Give it away. If I may offer one piece of advice to LeBron
James--who in the span of 24 hours last week sold his soles to
Nike for $90 million, had $1 million pressed into his palm by
Upper Deck and watched, on prime-time television, as the
Cleveland Cavaliers wept with gratitude for winning the privilege
of enriching him further--it's this: Give your money away.
In less than a week, LeBron, you will graduate from high school
with an eight-figure income and a two-figure life span. That
life, almost certainly, will be one swift blur--of Swiss banks
and Tyra Banks, walk-in humidors and lobster thermidors, English
valets and Alpine chalets.
Make no mistake, however. You could live the same life on
one-tenth of your income and still ensure that your unborn
offspring are never bereft of the Bentleys that are their
birthright. How much money can one man spend? Wine-and-gold is
the Cavaliers' new color scheme. It should not describe, on a
typical night, the entire contents of your mouth. Which is why I
suggest you begin giving it away now.
May I remind you, King James, what the King James version of the
Bible says? "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;
but the greatest of these is charity." And so the choice is
yours. You may live by the principles of faith, hope and charity,
or stuff singles in the G-strings of Faith, Hope and Charity.
Which will it be?
Excuse this unsolicited advice. But who would know better what's
right for you, an 18-year-old African-American with his own shoe,
than me, a 36-year-old white sportswriter with a horseshoe (as my
hairstyle is sometimes called), O Chosen One?
Settle, incidentally, on one nickname. Are you deity or royalty,
the Chosen One or King James? We will pay you homage or pay you
taxes, but asking for both is a bit...over the top. So decide:
Is that Nike headband, now sutured to your noggin, a terry-cloth
halo or a terry-cloth crown?
Of course, the world will worship you as a benevolent god should
you become a kind of roundball Robin Hood, robbing corporate
America of easy endorsement dollars and giving your take to the
less fortunate. (Which is everybody.) So cease putting your
nickname on your mouthguard, which could be better festooned with
lucrative logos. Why not market Whoppers on your choppers? Sell
cheese when you say cheese. Never let a smile be your umbrella
when a smile can move umbrellas. (We'll talk to the Totes people,
then take their check to a soup kitchen. Or Hell's Kitchen. Or
the Kitchener, Ont., public library.)
Mother Teresa With Mad Hops. That's what people will call you,
Everyone, I realize, is now giving you advice. My advice: Ignore
them. Your true friends will love you whether you have $9 million
or $90 million, rock Reeboks or rock Nikes, roll a Mercedes or
roll a Maserati. They will call you whenever you need a
sympathetic ear, for as long as you shall leave them tickets.
Indeed, that's why it's called Will Call.
Mercifully, you will never go hungry, even if you should squander
$90 million. For you also get, on top of your NBA salary, $150 in
cash, every day, for the duration of each road trip, more than
enough for a room-service Reuben at the Four Seasons. It's called
"walking-around money," and may I suggest you walk around with
it: Stuff the bills into a confetti cannon and belch them onto
city streets. Festively fling--from a shopping bag--$100 bills
wherever crowds gather, as if you're the unholy offspring of
Rockefeller (a fellow Clevelander) and Rip Taylor.
On Draft Day, June 26, wear a five-button suit made of paper
money. Let technicians from the TNT crew peel 50s from your pants
as you pass on your way to the podium. The King James Bible says
it's easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a
rich man to gate-crash heaven. So start molting money today. Wilt
Chamberlain was the Big Dipper. You should go down as the Big
Tipper. God and agents get 10%, but give a good waitress 20. You
can't take it with you, no matter the size of your Hummer.
Never decline a charitable request. Nonprofits need your money,
sure. But so do the nonsheltered (those panhandling outside Gund
Arena) or the nonemployed (those seeking a position as your
personal chef's personal assistant). Life's too short--and your
bank statement too long--to question the motives of everyone who
begs you for a Benjamin. You say money doesn't grow on trees? Au
contraire, mon frere. Money's made of paper. Paper grows on
Easy for me to say, I know. But I sincerely believe you'll be
well-served by this advice. Spurs center David Robinson is
beloved for giving $9 million to build a school in San Antonio.
Nine million dollars, Bron Bron, is just part of one year's
ancillary income. You can do so much more.
You can, above all, trust people. I am here to help you. I have
no hidden agenda. I ask only this: That you circle the first
letter of every paragraph in this column, see what those letters
spell, then reciprocate my kindness in whatever way you see fit.
B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER
LeBron, you may live by the principles of faith, hope and
charity, or stuff singles in the G-strings of Faith, Hope and