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King James

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 LeBron has taken his luxury lifestyle to the next level with a collaboration with high-end watchmaker Audemars Piguet.

He’s considered to be the greatest player in the world. He’s compared to legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. He’s not just a basketball player – he’s an international icon.

LeBron James led Miami to the NBA championships in his first season with the Heat.  While the Heat lost a heart-wrencher 105-95 to the Mavericks in Game 6, it was a hard-fought battle. In the last game of the series, LeBron racked up 21 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. But that wasn’t enough to deter the Mavs, who seized the NBA title, defeating perennial powerhouse Miami Heat, who were widely favored to take the series.

LeBron is only 26 – and currently has as many NBA titles as Michael Jordan did at that age. This is only the first act of the LeBron story.

He was the youngest-ever Rookie of the Year, was an All-NBA and NBA All-Star every season since 2005, is one of only ten NBA players named MVP in back-to-back seasons and only the 12th player to be named MVP more than once. He’s appeared on the covers of Time, GQ, Vogue and Fortune.

He has transcended the realm of basketball – he now resides somewhere in between international sports icon and pop culture superstar. Instead of admiring the basketball superstars that came before him – Chamberlain, Magic, Jordan, Bird – LeBron can now count himself among their ranks.

It seems LeBron was destined for greatness. He was born in Akron, Ohio to 16-year old Gloria James; his father was Anthony McClelland. From an early age, it was apparent that LeBron dominated on the court. He was praised for his size, his power, his passing, his sheer skill. In the world of basketball, LeBron was an early standout.

When he was just 18, he was the number one pick in the 2003 NBA draft and went on to play for his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. For seven seasons he dominated for the Cavs, simultaneously racking up some impressive stats – he scored 35 or more points in nine consecutive games, became the youngest player to score 40 points in a single game, to record a trip-double and to reach 10,000 points in his career. The list is long and impressive.

After becoming a free agent in July 2010, LeBron shopped around. The New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Clippers vied for the superstar’s attention.

But Miami was the chosen city. LeBron joined longtime friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat. Although the Big Three, as they were called, didn’t bring a title to Miami this year, it’s only a matter of time before the powerhouse trifecta does just that.

To go along with his celebrity status, LeBron leads a life of luxury. He lives in a palatial $9 million estate overlooking the Biscayne Bay in the Miami suburb Coconut Grove. Longtime love Savannah Brinson and their two boys, LeBron Jr., 6, and Bryce Maximus, 4, split time between Miami and Ohio.

LeBron has taken his luxury lifestyle to the next level with a collaboration with high-end watchmaker Audemars Piguet, a move he says was inspired by close friend and entertainment mogul Jay-Z.

“I was introduced to Audemars Piguet by [Jay-Z;] he’s like my big brother,” LeBron said. “When I [saw] him wearing the watches I always thought they were cool. I was always asking what watch he was wearing.” The brand then approached LeBron about becoming the new global brand ambassador.

To LeBron, the kid from Ohio with an uncanny talent for hoops, nice watches were a status symbol, a sign that you’d made it.

“Of course I couldn’t afford an Audemars Piguet watch as a kid, but I always wanted to wear a watch,” he said. “You always wanted to put on a watch to finish your outfit. If you were putting on gym shorts and a basketball t-shirt or you were putting on a sweat suit, you always wanted to put on a nice-looking watch. If I ever became financially stable, I always wanted nice cars and nice watches – now I have both,” LeBron said, laughing.

The basketball phenom and Audemars Piguet will collaborate to create a limited edition watch, the proceeds of which will be donated to LeBron’s philanthropy, the LeBron James Family Foundation. He founded the charity in 2004 to empower the children of single-parent households – much like himself. “My main goal is for kids to benefit [from] whatever we do,” he said.

According to President & CEO of Audemars Piguet North America Francois-Henry Bennahmias, LeBron’s dedication to philanthropy is something that most people don’t know about the basketball star.

“He’s amazing at what he does,” Bennahmias said. “But the most important thing is who he is as a person, not just on the basketball court.” And that person, Bennahmias said, is someone who is as passionate about kids as he is about philanthropy.

“Lots of kids look at him and say, ‘I’d love to be LeBron James someday.’ And when we get them together, it’s magic,” Bennahmias said of LeBron’s interaction with kids at charity events.

LeBron’s own charity, the LJFF, offers programs like the LJFF Playground Build Initiative, which builds play spaces where children can play safely and creatively. The foundation hosts the King for Kids Bikeathon and provided 2,000 computers to the Akron After-School Program and Boys & Girls Club in a partnership with HP.

Of course, LeBron’s own kids are top priority too. We caught up with LeBron and asked him what he would do if he had an extra hour in his day.

“I would probably give 30 minutes more to my kids and 30 minutes more to my working out, and working on my game,” he said. “Just honing my skills, getting better. That’s what I’d do. I love being a father to my two boys, and I love basketball. It’s as simple as that.”

As far as watches go, we think one day in the near future LeBron will have a nice ring to go along with his Audemars Piguet watch. Bennahmias couldn’t agree more.

“For a 25- year-old kid with the pressure that’s on his shoulders any given day, he’s pretty solid,” he said. “The only thing I can wish him is to win. And he will. He will definitely win a championship, there’s no doubt in my mind. The talent will speak.”

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014