Kobe And LeBron Top List Of The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players

NBA owners intended last season’s lockout to
reduce player salaries and increase parity between
small- and large-market teams. While overall
player costs are down, the stars are still raking it in.
The NBA’s 10 highest-paid players will collectively
earn $340 million this year alone through salary
and endorsements, with big-market players
dominant: Seven of the top 10 suit up in New York,
Los Angeles or Chicago, while two others hail from
sunny, no-income-tax Miami.

The NBA’s highest-paid player is Kobe Bryant, who
will make $59.8 million in salary and endorsements
this year. Bryant’s Lakers salary of $27.8 million is
$7 million higher than any other player’s. The NBA’s
collective bargaining agreement limits individual
player salaries to 35% of the team salary cap,
which is $58 million this year. But players can also
sign deals that are 105% of their previous salary
even if it exceeds the cap. Bryant is an exceptional
case because he is in his 17th season with the
same team at 34 years old and is still playing at an
exceptionally high level. The result: Bryant has
signed a series of maximum level contracts with
the Lakers.
Bryant, who was voted this month to start in his
NBA-record 15th All-Star game, is a popular
corporate endorser, earning an estimated $32
million annually off the court from partners Nike,
Coca-Cola (he plugs Sprite), Turkish Air, Mercedes-
Benz and memorabilia firm Panini. Nike provides
the bulk of his sponsorship income. Bryant is a
hugely popular figure in China, where Nike is
looking to make further inroads. Nike sells twice as
many of Bryant’s sneakers in China as in the U.S.,
according to sources.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat ranks second with
annual earnings of $57.6 million. James accepted a
smaller contract ($17.6 million this season) to sign
with the Heat than what the Cleveland Cavaliers
offered when he left the Cavs in the infamous 2010
“Decision.” Florida offered a lower state tax rate
and the Heat provided a clearer path to an NBA
title.
James had a historic 2012 when he led the Heat to
the NBA title and the U.S. men’s Olympic team to
the gold medal in London. Along the way, he was
awarded the MVP award for the regular season and
the NBA Finals. Michael Jordan is the only other
player to nab the four honors above in the same
year.
James’ memorable 2012 has helped dissipate much
of the fallout from his departure from the Cavs. The
NBA announced in November that James had the
league’s best-selling jersey. He is the NBA’s top
pitchman, earning $40 million annually off the
court. His sponsors include global titans Nike, Coca-
Cola, Samsung and McDonald’s. Audemars Piguet,
Dunkin’ Donuts, State Farm and Upper Deck are
also part of James’ endorsement portfolio.
Derrick Rose clocks in third with earnings of $32.4
million. Rose’s income skyrocketed this season in
the first year of his five-year, $95 million contract
extension with the Chicago Bulls. The point guard
also kicked off his new 13-year, $185 million
Adidas deal.
Adidas is fighting an uphill battle in the U.S. in
basketball. Nike, including its Jordan Brand
subsidiary, is the dominant basketball shoe
company in the States with a 92% market share,
according to SportsOneScan, which tracks sports
shoe and apparel sales. Adidas is at 5.5% in the
U.S.
“Today’s athletes do not provide the ROI in terms of
footwear sales,” says SportsOneScan analyst Matt
Powell. “However, athletes like Lebron and Rose
have become more than just shoe endorsers, and
act as the face of the brand, which amortizes some
of the huge contracts.”
The popularity of U.S. hoops is only part of the
story. The NBA is soaring in China, helping players
land lucrative deals with shoe, beverage and car
companies, as the brands fight to expand their
reach in Asia. There are 300 million basketball
players in China, according to the Chinese
Basketball Association. Chinese companies are also
tapping NBA stars for endorsement deals. Chinese
athletic apparel firm Li-Ning signed Dwyane Wade
in September to a long-term deal, worth an
estimated $10 million annually. Wade ranks fourth
among the highest-paid players with earnings of
$30.2 million.
Two of Bryant’s teammates also made the cut.
Dwight Howard is No. 8 with earnings of $26.5
million. Howard was once one of the NBA’s most
marketable players, but his prolonged messy exit
from the Orlando Magic damaged his endorsement
potential. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s both choose
not to renew sponsorship deals with Howard in
recent years. Lakers’ forward Pau Gasol ranks 10th
thanks to $21.5 million in income this season,
largely driven by his $19 million playing salary.

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13 thoughts on “Kobe And LeBron Top List Of The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players

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