LeBron James (left) and Beats cofounder Dr. Dre. | Source: ESPN The Magazine
Citing sources familiar with the matter, ESPN claims James struck a deal in 2008 to promote Beats' headphones in exchange for a small interest in the then-fledgling company. While the exact details are unknown, James' share of the firm netted him over $30 million in cash and stock when Apple purchased Beats Electronics and Beats Music for $3 billion last month.
According to the publication, the Miami Heat cager was in the process of finalizing the details of the payout in his off-court time during the NBA Eastern Conference finals, the tail end of which coincided with Apple's Beats announcement. The approximately $30 million sum is thought to be the largest equity cash profit ever for a pro athlete.
In a statement last week, Beats said they plan on using James in future ads despite his ties with Apple rival Samsung, though Apple has yet to weigh in on the matter. The NBA star has been featured in a number of Samsung ad campaigns including a cameo in last year's "The Next Big Thing" Super Bowl TV spot.
Most recently, James showed up in Beats' World Cup ad, which featured Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos, Jr., better known as "Neymar Jr." As one of the first commercials to air after Apple's buyout, the spot showed the company's headphones attached exclusively to Apple devices, including the iPhone 5s.