James will bypass free agency — with Nike, at least: Cavaliers Insider

Brian Windhorst, The Plain Dealer

LeBron James has one major free agent decision nearly settled.

James hinted on Sunday that he was close to agreeing to a long-term
extension with Nike to continue to be one of their top pitchmen. James’
original seven-year contract that paid him in excess of $100 million
with bonuses is set to expire in a couple of months.

"I don’t plan on going anywhere, maybe I already have a agreement," James said perhaps not wanting to take away from a formal announcement. "I take care of my business on and off the court."

Last year, James signed an extension with Coca-Cola when a six-year deal he signed when he was 18 expired. Coke — which has used him to pitch Sprite, Powerade and now Vitamin Water — and Nike continue to be his longest-running business partners.

It isn’t clear just how much James’ new Nike deal may be worth. The numbers can always been inflated to assume certain incentives and royalties from sales. When James’ initially signed with Nike, at least $90 million was guaranteed including a $10 million signing bonus.

As part of that first contract, sources said, there was a potential $5 million per year bonus if James played in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles in the first few years of the deal. That clause expired, however, several years ago.

It has been a theory that endorsement money would be one reason James would consider leaving Cleveland when he becomes a free agent this summer. With the Nike extension plus deals with Coke, State Farm and McDonald’s, James will likely remain as the highest-earning current NBA player when it comes to endorsements.

The Nike Zoom LeBron VII, the most recent version of James’ signature shoe, has been successful and is being worn by numerous college players as well as an increasing number of NBA players.

http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/03/lebron_james_will_bypass_free.html

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