Be clear: Los Angeles Laker LeBron James is already a Hollywood power broker
And with the forthcoming ‘Hustle,’ ‘Public Enemy’ and ‘House Party’ reboot, it’s about to be even more serious
In a move that wasn’t exactly a secret, it was announced on Sunday evening that the NBA’s biggest star would be taking his talents to Hollywood. Yes, it’s the hope of the Los Angeles Lakers organization that he help shepherd the franchise into a championship team again — but LeBron James clearly has his eyes on bigger fish.
For the past few years, the Ohio native has been making films and television shows, and some recent deals are major. Earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, less than a week after Cleveland traded half its team, James’ SpringHill Entertainment sold a spec script to Legendary Entertainment, which beat out three other studios. The Hollywood trades reported that the studio got the story in a high-six-figure deal. The future film is called Hustle, and it’s about a has-been basketball scout who finds a Chinese streetball star who he believes is his way back to the NBA.
Where does he take this could-be superstar hoopster to train for the draft? Los Angeles, of course. And Hustle is slated to be directed by music video icon Dave Meyers, who earlier this year won a Grammy for Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” And this is only one of the moves that James has been making on the West Coast outside of anything having to do with basketball.
James is perhaps the most famous athlete in the world, and he’s the power behind his growing entertainment entity, which includes SpringHill Entertainment and UNINTERRUPTED, his all-digital sports programming network that offers up videos, original series, podcasts and documentaries largely from an athlete’s perspective. It landed a $15.8 million investment from Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports nearly three years ago and is headquartered in the thick of Hollywood, near where Viacom Entertainment, for example, is also based. And in case you’re wondering, his Brentwood mansion, which he purchased almost three years ago, is only about 21 miles away from where he might be pondering his next big Hollywood business deal.
Other impressive deals that SpringHill (so named for the housing complex that James moved into with his mother when he was in sixth grade) has managed to get done while James was trying to get the Cleveland Cavaliers to another NBA championship:
- James paired up with Channing Tatum, and they both sold Public Enemy, an action comedy, to New Line a month ago;
- SpringHill also is working with New Line to reboot the House Party franchise;
- James’ production company is executive producing a limited Netflix series that stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer;
- James will produce an awe-inspiring YouTube series about high school basketball;
- He also is teaming up with noted documentarian Morgan Spurlock to produce a documentary series that looks at the basketball star’s public school for at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his hometown.
And these are the moves he’s made in just the past few months, and his production company’s slate is continually growing. A permanent presence in Los Angeles will enable the NBA star to move in and out of Hollywood spaces all the more. He’ll be working his side hustle of becoming one of the most sought-after producers in Hollywood.
In a 2015 article with The Hollywood Reporter, James was featured on the magazine’s cover talking about this potential next chapter. He had just returned to Cleveland that season, and the first movie James was co-starring in — Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, playing himself as Bill Hader’s best friend — was about to be released. James was a standout in the film, which was released that July, but it was his behind-the-scenes moves that had the Hollywood industry buzzing. And what was, perhaps, most evident in that piece was James’ love of and respect for the industry.
“I’m not a guy that calls the people in Hollywood and tells them, ‘Send it to my house,’ ” he told The Hollywood Reporter three years ago. “I go to the movies.”
And now, he’s making them.