After 12 years together, Nike and LeBron James have decided to take their relationship to the next level. The company has signed the Cleveland Cavaliers star to what sources tell ESPN is its biggest-ever single-athlete deal and its first lifetime deal for any athlete. The "lifetime relationship" will deliver "significant value to our business, brand and shareholders," Nike said in a statement. "We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond." Sources tell Cleveland.com that the deal will be worth at least $60 million a year to the player, who already has his own brand within Nike.
"I'm very humble, man," James told ESPN after the deal was announced. "It's been an unbelievable time for myself and my family, and I'm just grateful that Nike and Phil Knight and everyone over there just believed in a skinny-old, skinny 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio, and I'm happy to be a part of such a great company. I'm Nike and swoosh for the rest of my life." James is nearly 31, and while he won't be playing basketball forever, Cleveland.com notes that the investment still looks wise: Michael Jordan hasn't played in the NBA for 12 years, but Nike's Jordan Brand sales surged to $2.6 billion last year. (Read more Nike stories.)