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LeBron James is the first NBA player to become a billionaire while still playing

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LeBron James once said becoming a billionaire is his biggest milestone. Today, he's officially there.

According to Sportico, James became the first athlete in a U.S. team sport to hit $1 billion in earnings while still playing. He also became the first NBA player to get to that threshold while still playing. Michael Jordan, the only other NBA billionaire, crossed that mark long after he retired.

LeBron has earned roughly $340 million in playing salary. This means that most of his earnings came from his off-court endeavors --merchandise, endorsements, licensing, and his media business. Nike remains James' most lucrative source of income off the court, projecting to be worth north of $1 billion over the remainder of his life.

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Thus the 36-year-old Lakers superstar joined Floyd Mayweather, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi as the only active athletes to become billionaires. However, it won't be long until another one of his NBA peers joins this exclusive list.

Durant, 32, is the most likely to reach $1 billion among active players. He is still owed $84 million from the Brooklyn Nets over the next two seasons and roughly $85 million from Nike through 2024, when his 10-year Swoosh deal expires. KD has largely eschewed new endorsements in recent years and focused on his investment vehicle, Thirty-Five Ventures, which has made more than 75 investments and has a couple of huge wins with Coinbase and Postmates. Elite athletes have access to opportunities typically reserved for billionaires, venture capitalists and Wall Street insiders.

Kurt Badenhausen, Sportico

18 years into his NBA career, LeBron James continues to build his basketball empire, doing something none of his predecessors were able to do. And whether you hate him or love him, that's something to admire. So many athletes don't know how to handle their fortune. But James is the one setting standards in that department.

What is his end goal; it's hard to say. He's said it himself he would love to one day own an NBA organization. Judging by his latest milestone, James is on the right track to having the financial ability to do so. And he's showing no signs of slowing down.

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