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LeBron James’ newest endorsement gig: Brand ambassador for $60,000 Kia K900 (pic)

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In a somewhat surprising turn, it has been announced that LeBron James now is the presumably highly compensated pitchman for … Kia?

While Kia historically known for its more budget-friendly automobiles, has been significantly upping its game as of late. And the particular ride Lebron has been tabbed to endorse indeed resides far higher up on the MSRP scale than one may expect.

ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell reports that James has been named Kia’s brand ambassador for its luxury sedan, the K900.

At a price of $66,000, this isn’t your father’s Kia, even though the automaker only has been a major player here in the U.S. for a relatively short time, as the first Kia-branded vehicles sold in the States occurred in 1994.

Kia has a longstanding partnership with the NBA, as it is now in its eighth year as the so-called “Official Vehicle of the NBA.”

Rovell reports that James routinely has donated the Kia vehicles he received for winning league MVP, but James reportedly asked Kia for one of the pricey K900s so he could test it out and drive it around this past summer.

James somewhat let the cat out of the bag regarding a potential business partnership with Kia back in August, when he posted the following photo of him marveling at the K900 along with the caption, “Rolling around in my K900. Love this car!!

“It was a great call to get,” Kia Motors America vice president of marketing Tim Chancey told ESPN.com. “We were not actively seeking another endorser, but LeBron told us, after driving the car around this summer, that he liked it so much, that we decided to partner with him. He brought us instant credibility.”

LeBron added in a statement: “For me, a partnership has to be authentic and real to who I am and that’s what makes this one so special.”

With each subsequent high-profile endorsement LeBron James lands, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar continues to ratchet up his already considerable “Brand Value,” a metric used by Forbes to measure an athlete’s marketability. James’ 2014 “Brand Value” is the highest of any athlete in the world, eclipsing Tiger Woods, the first time in eight years the golfer hasn’t topped the list.