Unfortunately for NBAers, the salaries they earn from their respective teams are severely limited by the salary cap. So while baseball players are beginning to earn contracts that are in excess of $30 million per season, basketball players can max out at just over $23 million per year. Because of salary cap restrictions, there are only so many of these max contracts to go around, and building a competitive roster sometimes hinges on a star player agreeing to take less than the maximum salary available. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzi are notable examples of this, and Kobe Bryant represents the opposite end of the spectrum, as his max contract has made it difficult for the Lakers to add adequate talent to their roster.
Though the cap restrictions certainly affect a player's earning potential, they still benefit from the existence of very lucrative endorsement deals. Many players have a number of sponsorships and are able to significantly supplement their income through endorsements. Of the more valuable endorsements a player can benefit from are shoe contracts, as the NBA’s brightest stars bring in quite a bit of earnings through lucrative shoe deals.
While many of these players are repped by Nike and the Jordan Brand, there are a number of other companies looking to get into the sneaker game. In recent years companies like Li Ning and Anta have signed stars to big endorsement deals, but it is still the mainstays of the industry that provide the most in terms of payouts to players. These deals often work out very well for both sides, as players get a nice amount of additional income while the shoe companies get incredibly valuable exposure from being associated with some of the NBA’s best players. What follows are 15 players who have landed the most lucrative shoe endorsement deals based on the yearly income of those deals.
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15 Joe Johnson - $1 Million, Jordan Brand
There is no doubt that Joe Johnson has made the most out of his shoe deal with Nike and the Jordan Brand, as the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard has so many shoes that he had to renovate his basement so they could be put on proper display. According to Johnson, his basement now strongly resembles a FootLocker that features nothing but the most classic of Jordan kicks. The access to all those classic Jordans is just one benefit of having an endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand, and Johnson brings home $1 million per year for repping the company.
14 Russell Westbrook - $1.5 Million, Jordan Brand
Westbrook recently brought his very unique sense of style to the Jordan Brand after a long partnership with Nike. His shoe contract, which pays him $1.5 million per year, allows Westbrook to pad his yearly salary in a significant way. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has improved his standing in the basketball world of late, as the relatively frequent absence of Kevin Durant has helped shine a light on Westbrook’s basketball skills. That, along with his incomparable fashion sense, led the Jordan Brand to offer Westbrook a lucrative seven-figure deal.
13 Andrew Wiggins - At Least $2 Million, Adidas
Though only a rookie, Wiggins was able to cash in on a lucrative deal with Adidas before ever playing in an NBA game. Banking on the tremendous upside and superstar potential that Wiggins possesses, Adidas brought Minnesota’s leading scorer into the fold by offering the man known as “Maple Jordan” a shoe contract that would pay him $2 million per season, a deal that is the richest ever paid to a rookie by Adidas. Wiggins has already made this deal look very good for Adidas, as it is clear that the Timberwolves have a star in the making on their roster.
12 Amar’e Stoudemire - $3 Million, Nike
Amar’e is still getting compensated very nicely via his salary, earning a healthy sum from the Knicks before agreeing to a buyout that would make him a free agent, but he has also been able to bring in a significant amount of extra earnings through his shoe deal with Nike. He is currently getting an extra $3 million for wearing Nike's shoes, but the company is not exactly getting the best return on its investment, as he’s only averaging just over 17 minutes per game since joining the Dallas Mavericks.
11 T10. Chris Paul - $4 Million, Jordan Brand
Paul is raking in a lot of money in endorsement deals, and he has raised his national profile immensely with his State Farm Chris Paul/Cliff Paul commercials. So while he is generating a lot of income from other endorsements, he is still getting a big chunk of that endorsement money from his sneaker deal with Jordan Brand. Paul’s $4 million shoe contract makes up the better part of his estimated $5.5 million in yearly endorsements. The move to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers has played a major role in raising Paul’s national profile, and it certainly hasn’t hurt his wallet, either.
