The Real Reason Lebron James Stopped Endorsing McDonald's

For years, Lebron James and McDonald's went hand in hand. Yes — a world-renowned professional athlete, and an infamous fast food giant. A match made in heaven, right? Wrong ... and fans knew it. 

James' career off of the basketball court centered around a whole slew of endorsements. Some made sense, like his work with Nike. Others, like his multi-million dollar deal with McDonald's, made about as much sense as a Big Mac without the Big Mac sauce. In 2010, James shared his excitement for the partnership with CBS, explaining that the two "share some of the same core values."

CBS emphasizes that James was excited about the charity work that went along with the brand deal. His primary focus joining McDonald's was to share in their mutual "wholesome image," but at the end of the day, it was one of those partnerships that left people scratching their heads.

Apparently, James was equally as confused by the partnership. In early 2015, the basketball star slipped up. In a press conference, he mentioned how he ditched his McDonald's habit after his first few years in the NBA to help his athletic performance. James laughed it off with reporters when he realized his mistake, backpedaling to claim he enjoyed a McDonald's breakfast that same day (via Bleacher Report).

Just eight months later, ESPN reported that James was willingly breaking his deal with Ronald McDonald.

Lebron James dropped McDonald's to focus his attention on Blaze Pizza

According to The Sports Rush, James left a whopping $15 million behind when he ended his contract with McDonald's. Sure, the man rakes in upwards of $100 million per year — but that isn't exactly pocket change, either (via Celebrity Net Worth).

The basketball star was weighing his options for quite some time. In 2012, James was one of the first believers in Blaze Pizza, after investing a quick million in the build-your-own pizza chain. For a few years, James juggled his work with McDonald's with his faith in Blaze. He even opened up two franchise locations of his own (via SportsCasting).

Comparatively, James' deal with Blaze appears a lot more authentic than his work with McDonald's. While McDonald's continues to make international headlines for its sugar-laden shakes and calorie-packed combo meals, Blaze has promoted its relatively low calorie and balanced options. Customers can even pick from a pizza crust directly suited to their diet — keto, cauliflower, you name it!

While we can't imagine that Lebron James is opting for a cauli crust anytime soon, it's much more believable to think the athlete is ordering a Take Two from Blazed (half pizza, half salad), rather than a dollar menu diet bomb.

The risky business move is already paying off for Lebron James

One of James' selling points for taking such a huge business risk was that it was his business, after all, explains Forbes. For James, McDonald's was a paycheck; Blaze is a project. "We get to build this," he told the outlet. "If it doesn't become successful, I can only blame myself."

Nonetheless, success seems imminent. Blaze Pizza has quickly become a champion in its own game, which isn't all that surprising given its most prolific investor's wins over the years.

According to Forbes, industry consultant Technomic named the pizza chain the fastest-growing franchise in U.S. history in 2017. James wasted no time cashing in on the growth, either. In less than five years, he opened up an additional 15 franchise locations across the country.

The outlet elaborates on the chain's rapid success, noting that the founders are targeting a massive billion-dollar valuation come 2022. James owns 10 percent of the chain (plus, you know, the casual 17 franchise locations), which means his risky move kicking McDonald's to the curb may pay off after all.