NBA stars and multimillion-dollar shoe contracts go hand in hand and for the best basketball players on the planet these are often their most lucrative endorsement deals.
It makes business sense for the shoe supplier, who are aware that having special edition basketball shoes designed for star players will translate to retail sales as fans want to strap on the same shoes as their favourite players.
Here is a look at the 10 most lucrative basketball shoe endorsements and what each player earns annually from each deal. The figures are provided by Forbes and are accurate as of the most recent data (August 2019).
1. Kyrie Irving – Nike ($11m per year)
The six-time NBA All-Star and 2012 Rookie of the Year struck a deal with Nike and his signature shoe released six years ago remains one of the NBA’s best-sellers. Irving, who currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets, also released a SpongeBob SquarePants x Kyrie collection last year.
2. Russell Westbrook – Jordan ($12m per year)
The Houston Rockets point guard may be receiving a fair amount of criticism after his disappointing form in the NBA playoffs, but Westbrook is still a huge star in the NBA and his deal with Jordan reflects that. The eight-time All Star signed a new 10-year deal with Jordan in 2017 and released his first signature shoe, called Why Not Zero, in 2018.
3. Dwyane Wade – Li-Ning ($12m per year)
A three-time NBA champion during his initial 13-year spell at the Miami Heat, Wade retired from the NBA in March 2019 after a final season with the team following short spells at Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Even though Wade has played his last game, he signed a lifetime deal with Li-Ning for his Way of Wade signature line, ensuring the 13-time All Star guard will have a lucrative stream of income for years to come.
4. Zion Williamson – Jordan ($13m per year)
He may have only just completed his rookie season in the NBA, but there are such huge expectations that Williamson will become a superstar that Nike and Jordan moved quickly to get the New Orleans Pelicans forward, beating rival bids from Adidas and Puma. Expect Williamson to climb this list over the coming years.
5. James Harden – Adidas ($14m per year)
Harden has long established himself as one of the standout stars in the NBA, so it’s only natural that he has a shoe endorsement deal to match his status. The Houston Rockets guard – and eight-time All Star and the 2018 MVP – signed a 13-year extension with Adidas in 2015 worth up to $200m. His latest signature shoe is the Harden Vol. 4.
6. Kobe Bryant – Nike ($16m per year)
The death of the Los Angeles Lakers legend in January shook the world, reminding everyone of what a hugely influential and popular figure he was. A five-time NBA champion with the team he spent his entire 20-year career with, Bryant’s status as a bonafide superstar was matched by his lucrative deal with Nike.
7. Stephen Curry – Under Armor ($20m per year)
The 2019/20 season was one to forget for Curry and the Golden State Warriors as the team that won three championships in four seasons failed to make the playoffs while their biggest star was sidelined with injury. Curry, however, remains one of the NBA’s biggest stars and Under Armor made the two-time MVP the face of their move into basketball in 2013. When he signed for Under Armor, Curry was not the superstar he now is, but a new deal was penned to reflect his new status.
8. Kevin Durant – Nike ($26m per year)
The 2014 NBA MVP and two-time NBA champion has an extremely popular line of Nike shoes. The KD collection is a best-seller in both the United States and, even more so, in China, with the Durant Nike franchise growing double digits last year, according to the Brooklyn Nets star’s business partner Rich Kleiman.
9. LeBron James – Nike ($32m per year)
No surprises that the most lucrative shoe deal for an active player belongs to the best player in the NBA. Lakers superstar James, who won championships with the Cavaliers and Heat, signed a lifetime deal with Nike in 2015 worth a reported $1 billion. His previous Nike contract was worth $90m over seven years, so the jump up is a reflection that James’ legacy will continue long after he retires.
10. Michael Jordan – Jordan ($130m per year)
Was the number one slot ever going to belong to anyone else? Despite retiring 17 years ago, Jordan still earns an absolute fortune from his line of Jordan sneakers that have gone beyond simply being a collection but has expanded into a subsidiary of Nike.
It’s incredible to think that back when he signed his first deal with Nike in 1984 – worth $500,000 a year – that the Chicago Bulls legend was hesitant and preferred to agree terms with Adidas. Instead, the most successful athlete-apparel partnership in the history of sports was formed and has made Jordan a billionaire with a fortune worth around $1.6bn.
As shown in the acclaimed The Last Dance documentary series, Jordan was a serious gambler during his career, whether on the golf course, in the casino, or on horse races. Still, even the best gamblers with the best 2020 Breeder’s Cup odds are prone to heavy losses.
However, even if Jordan continued to gamble as hard as during the height of his career, he would struggle to squander the immense wealth that he has accumulated – and continues to accumulate – through his Nike/Jordan deal.