LeBron James tops Forbes’ list of NBA endorsement earners

The NBA’s reigning MVP LeBron James made $42 million in endorsement deals alone last season, topping Forbes’ list of the league’s highest endorsement earners.

LeBron James' Nike endorsed shoes earned over $300 million in 2013 Image via nicekicks.com

LeBron James’ Nike endorsed shoes earned over $300 million in 2013
Image via nicekicks.com

The NBA is a money making machine, with players’ salaries well into the millions per year, but the money some players make off the floor dwarfs that of their playing wages.

Topping Forbes’ list of big money endorsement winners were two familiar faces LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Miami’s superstar raking in $42 million thanks to deals with Nike, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Samsung Electronics, Upper Deck, Audemars Piguet and Dunkin’ Donuts.

While five-time NBA Champion Bryant can thank his partners Nike, Turkish Air, Lenovo, Hublot and Panini for helping him amass an extra $34 million on top of his league-high $30 million salary with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rounding out the league’s top five were injured Chicago Bull’s star and former MVP Derrick Rose ($21 million), Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant ($14 million) and James’ Miami running mate Dwyane Wade ($12 million).

While rival league’s such as the NFL and NHL lay claim to being the favoured sport in America and Canada respectively, in recent years the NBA has truly become a globally recognised brand and one of the most popular sports worldwide.

Thanks to this global exposure the NBA’s stars’ endorsement deals far out way those of any of their cross-code rivals.

Last season, the NBA’s top 10 earners were paid $155 million according to Forbes. More than the totals of the MLB ($30 million), NFL ($55 million) and NHL ($15) combined. The NBA’s global reach simply making them better advertising investments than the stars from America’s other leagues.

Last year, Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki (whose deals all came from his home nation Japan) were the only MLB players to make more than $3 million from sponsors and merchandise. While the NFL’s highest earner Peyton Manning’s $12 million in endorsements would have only been good enough for fifth highest in the NBA.

The only code to come close to the elite earning of NBA superstars is soccer. The 10 most endorsed soccer players earned $120 between them in 2013, with David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all making over $20 million off the pitch.

See the NBA’s highest earners and their respective shoe sponsors below:

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)

Source: Forbes

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