LeBron & Brady: A Legacy Brand



As you might guess from this consistently pillowy physique of mine, I’m less of a participant of sports than a watcher. But it would be wrong to even put me in the looky-see category. Given a choice between watching a football game or watching an old interview of Truman Capote gossip drunkenly about dead people, I’ll choose the latter every time.

For the record, I have sat on the sidelines at more sports events than 85% of women my age. That’s what happens when you are married to a man who coaches football and basketball and when you have 4 kids who participated in everything from T-ball to Cross-country. I do love a good competitive game, and I have had my share of moments when I’ve actually been known to climb a fence yelling at a ref (not even on behalf of my own kid, mind you).

I was in college at OSU when the Blazers won the national title. I remember that day like it was yesterday. There was so much cheering from the all-girls house, I thought the roof of Coed Cottage might collapse. It may have been the only night the girl named Sue didn’t play Hotel California on repeat all night long. I recall a pretty memorable make-out session afterwards in one of the basement rooms with a handsome fellow whose name I can’t remember but who was also a member of Campus Crusade for Christ. We took that whole Praise the Lord thing to a levitating level.

I say all that as a disclaimer. I am not going to come at you with any pretense that I have the least bit of understanding of the significance or import of Tom Brady or LeBron James’s career achievements. I can admire that these are two men who have obviously excelled in their respective fields.  They have both parlayed their careers into a significant platform. Currently, LeBron James has 49.3 million Twitter followers. Brady has 1.9 million.

It’s the use of those platforms that interests me. Tim and I were have a discussion the other night and I said, “If LeBron James were a political party he’d be a Democrat and Tom Brady would be a Republican.” That was not a comment on the actual parties these two men belong to. It was a comment about how they use their platforms, and how that manifests itself.

At least how it appears to manifest itself to the common people – in this case, me. To simplify it even further, what I observe is that LeBron James uses his platform to elevate others, while Tom Brady uses his platform primarily to elevate his platform.  And that’s pretty much sums up how the two political parties currently work: Democrats work to serve the public, while Republicans have no platform; they work only to elevate themselves (See Trump for more evidence of the latter).

That’s not to say James & Brady aren’t both actively engaged in doing good works. They are. A look at GuideStar, the online non-profit record tracking program, provides IRS documentation on the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Tb12 Foundation.  These are certainly not the only orgs these men are engaged with, but these are the two that reference their names.

Here’s the difference: TB12 is more about building a “lifestyle brand.” And as has been widely reported, Tb12 took a PPP loan of $960,855. While the Lakers took a loan, which they returned, James has taken no PPP loans, not even for his media company SpringHill Entertainment, which has more than 100 employees and was eligible for a seven figure PPP Loan.

Brady’s Change the World Foundation, which has been widely reported on for its questionable business practices with the Best Buddies Charity, provides little information to Guide Star, including failing to provide even a mission statement. The Non-Profit Quarterly has detailed the questionable problems with Brady’s “charity”:

  • Started in 2005 with approx $500,000, all but $10,000 coming out of Brady’s pocket
  • Brady is the charity’s sole trustee and has been all along
  • Change the World’s largest gifts have gone to Tom’s alma mater, the church where Tom got married, and, surprise!, the Tb12 foundation.
  • Tom has never contributed another $ to his charity since its inception. The bulk of the money comes from Best Buddies, another non-profit that does work with disabled kids, and for whom Tom has helped raise millions of dollars.
  • In 2019, Change the World’s corporate stock investments valued at over $2 million.
  • Same year, they gave away $45,000: Including $5,000 to Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund, $10,000 to Camp Kessem for kids suffering from cancer, and $25,000 to St. David’s School NYC (alumni include Andrew Giuliani, son of Rudy and JFK Jr.).

According to NPQ, Tom Brady has an estimated net worth of $180 million and his wife has an estimated net worth of $360 million.

This is not to discount the good work Brady is doing. He, along with his supermodel wife, reportedly funded more than 750,000 meals through Feeding Tampa Bay.  I applaud anyone who is out doing good to help others, especially during these difficult times.


Did he really need that TAXPAYER FUNDED PPP loan?

LeBron James’s generosity is well-documented. He has leveraged his platform to raise over $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club. He’s raised over $40 million for an After-School mentoring program in Ohio. And there’s the I Promise School he launched to help students who were struggling. And in a promise near and dear to his heart, LeBron has partnered with Kent State to provide free college tuition to the 193 students who were the first to go through the I Promise School. They are currently seniors.  He also helped fund (to the tune of $2.5 million) an exhibit at the Smithsonian to honor Muhammad Ali. And let’s not overlook all the money he and others are putting into More Than A Vote . 

Both Tom Brady and LeBron James have tender hearts. One only needs to hear Tom speak of his father, or LeBron to speak of his mother to get a glimpse of how tender-hearted these two men are. They have been raised up with a moral core that compels them, which is more than I can say for several people in Congress right now (Hello MTG, JH, MR, LB, TC, etc.).

Most of us will never have the money or the platforms of either of these two, but we all face the same daily choices they do: Will we use our resources to develop a legacy brand or a lifestyle brand? Will we use what we have to help others or solely for our own benefit?

It’s also a question every member of Congress answered to this week when they voted on the American Rescue Plan.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide ‘Cause I need more for my Plasma TV (Zondervan).


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment


about 2 years ago

Babe, you just keep getting better. Nailed it!


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