BIG DEAL: Basketball star LeBron James during a visit to Anfield. Photo: Liverpool FC.
After what can only be described as the silliest of football seasons, silly season is once again upon us. For those in the dark, this is the time of year that transfer gossip goes into overdrive linking all and sundry to everybody and anybody.
Manchester United are apparently in pole position to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake is supposedly about to join Manchester City and by all accounts, Kai Havertz will be playing for Chelsea in the not so distant future.
Some of the above transfers may well happen, but the golden rule I’ve always followed is you know for sure a player has signed for your team when he’s paraded in front of the cameras wearing the club shirt. Until then, just take what you read with a very large pinch of salt.
But there has been one signing of sorts that has gone somewhat unreported over the past few days involving probably the biggest athlete on the planet.
LA Lakers basketball megastar LeBron James has signed for current Premier League champions Liverpool.
Now before you all jump down my throat and tell me I’ve lost my mind, you need to hold your horses.
Yes, I know James will not be playing for the Reds up front alongside Mane, Salah and Firmino and I know the two-metre tall superstar won’t be providing defensive cover for Virgil van Dijk, but the deal is equally, if not more important for Liverpool, off the pitch than and deal on it would be.
LeBron James isn’t just the face of the Nike sports brand, he virtually IS Mr Nike. The deal he has with them is reportedly a lifetime contract worth somewhere in the region of a billion dollars.
Many regard him as an even better entrepreneur than he is a basketballer. Rapper Jay-Z once famously said of him: “LeBron is not a businessman; he’s a business, man.”
And, unbeknownst to many, James is also a part-owner of Liverpool FC.
Nine years ago, he was invited by Fenway Sports Group to buy a minority stake in the club worth $6.5million, which has risen to a value of approximately $32 million.
James has been seen at a handful of Liverpool games, and sometimes he wears basketball shoes embroidered with a liver bird, the Liverpool mascot. He also is often spotted wearing a retro Liverpool FC tracksuit top and has regularly tweeted about his love of the club.
But now Liverpool are no longer in bed with sportswear manufacturers New Balance and have inked a deal with Nike, I think we will start to see LeBron’s involvement seriously ramped up, and that really is a massive win-win for Liverpool.
Over the weekend, Liverpool and Nike released images and video of the new kit, and it's little coincidence the colours are a perfect match to the new Nike LeBron 9 Low training shoe.
A three-way partnership between the biggest athlete on the planet, the biggest sportswear company on the planet, and the current Premier League champions is a mouth-watering prospect.
I’d expect to see more and more LeBron/Liverpool collaborations very, very soon. James’ next venture is in sports media, so don’t be surprised to see some familiar footballing faces from Anfield appearing on his shows.
Under their last sponsorship deal, it was estimated a Liverpool shirt was purchased somewhere in the world every 28 seconds.
Now Nike and LeBron are on board, the sky really is the limit. VNS