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Richie Rich(s) of the basketball world

Let’s face it. Basketball players, meaning especially those of NBA, are obviously very rich. But they are only getting their share of the NBA’s massive profit upswing in the past few years. In comparing from 40 years ago, when NBA business was not bigger than a neighbourhood gas station, we are looking now at billion-dollar properties. In 2016 teams of the NBA league achieved combined NBA revenues of around $5.87 billion, and the average NBA team is now worth 1.36 billion U.S. dollars.

Yet this is not such a surprise, since basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) being the most significant professional basketball league in terms of the level of competition, salaries, talent and general popularity. But as you are about to see, basketball players are not as rich as you might think, looking just at their basic salaries. The endorsement deals, especially shoe deals, are however those particularly profitable here, also in the long term, for example, Michael Jordan still profits from his signature shoes.

Wanna know how much the best-paid basketball players earned in the past season? Continue reading.

LeBron James

The top-earning player, and also the third most valuable sports athlete brand in the world, is Cavaliers’ all-time scoring leader LeBron James, with a total earning of $86 million. His salary comes of $31 million on-court salary and around 55 million U.S. dollars from endorsement contracts.

Considered by many the »face of the NBA«, LeBron is, by far, the highest-paid NBA player thanks to his of-court income. And that is no surprise since he is endorsed by many commercial giants, such as Coca-Cola (Sprite), Nike, Samsung, Kia Motors, McDonald’s and many more. At the beginning of his career, he was targeted by all three sportswear majors, Nike, Reebok, and Adidas, eventually signing a seven-year contract with Nike, for approximately 90 million U.S. dollars. He inked a new contract at the end of 2015, the largest single athlete guarantee in the history of the company at that time, a lifetime deal. Nevertheless, the terms of it were never reported, many sources speculate that the number attached could be around $30 million per year, which sums to more than $1 billion over the remainder of James’ life. To mention is also his recent cash out from Beats By Dre, which banked him 30 million dollars.

The NBA’s four-time MVP left Miami Heat, with whom he spent four seasons, and re-signed with Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, leading them to three consecutive Finals. Forbes stated that the deal is worth $100 million over three years. With that, he is the third NBA player earning more than $30 million for a single season tho, after Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. He has been ranked as one of America’s most influential and popular athletes, and was featured in many commercials, books, documentaries and other media. His production company SpringHill Entertainment got him a $15.8 million investment in 2015 from Time Warner. James is also an original investor in Blaze Pizza, named the second fastest-growing restaurant chain in America, owning 11 franchises in Miami and Chicago. Currently, the chain is sitting at around $35 million.

Kevin Durant

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Kevin Durant claimed, that “global marketing and all that stuff” does not really interest him. Yet here he is, scoring second on the chart of the biggest basketball earners in 2016/2017, with a whopping salary of 62.6 million U.S. dollars.  $36 million from that he pocketed thanks to sponsorship deals and $26.6 million from the team.

Now Golden State Warriors’ player often ranks as of the highest-paid basketball players in the world, due to his off the court deals, with companies such as Nike and Foot Locker. Some of his many sponsors are also Sonic, Panini, Beats, BBVA, NBA 2K, Sparkling Ice and American Family Insurance. Again Nike shares the biggest piece of the pie here, with signing a 10-year extension in 2014, worth around 300 million U.S. dollars. His last Nike contract was worth $60 million over seven years.

Duran’s salary dumped by $6 million, shocking the basketball public with breaking his nine seasons long Oklahoma City Thunder relationship in 2016, to sign a two years’ deal with Golden State, for $54.3 million. Forbes stated that part of his decision was the opportunity for new business opportunities since his recent investments include micro-investing app Acorns and delivery service Postmates. He also shares a part in media platform The Players Tribune, owned by ex-baseball shortstop Derek Jeter. Often referred to as one of the most popular and nicest players in the league, Kevin became involved in YouTube last spring, uploading live stream vlogs. Till now he already has 607,507 subscribers and more than 19 million video views.

Stephen Curry

Following third on the bunch is another Golden State’s player, often referred to as the greatest shooter in NBA history, Stephen Curry. His total earning is combined of $12.1 million from on-court salary and $35 million from off-set endorsement deals.

The two-time MVP extended his contract with Golden State Warriors on July 2017 for five years, signing a $201 million contract before taxes, which average on $34.7 million per season. This is considered the richest deal ever in NBA so far, and Curry’s 2017/2018 salary will overreach the previous NBA-high of $33.1 million for Michael Jordan, under a one-year contract with Chicago Bulls in 1997/98. If we sum the number with endorsements, the total pay will reach $80 million over the next 12 months, putting him not far behind from LeBron.

Curry’s endorsement imputes tripled over the past year, signing new sponsorship deals with Brita, PressPlay, Chasa and Vivo, and extending his widely known partnership with Under Armour. Switching Nike for Under Armor in 2013, he became »the face of the footwear line«, building them a $200 million basketball business. It was also announced that Curry signed an exclusive autograph contract with Steiner Sports Memorabilia at the end of 2017, that will include autographed photographs of epic moments, hand-signed official basketballs, game-used memorabilia and more.

Past season all three top scorers had the best-selling signature shoes among active NBA players, also all their jerseys ranked among the NBA’s five best-sellers. You can find a breakdown of the other top 10 basketball players in terms of earnings down below.

Sources: Statista


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