LeBron James Slams McDonald's—Forgetting It Pays Him $4 Million a Year

The two-time NBA champ says he cut Big Macs from his diet more than six years ago when he decided to put more emphasis on his health and training.

(Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

Feb 25, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

When he was 18, LeBron James wasn’t busy studying for the SAT. He wasn’t searching Auto Trader for an affordable used car, and he certainly wasn’t bussing tables at a diner to save up for prom tickets.

(Video: Vine)

He was a little preoccupied with picking out the perfect draft day ensemble and signing a $100 million endorsement deal with Nike.

Since then, he’s made agreements with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, State Farm, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins, Ciroc Vodka, Beats by Dre, Samsung, Kia—the list goes on, and it pays him $53 million every year.

King James obviously doesn’t use all the products he appears with on-screen—unless his Kia Optima is cleverly disguised as a Ferrari F430 Spyder—but most of the time he has the courtesy and business sense to refrain from publicly admitting it.

In a media session following Tuesday's practice, with at least eight microphones and tape recorders shoved in his face, James let it slip that he stopped eating McDonald’s—which pays him $4 million annually—more than six years ago.

A reporter asked the 30-year-old superstar, “How old were you when you started really caring about your body and really working out?”

“Ummm, 24,” James answered after some thought. “I ate McDonald’s my first couple years in the NBA; I didn’t stretch; it didn’t matter. I was 18 and could do whatever I wanted to.”

His expression changes after realizing the potential million-dollar McFaux Pas. But James made light of the situation after a reporter asked him when he last ate McDonald’s.

“Every day,” James said, laughing with each word. “Every day. Every day. Every day. I had it this morning. Egg-and-sausage McMuffin. All day.” He then joked that he washes it all down with a Sprite, another one of his endorsements.

Lebron James in the "Lebron's Back" McDonald's commercial in Fall 2014. (Photo: Youtube)

Ever since Mean Joe Greene downed a Coke and tossed his jersey to that bright-eyed Steeler fan in 1979, there’s been a firestorm of athlete-endorsed junk food. Serena Williams slings Oreos on-screen, Tony Stewart has raced in both McDonald’s and Burger King cars, and Peyton Manning bought 21 Papa John’s franchises in the greater Denver area to double down on his endorsement deal.

Perhaps more troubling then the billions of dollars exchanging hands for promoting processed, sugar-sweetened pseudo-foods are the mixed messages being absorbed by millions of young, impressionable fans. While James is dunking chicken nuggets into high-fructose corn syrup–y barbecue sauce in McDonald’s commercials, he’s also advocating for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, which encourages kids to eat healthy and live an active lifestyle.