NBA All-Stars teamed up on February 19 in New Orleans. The main event concluded the weekend festivities on Sunday night with All-Stars going up against each other in a little fun, and high paying game, along with high paying NBA endorsements.
The NBA has massive international prospects, which has helped push the value of the average NBA franchise up to $1.36 billion, 3.5 times what it was five years ago.
The league’s biggest stars reap the benefits too because companies from technology to financial services to sports drinks are lavishing millions on the players to promote the brands around the world. The top dozen endorsers in the NBA will all earn at least $7.5 million off the court this season and $233 million cumulatively by Forbes’ count from NBA endorsements, licensing, memorabilia, appearances and media deals.
Shoe companies are driving the bulk of the off-court haul for these players. A company producing a signature shoe for an NBA player can be a ticket to riches as the players get a guaranteed amount, plus a cut of sales and bonuses for awards like MVPs and All-NBA teams. The U.S. is the biggest market, but the big shoe companies annually send their biggest stars to China to get a foothold among the 300 million people playing basketball in the country.
Nike has made a massive commitment to the NBA. It will kick off its eight-year, $1 billion apparel deal next season. It is the shoe brand of choice for eight of the top 12 best-paid guys off the court. The sportswear giant will pay out more than $100 million combined to those players this season. It is helped keep Nike’s market share, including the Jordan Brand, north of 90% in recent years. Nike’s total future endorsement commitments across all sports for leagues and teams was $9.4 billion as of its latest disclosure.
LeBron James sells more shoes than any other active NBA player and Nike rewarded him at the end of 2015 with a “lifetime” deal worth as much as $1 billion, according to his agent. It was the first lifetime deal in the history of the company, although Michael Jordan is presumed to have a quasi-lifetime deal with the Swoosh (MJ banked more than $100 million from Nike last year). Nike’s Jordan Brand generated $2.8 billion in revenue for the company for the year ending in May.
James’ other NBA endorsement deals include Intel, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Kia Motors and Beats Electronics. James’ off-court income gets a boost also through his production company, SpringHill Entertainment. SpringHill currently has four series on air, including the popular game-show “The Wall” on NBC. James also has an ownership stake in 17 Blaze Pizza franchises in Chicago and South Florida.
James is one of three NBA players who will make at least $35 million off the court this year (Kevin Durant and Curry are the others). Compare that to other team sports. The top NFL pitchmen, Cam Newton and Drew Brees, are at $12 million from NBA endorsements, memorabilia and licensing. With the retirements of Derek Jeter and David Ortiz, baseball’s leading endorsers, like Buster Posey and Robinson Cano, are in the $3 million range. Hockey is led by Sidney Crosby at $4.5 million.
The only team sport comparable is soccer with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar all making more than $20 million a year off the pitch. Nike and Adidas are driving the train there also. Soccer and basketball have the best global prospects, which makes the stars from those sports so attractive. There are only so many baseball and football cleats a player can help a company sell.
James has reigned as the NBA’s top endorsement star for most of the past decade, but Curry is closing fast. The off-court income for the reigning MVP tripled over the past 12 months to $35 million and is headed higher. He signed a pair of deals last year in China, PressPlay and Vivo, that have massive potential. Curry also added Brita and JPMorgan Chase to his NBA endorsement portfolio since the end of 2015. Add in royalties from his Under Armour signature shoes and a couple of deals in the works and Curry’s endorsement income should top $50 million next season.
Below are the biggest stars of the 2017 NBA endorsements with their estimated off-court annual income and shoe sponsor.
LeBron James: $55 million (Nike)
Kevin Durant: $36 million (Nike)
Stephen Curry: $35 million (Under Armour)
James Harden: $20 million (Adidas)
Russell Westbrook: $15 million (Nike/Jordan)
Derrick Rose: $14 million (Adidas)
Kyrie Irving: $13 million (Nike)
Dwyane Wade: $13 million (Li Ning)
Chris Paul: $8 million (Nike/Jordan)
Carmelo Anthony: $8 million (Nike/Jordan)
Blake Griffin: $8 million (Nike/Jordan)
Paul George: $7.5 million (Nike)
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