Few sportsmen have left the kind of legacy that LeBron James has. James has a net worth of over $1 billion and is a household name throughout the world. After 17 years of working together, James and Coca-Cola parted ways in November 2021 when he inked a multi-year agreement with PepsiCo. Since 2003, LeBron has been a Coca-Cola endorser, and despite several challenges, their partnership has remained strong. LeBron’s refusal to take part in the 2004 NBA Slam Dunk contest is one example.
The former Cleveland Cavaliers player allegedly had a bad day at the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest, as reported by Brian Windhorst in LeBron James Inc. Despite intense pressure from beverage conglomerates across the world, LeBron, who was making $12 million per year on his contract with Coca-Cola, declined to take part. James never entered the slam dunk contest once in his whole NBA career.
Brian Windhorst reveals the reason why LeBron James did not participate in the Slam Dunk contest
LeBron James’ ability to dunk over rivals is only one of his many talents. James, when playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat, was widely regarded as one of the finest dunkers in the NBA.
Therefore, his stance against the dunk contest has always been questioned. When the Slam Dunk contest was first introduced in 2004, Sprite intended to have LeBron James as a participant.
James’s denial posed a threat to the Coca-Cola contract. The now 38-year-old had stated that he didn’t want to compete because he thought of himself as a “in-game dunker,” and therefore wouldn’t fare well in a competition.
However, in his book, Brian Windhorst posits that his experience in the McDonald’s All-American Game may have been a contributing factor. Cleveland was the scene of the action:
Shannon Brown, a superb leaper and future colleague of LeBron’s in Cleveland, likely had him beat. But since the competition took place in his hometown of Cleveland, he appeared to have the upper hand. If it had happened in Los Angeles, there wouldn’t have been as much of a tailwind or as many people counting on it to succeed.
Sprite and Goodwin put a lot of pressure on LeBron to change his mind, and they pitched him a clever campaign plan in which supporters from all around the country would sign a petition pleading with him to participate. However, LeBron declined every year following his first season. However, the bond with Coke ultimately won out.
LeBron James eventually ended the deal with Coca Cola
James ended up signing with PepsiCo in 2021. Forbes reported he earned around $14 million a year. It was one of the most lucrative deals in sports history.
2003: LeBron James signs with Coca-Cola before playing a single game in the NBA.— Boardroom (@boardroom) March 17, 2021
2021: After nearly 18 years, LeBron joins PepsiCo as the face of its new line — Mtn Dew Rise Energy.
The partnership will also highlight their shared values and commitment to uplifting communities. pic.twitter.com/fJu057OXrE
James later expressed remorse for passing up the opportunity to play in the All-Star game. LeBron reportedly told SB Nation that he wanted to participate in the dunk contest and was disappointed in himself after witnessing it.
It’s been a few years since I promised to do it but didn’t follow through. After missing the opportunity, I felt disappointed with myself while watching the dunk contest. Now that I’ve reached this age, I’ve pretty much made it. There’s no way you’ll be seeing me anytime soon. It’s finished.