LeBron James Top NBA Earner 10 Years Running, Edging Stephen Curry

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James leads the list of Forbes‘ highest-paid players, bringing home a total of $117.6 million split between $46.7 million in on-court earnings and $70 million in off-court earnings.

James’ deals with Taco Bell, Nike, and his position as the largest shareholder in the Springhill Company, the television and movie production company, helped make James the first active player to be listed on Forbes Billionaire list. James has topped this list for the past 10 years, and no athlete makes more in endorsements than King James. 

Second on the list is Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry who (almost) evenly splits his income of $101.9 million between $51.9 million on-court and $50 million off-court. Curry is the first NBA player to cross the $50 million marker in on-court earnings. Curry is another NBA athlete with a sizable investment portfolio. Curry’s investments, including his UnderArmour shoe deal which came with a $75 million stock option, set him up to have a lucrative post-NBA career. He may have had even more off-court earnings were it not for his investment into the fraudulent FTX cryptocurrency company headed by Sam Bankman-Fried. 

Third on the list is Kevin Durant, who similar to Curry, splits his income between his on-court and off-court earnings. Durant makes $46.4 million for the Phoenix Suns and earns $45 million off-court due in large part to his Boardroom media company. Also, Durant is the principal owner of the Brooklyn Aces, a team in Major League Pickleball as well as a lifetime deal with Nike and an appearance in the Call Of Duty video game series. 

Among all professional sports players, the NBA has three of the top 10 spots, which these three players occupy. However, the presence of Saudi Arabian money is felt on this list as both Saudi football money and the upstart LIV Golf, which essentially is subsidizing the PGA Tour, has brought their influence to bear on the list. Cristiano Ronaldo made it back to the pole position after his move from Manchester United to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Nassr FC, which netted him a total of $136 million across his two clubs contracts.

The list could undergo a seismic shift, however, if French football prodigy Kylian Mbappé gets the $1.1 billion lifetime contract he is rumored to be offered by his current club Paris Saint-Germain. Soccer is truly an international sport and even though Lionel Messi hadn’t yet signed his deal with Inter Miami CF of the MLS  when this list came out, he was at number two, while Mbappé, his ex-teammate, occupied the third position. European football players, in stark contrast to NBA players, make the majority of their money on the pitch. Mbappé’s $100 million salary almost eclipses the total salaries of the NBA players’ total income. 

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