By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
December 17, 2014: In 2010, when LeBron James made "The Decision" to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat, his stock dropped among some segments of fans and media.
In 2014, when he made "The Decision II" to leave the Heat to rejoin the Cavaliers and return home to his Akron roots, his stock soared back up.
After his decision to move to South Florida, James' Q Score dropped 42%, according to The Q Score Company, and other surveys had him listed among the most disliked athletes in the U.S.
But when he spoke the words, "I'm coming home," they resonated well with fans and observers alike.
By July 2014, the NBA Store had sold out of LeBron Cavaliers jerseys, and a survey taken by The Harris Poll named him the "most popular athlete in America" — a position he had never held on this annual survey during his time in the league.
At no time, however, did he fall into disfavor with companies and potential marketing partners. James ranks among No. 1 among all athletes in the U.S., taking in an estimated $38 million annually in the U.S. and upward of $50 million including international deals from endorsements in 2014, according to industry analysts.
James, a four-time MVP who was the featured athlete in Turner Sports' NBA on TNT campaign to open the season, also topped the 2014 MVPindex ranking of the 100 "world's most powerful pro athletes in the U.S.," compiled by sports marketing and data firm Stout Partners and Horrow Sports Ventures in conjunction with Bloomberg Sports. The ranking is based 50% on on-field attributes and 50% on social media strength, where James has more than 17 million followers on Twitter and 21.6 million Facebook likes.
That was good news for LRMR Management, which handles James' marketing.
LRMR, which was formed and is operated by James and his longtime friends (Richard Paul, Maverick Carter and Randy Mims), also manages NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel, among others.
Among James' endorsements: Audemars Pigue, Beats by Dre, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Dunkin' Brands, Kia, McDonald's, Nike, Progressive Insurance, Samsung and Upper Deck. Sales of his signature Nike shoes reached $300 million in 2013, the most in that category among active players, according to industry analysts.
That does not include the $30 million-plus he profited from Apple's acquisition of Beats Electronics; in which he had an investment, according to industry analysts.
As part of his global brand, James also has a minority interest in Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, which came about as part of a deal in 2011 when Fenway Sports Group, which owns the club, became the sole global marketer of his rights.
James continues to extend his brand through entertainment. This year, he played a role as himself in the Judd Apatow-directed comedy Trainwreck (due out July 2015), and is currently executive producer for the Starz sitcom, Survivor's Remorse, which will have its second season in 2015.
James' return home also gave a major boost of public awareness for The LeBron James Family Foundation, which has a a long-term goal of working with kids and families to "lift the graduation rate of schools in the Akron area."
James' popularity does have its downside. Last month, a man in Memphis sought to make some money off of James' fame when he stole a truck that contained 7,500 pairs of the LeBron 12 Nike kicks, which go for $200 each. He sold about 700 pairs before he was busted by the Memphis Auto Cargo Task Force.
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