LeBron James isn't being paid to play for the U.S. at the World Championships in Japan. But if he has his way, there will be a payoff, indeed.
You see, according to the Akron Beacon-Journal, James has a goal to become the first billionaire athlete, and to reach that mark, he knows he must focus on international marketing.
So he is in Japan, doing exclusive press conferences for Chinese and Japanese media members on days Team USA is off and not available to the press. It's all part of a major international marketing push by James, with a huge assist from Nike.
Nike and the newly merged adidas-Reebok are making a huge push in Asia, particularly in China, where young athletes have fallen in love with Yao Ming and the NBA.
"I say all the time, and I tell my friends and teammates, that you have to go global,'' James told the Beacon-Journal. "In basketball and business.''
According to the paper, James wants to greatly increase his exposure in Asia by the Beijing Olympics in 2008. That is why it was never in doubt whether or not he would play for Team USA at the world championships. In addition, the Cavaliers are talking to the NBA about opening their season in China next year.
"It is only going to help my business,'' James said. "Once I knew the world games were going to be in Japan, I knew I was going to be on board.''
James is so serious, he is taking Mandarin lessons with the hope of being able to speak it in interviews by 2008.
For the record, James has some ground to make up if he wants to catch Tiger Woods in the race to $1 billion. According to Forbes, Woods makes $87 million a year, while James is just short of $23 million.
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