Sneakers. To talk about NBA stars and endorsement contracts is first and foremost to talk about shoe deals. Brand categories like beverages, electronics, trading cards and video games also offer large contracts to NBA players, but those deals very rarely pay like the shoe companies.
NBA stars are positioned more than other professional athletes for these insanely lucrative contracts that, in some cases, pay more than their basketball salaries. Many are seen as fashion and pop culture icons for their off-court attire and activities. Social media accounts with large followings—often in the millions—give an even greater and more measurable audience for their promotional efforts.
Basketball and soccer are considered the most universal sports on the planet. Unlike all the rest of the major sports—including soccer—basketball is played at the highest level in shoes you can buy and wear to school, the gym or the mall.
When your favorite athlete in almost any other sport makes the highlight reel, they are probably wearing cleats. No one over the age of seven is wearing cleats off the field. But if you’re a basketball fan, you can certainly lace up your favorite athlete’s sneakers and go just about anywhere.
An entire sneaker culture has risen around collecting, reselling, and stepping out in style in sneakers designed or endorsed by some of the NBA’s best players.
In 1984, Michael Jordan and Nike created the Air Jordan brand and the young star was paid $500,000. Fast forward thirty-five years and his 2019 earnings from the brand topped $130 million.
Here is a look at ten of the most lucrative NBA sneaker deals of all time, with 2019 earnings figures.
10. Kryie Irving | Nike
$11 million per year
Former Rookie of the Year and one-time Champion, his signature shoe is one of the league’s best sellers. Irving has many other endorsement deals, including the character of elderly Uncle Drew that started in a Pepsi commercial and became a feature film role.
9. Russell Westbrook | Jordan
$12 million per year
The 8-time All-Star and 2017 MVP had his first signature shoe released in 2018. He also endorses PepsiCo, Samsung and True Religion apparel.
8. Dwyane Wade | Li-Ning
$12 million per year
Retired after the 2018-19 season, the 3-time Champion is the only player on the list to sign with Chinese company Li-Ning in a deal that originated in 2012. His Way of Wade shoes are part of a lifetime deal with Li-ling that was finalized in 2018. Wade had an additional $4 million in endorsements in 2019 with Gatorade Hublot, New Era and Panini trading cards.
7. James Harden | Adidas
$14 million per year
Harden led the league in scoring in 2018 and was named MVP but he was already in the sites of big brands as the perfect athlete endorser. While he is the lone Adidas athlete to be represented on the list, it’s one heck of deal he signed with the brand. The 13 year deal signed in 2015 is worth $200 million. He also has endorsements with BodyArmor, Electronic Arts and State Farm
6. Zion Williamson | Jordan
$15 million per year
His $75 million contract for 5 years set a record for a rookie shoe deal beating our LeBron’s eye popping deal in his rookie year. Zion’s shoe deal was inked and in place before he had even set foot on an NBA court, and while this isn’t the highest dollar deal on the list, it’s certainly one of the most incredible. He also has contracts with Gatorade, 2K Sports, and Mountain Dew.
5. Kobe Bryant | Nike
$16 million per year
Kobe Bryant was arguably one of the most skilled athletes of all time so it’s no surprise his name makes this list. His shoes have been flying off the shelves in both the US and China for over a decade, and there’s no sign of that slowing down anytime soon.
4. Steph Curry | Under Armour
$20 million per year
Curry is the lone Under Armour athlete on our list, but Under Armour has been aggressively making their way into the shoe market in both basketball and baseball. The 2-time MVP with 3 Championships made $45 million in endorsements in 2019 by adding deals with companies like Chase, Palm, and Rakuten
3. Kevin Durant | Nike
$25 million per year
The one-time MVP with 2 Championships made $35 million in endorsements in 2019, most coming from his Nike deal. The 10 year extension he signed with Nike in 2014 is rumored to be worth $300 million, but he has partnerships with many brands including Alaska Airlines and Google
2. LeBron James | Nike
$32 million per year
The 4-time MVP with 3 Championships made $55 million in endorsements in 2019 with $32 million coming from his lifetime Nike contract. As one o the most recognizable Nike Athletes it’s no surprise a sizable chunk of his revenue comes from the swoosh. Other money comes from deals including Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats Electronics, and Kia Motors.
1. Michael Jordan | Jordan
$130 million per year
Could number 1 be anyone but Jordan? The 5-time MVP with 6 Championships made $145 million in endorsements in 2019 with $130 million coming from the Nike Jordan brand. Other endorsement deals include Hanes, Gatorade and Upper Deck.
The combined total of these shoe endorsement payouts for just one year is $287 million. LeBron James’ Nike deal is a lifetime contract estimated to be worth one billion dollars. Michael Jordan has been collecting Nike Jordan paychecks since 1984. It may take decades to see if a player like Zion Williamson could one day eclipse these stratospheric endorsement deals.
Want to see an NBA shoe legend as part of your next campaign? Tell us what you’ve got in mind and we’ll help you make it a reality!