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LeBron, Kobe lead Forbes top 10 list of NBA endorsers

Feb 19, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT

Lebron James,Kobe Bryant,  Andre Iguodala AP

Forbes released its top 10 list of off-the-court NBA earners this week, and not surprisingly, a couple of the game’s biggest stars lead the pack.

Before we get to the complete list, something stands out when looking at the dollars the top NBA athletes rake in, especially when compared to other sports’ stars.

Thanks to basketball boasting the biggest shoe sponsorship deals, no one comes close to making as much in total sponsorship dollars as NBA players do, and that includes sports that are more popular — like the NFL in the U.S., and soccer internationally.

From Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes:

And the gap between NBA players and others in team sports all starts with the shoes. The NBA’s biggest stars can command more than $10 million annually from Nike and Adidas. Nike represents almost half James’ off-court income, and James was the NBA’s leading shoe salesman in 2013 with $300 million in retail sales in the U.S. of his Nike signature shoes, according to research firm SportsOneSource. Rose signed a 13-year, $185 million contract with Adidas in 2012. A $1 million a year shoe deal is extremely rare for an NFL or MLB star. Basketball players move product unlike their counterparts in other sports.

Basketball players can also take advantage of the global nature of the sport. Bryant has made trips to China the past eight years for Nike and he is one of the brand’s main chips in its battle against Adidas in China. Bryant partnered with Turkish Airlines in 2010 and has been featured in commercials with global soccer star Lionel Messi. James’ Dunkin’ Donuts deal is for Asia only, and he entered into a new partnership with Chinese Internet services firm Tencent last year. These deals are not available to football and baseball players.

And now, the list:

Player/total endorsement income/shoe sponsor

LeBron James: $42 million (Nike)

Kobe Bryant: $34 million (Nike)

Derrick Rose: $21 million (Adidas)

Kevin Durant: $14 million (Nike)

Dwyane Wade: $12 million (Li Ning)

Carmelo Anthony: $9 million (Jordan/Nike)

Amar’e Stoudemire: $6.5 million (Nike)

Dwight Howard: $6 million (Adidas)

Blake Griffin: $6 million (Jordan/Nike)

Chris Paul: $4 million (Jordan/Nike)

Remember, the shoe sponsor noted isn’t where all of the income originates, but it’s certainly where the bulk of it comes from. Stoudemire’s ranking is a function of him playing in New York, and for NBA players seeking a bigger piece of the sponsorship pie, there’s a reason free agent stars flock to large markets.

Only Kevin Durant plays in a smaller one, and although Miami technically fits the bill, the pairing of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the same team, along with the exposure the Heat has gotten in winning consecutive titles, certainly has made them high-profile stars where sponsors are concerned.

  1. musician0785 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I wonder how much Jordan made last year. His shoe sales must dwarf every player’s on that list.

  2. aboogy123456 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Good article to demonstrate why big markets matter so much and why the knicks and lakers are great destinations regardless of the situation. Carmelo and Amare are both on this list, and the knicks haven’t gotten to the finals any time recently. Derrick rose is on this list ahead of Durant. So for the people who argue that Kevin Love is ok with staying in minnesota because he has some taco bell commercials, where is he on this list?

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      Chris Paul has more than doubled his sponsorship money since leaving New Orleans to play in LA, and he’s playing for LA’s other team. Just like any other business, there is more money to be made in bigger markets.

    • kb2408 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      Preach, brotha aboogy, preach!!!

  3. bougin89 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    Anyone else find it surprising that Chris Paul only made 4 million in endorsements in LA?

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      only $4 million, I feel so sad for him

      • bougin89 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        Cliff Paul must make a higher % of the revenue from the All State commercials.

    • aboogy123456 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      he’d be making a whole lot more if Stern didn’t veto the trade with the lakers.

      • bougin89 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        Stern vetoed that trade because of owners like Dan Gilbert were very vocal about not wanting another “super team” in the league.

        As for the endorsements though, yes, he would make much more as a Laker. I don’t doubt that.

    • casualcommenter - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      I’m not that surprised. I’m a big CP3 fan, but he’s never won a league MVP, never made the NBA Finals or Conference Finals, and only recently began playing in a big TV market. He’s not as famous as you would think.

      To be clear, he’s been famous among hardcore NBA fans and casual NBA fans for many years. However, a couple of years as one of the faces of the LA Clippers, whose nationwide fanbase is far smaller than the Lakers’ fanbase, hasn’t led him to become a household name quite yet.

      Even if your neighbor doesn’t watch any NBA games, he knows who LeBron, Kobe, and Durant are. However, there are a fair number of people who, if you say Chris Paul, will ask what sport he plays.

      • bougin89 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Thats a very good point, I agree with that.

  4. spthegr8 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    D Wade and Li Ning..??? What in the Blue Hell is “Li Ning”.???

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      A shoe company?

    • casualcommenter - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      It’s a Chinese shoe company.

      Wade dropped the Jordan brand and switched because he wanted to expand his brand globally. LeBron and especially Kobe have been aggressive in promoting their brands worldwide, but Wade was the first to sign with a Chinese shoe company.

  5. chicagosports2014 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:13 PM


  6. kb2408 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Come to L.A., become the face of the NBA’s most glamorous franchise AND make millions upon millions in endorsements. Oh, and btw, if you win titles, you will own this city!! No other franchise in the league can offer that….well, other than the Knicks. But they don’t win championships like the LAKERS do.

  7. billtetley53 - Feb 19, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Dopes, read the article. The majority of the $ is from shoe deals.

    Do you really think playing in LA is going to get Love a bigger shoe deal?!

    I’d get into why that won’t happen, but I’m sure I’d be branded racist, so I won’t.

    I can’t wait until Love to L.A. doesn’t happen, just to see the wailing and gnashing of teeth on here.

    Hey kb2408, the lakers still have #42 waiting for Love? How do you not know Worthy had his # retired?!?!

    Don’t you ever get tired of making a fool of yourself on here?

    • casualcommenter - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      “Do you really think playing in LA is going to get Love a bigger shoe deal?!”

      …Yes. I’m not a Lakers fan, but endorsements contracts are a function of how famous players are, and a player on the LA Lakers becomes more famous because the LA Lakers have a large fanbase, especially compared to the Timberwolves. That helps Lakers players get shoe deals and deals with other companies.

      And fun fact – Larry Bird of the Celtics (the team you used to root for) had a sizable shoe deal back in the 1980’s, so you are in fact a racist idiot for suggesting elite white basketball players can’t get shoe deals.

  8. roscojr - Feb 19, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    no wonder durant got a new agent. lots of room to improve

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