NBA

Kobe Bryant: Search for Modern Global Icon Ends at Black Mamba

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterJanuary 26, 2012

Every NBA superstar wants what Kobe Bryant has, and it's not a pure jump shot or the ability to play through immense pain. It's his status as a global icon.

Forbes Magazine has released the top earners in the NBA, and Kobe Bryant sits proudly at the top. As you will see, his talents on the court only play but a part in the overall picture of why the Mamba is beloved the world over.

Kurt Badenhausen runs down the top earners in basketball and explains why Bryant has taken the top spot among a set of millionaires.

While the NBA lockout angered fans and threatened the 2011-12 season this fall, Kobe Bryant toured Europe to promote Nike and the game that made him a global icon. There were stops in Athens, Istanbul, Milan and Rome where he took part in Nike store openings and basketball clinics amid adoring fans.

LeBron James may want the "global icon" tag, but Bryant is the only player to currently have that title. This nation may hem and haw over who the greatest player in the NBA is, but it's clear that question is far easier to answer abroad.

Bryant is beloved in all continents and Nike has benefited from that fact. The Kobe System seems to be more than a humorous set of TV spots and two-story billboards.

Here is the full list of top-NBA earners:

1. Kobe Bryant ($53.2million)
2. LeBron James ($49 million)
3. Dwight Howard ($28.9 million)
4. Dwyane Wade ($27.7 million)
5. Carmelo Anthony ($26.5 million)
6. (tie) Amare Stoudemire ($26.2 million)
6. Kevin Garnett ($26.2 million)
8. Kevin Durant ($24.5 million)
9. Tim Duncan ($23.3 million)
10. Chris Paul ($22.4 million)

The problem for some All Stars is that they think nationally. In regards to bottom line, that is small potatoes. As Badenhausen states, the Lakers star guard has a worldwide following that,

has allowed him to amass an endorsement portfolio of global brands including Nike, Smart Car, Panini and Turkish Airlines that pay him $28 million annually.

Bryant has always been a big picture type of guy. Forget regular season wins, or an All Star MVP, he is interested in NBA titles.

The trick is to look above and beyond, and therein lies the secret of the Kobe System. You have to shoot beyond the stars, and that is how Bryant sits on top of a bunch of them.

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