Have you caught your breath yet? In the aftermath of another overtime thriller, the Cavs and Warriors are headed back to Cleveland where each will attempt to take control. In what has been an incredible series, fans have enjoyed access to an up-close look at some of the NBA’s most prolific athlete endorsement stars. Instead of examining the product on the floor — we’ll leave that to the experts — we take a look at the NBA Finals’ most marketable players. Below, we examine their current brand partnerships and endorsement deals, social media influence, estimated cost per tweet using the opendorse endorsement formula, and more to provide a breakdown of the five most marketable players in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Twitter Followers: 21.5 million
Instagram Followers: 10.5 million
Facebook Likes: 21.7 million
Current Endorsements: Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Kia, Beats by Dre, Upper Deck
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $44 million
opendorse Estimated Cost Per Tweet: $130,400
Cost Per Tweet with Image: $195,599
King James. What more needs to be said? His ability to almost single-handedly drag this injury riddled Cavs team to title contention is reason enough to be the sport’s biggest endorsement marketing star. However, the King doesn’t stop there. He has cultivated a careful, nearly spotless off-court brand. In the five years following the disastrous “Decision," James has added two more MVP awards, won two titles in Miami, a gold medal at the Olympics, and triumphantly returned home to bring Cleveland back to basketball prominence. All the while, he has managed to keep his nose clean legally and in the media, and has crafted an expert social media presence — sans his annual playoff hiatus — regularly sharing thoughts and events from his personal life. All told, LeBron is the most powerful athlete endorser in the NBA, and one of the top five most marketable athletes in the world.
Our years of watching LeBron unleash hell on his opposition may be numbered. Being on the wrong side of 30 and playing in five consecutive NBA Finals in addition to countless playoff games, even James' basketball machine of a body has to be slowing down. While the window of his basketball prime may close sooner than later, his endorsement prowess seems to only be growing. James has made it known that he intends to become the first billionaire athlete. While he'll probably need some sound investments to reach his lofty goal, a career endorsement portfolio of over $300 million should certainly help. Of course, the end or decline of his career doesn't necessarily mean an end to endorsement dollars. Michael Jordan — to whom LeBron is often compared — earned $100 million in 2014 from Nike royalties and an array of endorsement deals with Gatorade, Hanes, and several others. While LeBron tends to deflect MJ comparisons, in this case, it's good to be like Mike.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Twitter Followers: 2.3 million
Facebook Likes: 2.8 million
Current Endorsements: State Farm, Express, MuscleMilk, Under Armour, Degree Deodorant, Backyard Sports
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $5.5 million
opendorse Estimated Cost Per Tweet: $13,550
Cost Per Tweet with Image: $20,324
If you only watched Game Two of the NBA Finals this Sunday night, you may be wondering what the big deal is about Curry. He didn’t look like best player on his own team, let alone the MVP of the entire league. Before rushing to judge a cold Steph Curry, take note of what he did this season: 23.8 points and 6.9 assists per game while leading the 67-win Warriors, one of the NBA's best regular season teams in recent memory. Curry is also doing something few thought possible — making Under Armour shoes relevant among basketball players, though the gap between UA and Nike for sneaker supremacy remains wide.
While LeBron is and will remain the NBA's endorsement king for the forseeable future, Steph is an interesting prospect for upcoming endorsement stardom. He’s considered a “normal guy.” Standing at a mortal 6 feet 3 inches, with his signature slight frame may make him more relatable to fans. Curry is also known for being a genuine, nice guy and family man who doesn’t shy from having a little fun in front of the camera. His daughter, Riley, may be the social media MVP of the playoffs.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Twitter Followers: 2.1 million
Instagram Followers: 2.8 million
Facebook Likes: 1.9 million
Current Endorsements: Nike, Jeep, Pepsi, Post Cereal, Skull Candy, Foot Locker
opendorse Estimated Cost Per Tweet: $6,133
Cost Per Tweet with Image: $9,199
Kyrie’s Finals performance unfortunately ended all too early. In overtime of Game One, Irving went down after colliding with Klay Thompson, fracturing his patella. This was more devastating news for an already banged up Cavs squad. Irving, while playing hurt for much of the playoffs, was still the Cavs' number two option, able to take some of the scoring load off of LeBron. As an endorser and marketable athlete, Kyrie has a world of potential. He’s a fan favorite with one of the of the NBA’s best handles and the potential to explode for 40 points at any time. After winning Rookie of the Year in 2011-2012, Irving has also made three All-Star teams, won the 2014 All-Star Game MVP, won the FIBA World Cup with Team USA and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
This season, Nike unveiled Irving’s first signature shoe, the Kyrie 1. The endorsement Irving is most famous for is Pepsi MAX’s Uncle Drew series, in which Irving acts as an elderly basketball player with his fellow injured teammate, Kevin Love. If Irving can stay healthy, his basketball future is bright, and his endorsement earnings are sure to reflect any on-court success.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Twitter Followers: 188 thousand
Instagram Followers: 717 thousand
Facebook Likes: 946 thousand
Current Endorsements: ShotTracker, BODYARMOR SuperDrink, Nike, EA Sports, Fanatics, ANTA
opendorse Estimated Cost Per Tweet: $896
Cost Per Tweet with Image: $1,344
Klay Thompson’s 2014 summer was a tumultuous one. Thompson, who had played his way to a max-level contract, was involved in trade discussions for Kevin Love, who ironically landed with the Cavs and would be included in this list if not for suffering a season ending injury. The Warriors front office eventually decided not to deal Thompson in what ultimately proved to be a great decision. Thompson is not only Curry’s Splash Brother; he also provides the Warriors with a premiere perimeter defender. While Thompson’s 34 points weren’t enough for a win Sunday night, his hot shooting helped to keep Golden State in the game.
This year, Thompson made his first All-Star team and won gold with Team USA at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Thompson’s stardom is only beginning to take off, and his endorsement deals are beginning to follow. He has signed several deals in the past year, and appears to be on track for many more as his exposure increases throughout Golden State’s playoff run. We would look for Thompson to quickly become of the NBA’s most marketable players.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Twitter Followers: 160 thousand
Instagram Followers: 269 thousand
Current Endorsements: Beats by Dre, Major League Fantasy
opendorse Estimated Cost Per Tweet: $488
Cost Per Tweet with Image: $732
Green is another rising star in the world of athlete endorsements. He, too, has benefited from performing as an integral cog of this great Golden State team. Whereas Curry and Thompson are known for their finesse and relentless shooting, Green is considered the team’s muscle. He’s known to not shy away from a shuffle and has been called an instigator by many. While opponents are often bothered by Green’s abrasive tactics, they seem to have helped him earn at least one endorsement deal — Green stars in Beats by Dre’s latest commercial spot, using the headphones to tune out hostile reporters.
Much like Thompson, we look for Green’s star to continue it’s ascent. While Green lacks the high-volume scoring to be considered a true star by the casual fan, his ability as an all-in-one tool — scoring, rebounding, defending, and generally harassing his opponent — has made Green immensely valuable, as he is expected to sign a max-level contract this summer. While Green may never be the face of a franchise, he may find his path to stardom by being the hard working glue-guy on a perennial contender.
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