On Monday, Nike announced that they have reached a lifetime agreement with NBA superstar and perennial MVP candidate LeBron James. It is thought to be the first time that Nike has ever come to a lifetime agreement with a player in the company’s forty-four year history, though their relationship with Michael Jordan comes close. However, LeBron represents a transcendent talent and one that stands at the center of Nike’s brand.
To that end, the most interesting aspect of the deal is that LeBron’s previous contract with Nike was not set to end for another 4 or 5 seasons. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll still be considered one of the top two or three players in the game at that point. As a result, this new deal demonstrates a desire to continue working with the 30-year-old star for reasons beyond his on-the-court production. Nike seems to believe that he, like Jordan before him, can continue building a brand that is larger than just basketball.
While exact numbers have not yet been released, ESPN’s Darren Rovell, who first broke the story, said that it “easily surpasses the ten-year, $300 million deal Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant signed” with Nike last summer. However, given that LeBron’s signature shoe line was responsible for roughly $340 million in sales in 2014, the contract seems justified.
For his part, James seems to understand the gravity of Nike’s investment, telling reporters, “It meant a lot to me even when I signed my first deal just to be with Nike, and it means even more that they’ve given me this. It’s like I said, very humbling and grateful, and I’m going to continue to do my job and represent the brand the best way I can.”
Really, that’s all that Nike can ask. LeBron has relatively little control over whether or not Stephen Curry or the next big star surpasses him as the game’s best player. Many would argue that Curry already has. What he can control, at least to some degree, is his play on the court and his image off it. That’s what Nike is buying and what they need him to maintain as much as possible for the foreseeable future.
In the same way, there are many aspects of our lives that we cannot control. Fortunately, God isn’t nearly as concerned with those areas as he is with the things that we can influence. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul concluded his discussion on how the Christian should live in relationship to others by saying “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
That is not always an easy perspective for us to maintain, given the consistent outside pressures to conform to the patterns of this world instead of to Christ. However, if our focus remains on God and on those things to which he has called us, we can find his peace and joy in the knowledge that our inheritance is assured.
So where is your focus today? Is it on the things you can control or the things you can’t? Scripture clearly teaches where it should be, so pray and ask the Lord to help you understand whether you are working for God or for men. The peace and joy he longs to give are only found in one of those options. Choose wisely.