10 T10. Carmelo Anthony - $4 Million, Jordan Brand
Part of the reason Melo pushed for a trade to New York all those years ago had to do with getting into a bigger market where he could really leverage his star power and earn his fair share in endorsement deals. The ploy has worked exceedingly well, and Melo is able to add another $4 million from the Jordan Brand to the nearly $23 million he will be getting from the Knicks this year. In fact, a major part of the reason he stayed with a Knicks franchise that is far from competing for a championship had to do with both the endorsement opportunities available in New York and the extra money the Knicks could provide via Anthony's Bird Rights. In total, Anthony has been able to bring in an additional $8 million through his yearly endorsement deals.
9 John Wall - $5 Million, Adidas
Wall’s star has risen significantly as the Washington Wizards look vastly improved this season, and the former overall top draft pick has certainly helped to justify the $5 million per year he is receiving as part of the 5-year, $25 million endorsement deal he signed. Initially representing the Reebok brand, Wall is now with Adidas and has his own j wall signature collection that includes a featured line of shoes and apparel.
8 T7. Dwight Howard - $6 Million, Adidas
The fact that Howard is generally disliked by former teammates and opponents alike has hurt his marketability tremendously, but that ire has still allowed him to bring in some serious shoe deal dollars from Adidas. Adidas, however, cannot be all too thrilled with this particular deal, as Howard’s signature shoes have not yielded much of a return for the company with sales failing to exceed the $6 million Howard is getting paid for his particular shoe deal.
7 T7. Blake Griffin - $6 Million, Jordan Brand
Griffin’s high-flying style of play and powerful finishing ability makes him extremely popular among fans, making it a no-brainer for the Jordan Brand to invest heavily in the Clippers forward. Griffin’s also got some serious marketing chops, as seen in his frequent appearances in commercials for Kia, Footlocker and, of course, Jordan Brand. At $6 million per year, Griffin has been more than earning his keep with the company, and his signature shoe has more than exceeded sales expectations.
6 Damian Lillard - $10 Million, Adidas
Lillard has one of the more lucrative shoe deals in the NBA, recently signing a deal worth $10 million per season with Adidas. The sixth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft has been an immediate hit with the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 20.3 points and 6.1 assists over his first three seasons in the league. His outstanding production and playmaking abilities helped him land his valuable deal and he now has his own signature line of shoes to go with that massive contract.
5 Dwyane Wade - $12 Million, Li Ning
Wade left a very lucrative contract with Nike and the Jordan Brand, instead opting to sign an endorsement deal worth $12 million per year. On top of that, Wade was also promised a "significant" stake in the company, though that may not prove to have been the best idea. Li Ning has been in the red for each of the last three years according to qz.com, and Wade has thus far been able to make the brand viable worldwide. Despite the company's troubles, Wade is still raking in a nice sum from the struggling brand.
4 Derrick Rose - $14.25 Million, Adidas
While reports initially suggested that Rose and Adidas had agreed to a 14-year, $250 million deal, the actual value of the contract is $185 million over 13 years. Still, Adidas cannot be all that happy with this particular deal since Rose has spent most of his time off the court trying to rehab from several different knee surgeries. The company made the best of it in 2013, using an ad campaign to keep Rose in the spotlight while he made his recovery, but the company would surely prefer that one of its highest-paid endorsers was productive and on the floor.
3 Kobe Bryant - $15 Million, Nike
Despite not being on the court all that much in the twilight of his career, Kobe Bryant is still among the top earners when it comes to endorsement deals. As a part of his endorsement contract with Nike, Bryant earns $15 million per year and is still responsible for generating a great deal of revenue for the company worldwide, and he remains one of the more popular players overseas.
2 LeBron James - $20 Million, Nike
King James makes much more money off the court than he does on, bringing in $42 million in endorsements on an annual basis. His shoe deal with Nike, however, is no longer the richest in the NBA after Durant signed his massive deal. Estimated by Forbes at $20 million per year, LeBron trails Durant in earnings by a wide margin, but still sells much more product than the Oklahoma City star.
1 Kevin Durant - $30 Million, Nike
Durant apparently owes Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports a serious debt of gratitude. The sports agency that netted Robinson Cano his massive $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners also landed Durant a shoe contract that will pay him $300 million over the next 10 years. That is a hefty contract, but Durant is one of the game’s best players and is also one of the more well-liked NBAers. Despite being in a smaller market in Oklahoma City, Nike has had no problem marketing Durant and generated $175 million in revenue per year off of Durant’s signature shoe.
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