LeBron James sent shockwaves through the National Basketball Association July 1 when he revealed he was joining the Los Angeles Lakers. But for those who have closely followed the NBA superstar’s career trajectory, the move to Hollywood seemed inevitable.
Drafted straight out of high school by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, James somehow exceeded his already titanic expectations to become the best player of his generation—if not of all time. Several years ago, James started leveraging his global popularity into a burgeoning entertainment career, one that’s poised to elevate him to another kind of stardom now that he’ll be living in a town known worldwide for its film and television production.
In 2008, James co-founded SpringHill Entertainment, a production company that’s since developed a number of TV and documentary projects, including the Starz series Survivor’s Remorse. SpringHill is now slated to remake the 1990 hip hop comedy House Party, to be written by two writers on FX’s Emmy-winning series Atlanta. And rumors of a sequel to Space Jam—the 1996 cult classic that starred Michael Jordan as the live-action leader of a cartoon basketball team—have followed James and his company for years.
James added another business to his entertainment portfolio in 2015, when he launched Uninterrupted, a digital video platform that features content created by popular athletes. That same year, Warner Bros invested $16 million in Uninterrupted and formed a partnership with SpringHill, in which James’s company would create TV, film, and digital products with the Hollywood studio. The superstar capped off the year by appearing in Trainwreck, a film starring A-listers Amy Schumer and Bill Hader that earned the athlete rave reviews for his comedic timing and led many to wonder if he would launch a second career in acting.
As powerful as James is on the court, he is perhaps even more influential off of it. Unlike Jordan, to whom he’s often compared, James has not shied away from speaking out on political issues. James famously called US president Donald Trump a “bum” and led league-wide protests against the killings of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. The NBA superstar has displayed an uncommon ability to act as a galvanizing force in American sports, to the point where political pundits have speculated about him one day running for office.
For his part, James has made it abundantly clear that his immediate post-basketball career will be in Hollywood, and he’s exhibited the exceedingly rare combination of talent, popularity, and business savvy to actually succeed in the entertainment business—not unlike Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who leveraged his career as a professional wrestler to become one of the biggest stars in the world.
Still only 33, James still has plenty of basketball left to play. He’s now the unquestioned leader of Los Angeles’ biggest sports franchise, and a shoo-in for the NBA Hall of Fame. The question now is when he’ll get on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, too.