As the NBA grows in popularity around the world, many league stars are taking full advantage of building their legacies off the court. Below, I rank the top 5 NBA stars with successful personal brands.
LeBron James, 37, is officially a billionaire, according to Forbes. James ranks number one on the Forbes 2022 list of the 10 highest paid athletes in the world. Many people believe that James and his 4 NBA championships, 2 Olympic gold medals and 18 NBA All-Star appearances are the greatest basketball player of all time. Regardless of this debate, King James continues to build one of the most successful off-court careers of any NBA player.
James joins Michael Jordan as the only “basketball world” billionaire. Unlike James who is still in his playing career, MJ only achieved this feat 10 years after his playing career ended. However, Jordan played in a different era in the world of finance and the world of athlete endorsement. James is certainly a huge beneficiary of the incredibly popular NBA footwear and apparel market that MJ launched in the 1980s. On the court, James has the NBA’s most lucrative shoe deal, $32 million a year. with Nike.
Among his many off-court business ventures, James starred in the recent movie Space Jam. He made around $750 million selling his share of film production company SpringHill and invested in several gym/athlete training companies. Nothing seems to stop LeBron on or off the court. It will be fun to see how much off-court success James will increase when he leaves his OTHER job as an NBA star.
Stephen Curry ranks 5th on the 2022 Forbes list of the 10 highest paid athletes in the world. The 34-year-old recently signed a MASSIVE $240 million contract extension with the Golden State Warriors, which he just led to the 2022 NBA title. That title is Curry’s 4th NBA championship, building his legacy as the one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. On and off the court, Curry built his world famous footwear/apparel brand, SC30, with Under Armour.
Off the court, Steph has recently ventured into the cryptocurrency and NFT space. He signed an endorsement deal with popular crypto firm FTX, which also includes an equity stake in the company. Curry also has his own production company, Unanimous Media. Like James, Curry’s post-NBA playing career promises to be brilliant! Some of the NBA talking heads (and rabid Warriors fans) I listen to on the local sports radio station in San Francisco, Calif. KNBR 680 even suggested that Steph entertain the candidacy for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!
Two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant, 33, ranks 6th on the aforementioned Forbes 10 Highest-Paid Athletes 2022 list. KD has the second most lucrative shoe deal among active NBA players, $28 million a year with Nike. That’s right behind LeBron James, who makes $32 million a year.
While he worked hard on the court to earn those two championship rings, Durant also invested in his wealth off the court in a number of ways. He has endorsement deals with Coinbase, NBA Top Shot, and WeedMaps. KD has investments in several companies, including the NFT platform OpenSea. Once his all-time great NBA playing career is over, the time and energy Durant can devote to building his business empire will certainly pay off.
Giannis Antetokounpo has worked hard to earn his place among the most popular NBA athletes in the world. Nicknamed the Greek Freak, many pundits consider him the best player in the NBA right now, especially after winning the 2021 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks.
At just 27 years old, Giannis ranks among the highest earners on and off the court, especially after recently signing a $228 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Outside of the hardwood, Giannis has done deals and investments with a diverse portfolio of companies, including WhatsApp and Google. He stars in a yet to be released movie, Rise, on Disney+. The 27-year-old is the only athlete in his twenties on the previously referenced Forbes Top 10 list. It will be fun to see how Giannis continues to grow on and off the pitch.
Amazingly, for me at least, Statista ranks Russell Westbrook as the 5th highest earner off the court in the NBA in 2021-22, at $30 million. Former NBA MVP Westbrook has endorsement deals with Nike, PepsiCo, Samsung, and more. Westbrook always seems to be in the national media cycle. Whether it’s averaging a triple-double for several seasons or his recent battles with the Los Angeles Lakers, who missed the playoffs in 2021-22. It will be interesting to see how the 33-year-old Westbrook’s on-court career will impact his off-court endeavors now and in the future.
James Harden, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Paul George and Jimmy Butler were also on the list of the ten highest NBA earners in 2021-22 via Statista.
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