Professional basketball players sign endorsement deals as a way to make more money off the court. They get cash for starring in commercials and ads. These players sell everything from clothing and shoes to food and cars. Fans love knowing that they can buy, wear, use and eat the same things that their favorite players do. Some of the top endorsement deals of all time helped players earn more money than for endorsing products than they did for playing.
LeBron James became a top basketball recruit while still in high school and actually skipped college to go pro right after graduating. After the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him, the Ohio native stayed in the state for a few years before moving to another team. When he came back, his fans went crazy. James even helped lead the Cavaliers to an NBA championship. Though he signed a few endorsement deals over the years, the biggest deal he signed was with the shoe giant Nike. James earns more than $50 million a year from the company.
Nike was one of the first companies in the world to realize the benefits of sponsoring athletes. When Michael Jordan went pro, he wanted to sign a deal with another company, but found that Nike offered him a better deal. Not only did the company agree to pay him for his work, but Nike also let him design and create his own shoe, which he wore on and off the court. Called the Air Jordan, it became one of the most popular shoes of all time and is still popular today. According to Forbes, Jordan earns more than $100 million a year from Nike, though it’s been more than a decade since he played.
Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors and became a free agent in 2017, but no matter where he plays or how often he plays, he stands to earn quite a bit of money. Durant has a lucrative deal with Foot Locker that nets him millions of dollars every year. His deal with Nike helps him earn even more. The basketball star signed a deal with the shoe company in 2014 that runs for 10 years for $285 million. He stands to earn even more based on profit sharing and other factors.
After a fulfilling career with the LA Lakers, Kobe Bryant officially retired from basketball in 2016, but he earned more than $600 million over the course of his career through endorsement deals. The former pro athlete stands to earn even more during his retirement years. One of his biggest deals is the one he signed with Nike in 2014, which will help him earn $75 million over the course of just five years. Bryant agreed to keep working for the company after leaving the sport.
One of the biggest basketball endorsement deals of all time was the deal that up and coming player Dwayne Wade signed with the Chinese shoe company Li Night. Though Wade previously signed a deal with Nike, he jumped ship after his contract came up for renewal. Li Night paid him $12 million a year for several years. Though the company struggled to make a profit, Wade walked away with millions of dollars before ending the deal.
Nike had such a high level of success with Michael Jordan that it went after pro athletes in other fields, but its basketball deals are still some of the most lucrative deals the company ever signed. While Jordan had one of the top endorsement deals in basketball history, so too did players like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
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