchange for promoting its high-end headphones.
James has been endorsing Beats headphones for the last four years, and increased the brand's profile by wearing them everywhere he went. According to ESPN, James was also involved in the initial development of the product, with Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine giving James an early prototype to test.
James was also instrumental in getting Beats to outfit the entire U.S. Olympic basketball team with Beats headphones, giving the brand even more visibility on an international stage.
The Miami Heat star is not the only sports star to benefit from taking an equity stake in return for an endorsement deal. New York Mets third baseman David Wright preferred a 0.5 percent stake in Vitamin Water and reportedly made $20 million when the company was sold. A 2010 deal with Under Armour saw Tom Brady receive an equity stake in the sporting company.