He’s a king on the court — and at the bank.
On Tuesday, Chase and media company UNINTERRUPTED launched its “Kneading Dough” podcast series, which will feature previously unreleased audio from stars like Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn. The inaugural podcast featured an interview with LeBron James, parts of which had not previously been released on the company’s 2018 video series of the same name. And frankly, James could teach every American a thing or two about how they should manage money.
When asked if he thought about being rich as a kid, he recounts admiring nice cars and homes, but notes that these didn’t propel him to succeed. “I knew that money would allow me to access those things, but I never let money get in the way of the drive I had to get to the top.”
Research shows he may be spot on with that, as monetary rewards may demotivate people. Indeed, a meta-analysis of 128 studies revealed that “tangible rewards had a significant negative effect on intrinsic motivation” at least for interesting tasks (and one could assume basketball would fall into that category). And other studies show a similar trend.
He also has learned to say no to those closest to him. “One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to do in my career is to tell my mom no,” James recounts. As the only child in a single-parent household, James says “I felt like my mom never told me no” and because of that, at first, he felt like “I’m getting mom whatever she wants.” But he learned that that will “open the floodgates” and now to some requests, he simply says, “mom, I’m not doing that,” he reveals.
When Maverick Carter, James’ business partner, asks the basketball star why he never talks about money. James says that came from his upbringing at “the bottom” in a very poor part of Akron, Ohio, in which his uncles taught him about saving money. “If they gave me a dollar, they’d be like, nephew, just spend 35 cents of it and keep the other 65,” James says. “So I’m [now] always in my head about saving.”
He’s still is savvy with money, using this trick to curb impulse buying: When he’s deciding on buying something that he doesn’t need, he says that growing up at “the bottom always creeps into my head, and I end up just saying ‘I don’t need it’ … there’s nothing more I could give myself that would make me happier.”
Asked about his best business or financial decision, James didn’t even hesitate, “it’s signing with Nike and getting down the Beats [headphones].” The Nike deal could be worth an estimated $1 billion, and James was reportedly set for a $30 million profit on Beats, according to the Washington Post.
Of course, James has purchases he regrets — a house he bought in Las Vegas in 2005 being chief among them. “Who buys a house in Vegas,” he says, laughing. And he has things he splurges on, namely a car collection. “That’s the one thing that I love, I love cars.”
The 10 episode Kneading Dough video series will premiere in March.
This story was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with newly released excerpts from the interview.