Is Lebron James’ Instagram Klout Fake?

LeBron James easily ranks as one of the greatest NBA players of all time, with a real chance of capturing Michael Jordan’s GOAT status by the end of his career. James has also leveraged his fame to build a powerful business empire. James owns both a media brand (Uninterrupted) and a production company (SpringHill Entertainment), which is currently working on a Space Jam sequel.

Not surprisingly, James wields a significant social media influence, with nearly 63 million Instagram followers. That staggering number may not be as impressive as it seems, however.

A new study suggests that a significant number of those followers are fake. Here we take a look at James’ accomplishments, his Instagram presence, and the revelation that much of his social media clout may be fake.

LeBron James’ on- and off-court careers

LeBron James
LeBron James | Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’

The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted James with the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. At the time, he was one of the most widely hyped prospects of all time, and it didn’t take him long to start delivering. Starting with his rookie season, James established himself as one of the preeminent players in the game.

Over the course of his 17 seasons in the league, James holds career averages of 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. James won two titles with the Miami Heat, and one with the Cavaliers. He has won four NBA MVP awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards, received 16 All-Star selections, and 12 All-NBA Selections.

James has also built a highly influential public image off the court. He has had endorsement deals with a wide range of companies, from Nike to McDonald’s to Coca-Cola. James makes regular cameos on television and in movies and has hosted Saturday Night Live, the ESPY Awards, and other high-profile televised events.

James has shown an extraordinary degree of savvy and business acumen when it comes to promoting himself and his various brands. As a result, his influence both in the sports world and in the media landscape at large are second to none.

James’ Instagram presence

James’ Instagram account seemingly offers perfect proof of how wide-ranging his influence is. James is by far the most followed NBA player on Instagram, adding millions of new followers every year. Fans are drawn to James’ account because it not only features content from his amazing in-game feats, but also from his private life, giving them a rare glimpse behind the scenes glimpse of James and his family.

James also earns a significant amount of money through his Instagram account. According to one recent source, each sponsored post he creates nets him $300,000. That huge amount reflects James’ perceived influence. Companies feel good investing that kind of money, knowing that James reaches far more people than a simple advertisement ever could.

Is LeBron James’ Instagram clout fake?

It’s hard to cast doubt on James’ Instagram clout when the social media platform allows him to make $300,000 at a single pop. Yet a recent study suggested that, while his influence is indeed vast, it may not be quite as large as the numbers suggest. The study determined that James has more fake Instagram followers than any other athlete.

Of the 61.6 million followers that James had at the time of the study, more than 15.2 million of them were from fake accounts. In other words, almost 25% of James’ followers weren’t real at all. While other stars like Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant also had plenty of fake followers, none had as many as James.

Buying followers—more often than not just bots—is common among both celebrities and athletes. The practice attests to the fact that perceived clout is every bit as important as actual clout when it comes to judging a public figure’s sphere of influence. At the end of the day, the revelation that James’ has lots of fake followers doesn’t detract that much from his reputation as the most influential figure in sports today.