LeBron James Pulls Back on Hollywood Projects (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
With his high-profile move back to the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, LeBron James is realigning his Hollywood priorities. The NBA superstar has pulled back from several entertainment projects, including the animated web series The LeBrons (in its third season), the Starz comedy Survivor's Remorse (set to bow Oct. 4) and Kevin Hart's Ballers movie for Universal. "Basketball and turning Cleveland into a winner is first, second, third and fourth priority for LeBron," his manager and business partner Maverick Carter tells THR.
James, 29, announced July 11 that he was opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat on the same day Starz introduced Survivor's Remorse at the TCA summer press tour. James did not attend the network's session for the comedy, from Mike O'Malley, which stars Jesse T. Usher as an NBA phenom dealing with family and friends after he achieves stardom. In a setback for Starz, James is not expected to be as involved as originally planned in promoting the series, although he is expected to attend the show's LA premiere.
He also will put off Ballers until at least next summer, says Carter. That project, from Universal and Imagine Entertainment, first went into development in 2009 without Hart, who joined in late 2013. Hart will co-write the script about siblings: one an NBA star (James) and the other (Hart) living in his superstar brother's shadow. That's not to say James — who earlier this year signed with WME for all Hollywood endeavors — is divorcing himself completely from the industry. He filmed a small role in July in the Judd Apatow-directed Amy Schumer project Trainwreck, also from Universal and set to bow next summer.
But the exigencies of re-acclimating to the team he famously left to much hype in 2010 are such that James' off-season time is limited. In announcing his return to Cleveland, James noted that his "relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball." So there are the optics of spreading his focus to other endeavors at a time when he has said bringing a trophy back to Ohio is what matters most. Carter, whose friendship with James goes back 25 years to their hometown of Akron, instead will take the lead through the duo's Spring Hill Productions.
"Developing content and entertainment projects is a priority for LeBron, Maverick and the organization," says James' Los Angeles-based adviser Adam Mendelsohn. "As a business and creative enterprise, Spring Hill Productions will do more projects that are not specifically about LeBron."
James, says Carter, can see himself segueing full time into Hollywood — someday.
"He's a player, but he also approaches basketball from an entrepreneurial standpoint," says Carter. "Because as much as he loves playing — and he would probably play for free — he knows it's also a business. He's going to pick roles that fit him; he wants to work with people he admires. But he also understands it's a business."
Survivor's Remorse, about the rise of an NBA star, will debut Oct. 4 on Starz.
Aug. 28, 8:37 a.m. This story has been updated with additional information about James' involvement in the promotion of Starz's Survivor's Remorse.