Maverick Carter and LeBron James often say they’re just two kids from Akron, but time has proven the longtime friends are so much more – including exceptions to the often-lethal combination of doing business with friends.
Not only has the duo been extremely close-knit friends for decades, they’ve also marked major milestones and made millions together. Their ability to be adept at mixing business with pleasure is a test that many other relationships have failed.
We’ve all seen the famous fallouts: Jay-Z and Damon Dash, Beyonce Knowles and LeToya Luckett and the list goes on. One author even wrote an article that listed 15 reasons why friends and family shouldn’t go into business together.
Thus far, Carter and James have shown they’re cut from a different cloth. According to Carter, he and James first met when James was 5-years-old and they eventually ended up being high school teammates.
“We were teammates for one year, but I met him before we played in high school. It was my eighth birthday party, but I remember it from all the way back then,” Carter told Andscape. “Yep. He was 5. My godmom actually, my mom’s best friend, and my mom were really close with his mom and his stepfather.”
Before James was even drafted, the two agreed Carter would be his man on the inside at whichever shoe company James signed with. so after James chose to sign with Nike, Carter went to work there.
Though the duo faced immense criticism when James first hired Carter to manage his empire, they’ve proven the naysayers wrong.
“I remember one reporter saying LeBron hiring his friend to run his business is like when he needs knee surgery, hiring his plumber,” Carter told Andscape in a 2018 interview.
James was advised to hire people who were more experienced than his friends to manage his affairs. (The repeat NBA champion has also been friends with agent, Rich Paul, and his chief of staff, Randy Mims, for years. The quartet has been affectionately dubbed “The Four Horsemen.”)
He refused and instead continued to build his empire with Carter and others in his intimate circle. Carter admits he initially had no idea what he was doing, but his friend’s faith in him motivated him to succeed, he said.
“His idea and theory of really truly empowering people is where I get that from, and truly embodying that feeling of giving someone a chance who you believe in and trust and you know they’re going to do the job at the level that you need it done. I get that from him and he did that for me,” Carter said, explaining how James’ trust in him impacted his work ethic on an episode of Uninterrupted.
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The friends have made chess moves together ever since – many that are now lauded by the entertainment, sports and business communities. In addition to James being one of the greatest athletes of all time, he and Carter have established an impressive business and media portfolio.
Dubbed by NPR as “the architect behind the scenes” of James’ burgeoning empire, Carter is now the CEO of James’ SpringHill Company – a multi-hyphenate company that works in marketing, branding, content creation, sports team ownership and more.
SpringHill recently reached a $725 million valuation and James was dubbed an official billionaire by Forbes.
The journey hasn’t been without its challenges, however.
Both James and Carter grew up in the hood and struggled financially. James was raised by a single mother who was just a teenager when she had him and Carter was raised by his social worker mother after his father went to prison for selling drugs.
His dad’s incarceration caused them to go from being “hood-rich” to having just enough with “no extra” funding, Carter said.
For James, he was still wrapping his mind around how far he’d come when he won the NBA Championship in 2013. “I’m LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here,” James said at the time.
Nearly a decade later, James and Carter are still dedicated to empowering and building their communities, the latter said. Their friendship has stood the test of time and business.
The next big goal is to own a NBA team in Las Vegas. James says as much in a preview of an upcoming episode of Uninterrupted.
Carter’s advice to those looking to follow his and James’ blueprint: “Don’t put all the emphasis on just making money. Put all the emphasis on building value that is a) sustainable and b) can become a platform for you.”
“Pick the lane that you care about … Wherever you work at or what you do becomes your platform; and whatever that main platform is, before you start quickly doing other things, you gotta make sure that thing is solid,” Carter added.
PHOTO: LeBron James, right, and Maverick Carter participate in a Q and A after the premiere of the STARZ original series “Survivor’s Remorse” on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for STARZ EntertainmentAP Images)