The NBA was virtually built upon the success of players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Their marketability allowed the league to grow to gigantic, unforeseen proportions. With 2013 beginning, those names are still the foundation of the league, but a new cast of players has overtaken the marketing realm and is poised to lead the NBA into the next generation.
A crop of young superstars both on and off the court are sprouting in the league's garden. These players not only are redefining marketing and global exposure for the sport, but are active in their communities and serve as multicultural role models.
This is a list of the top five under-25 endorsers in the NBA.
If you haven’t seen the Uncle Drew ads Kyrie Irving is featured in via Pepsi Max, jump on them immediately. Irving, fresh off his Rookie of the Year award, is not only taking the NBA by storm, but the endorsement world as well.
Already signed to Pepsi Max, Foot Locker, Skull Candy, Nike and EA Sports, Kyrie is a hot commodity thanks to his electric style of play and immediate success on the court.
Furthermore, Irving already looks like one of the NBA’s young stars and the next great point guard in a league cluttered with them.
Otherwise known as the “Durantula,” Kevin Durant has carved out an early career that is Hall of Fame worthy. He is one of the best scorers in the NBA, having won the past three scoring titles.
However, his evasiveness as the figurehead of the Oklahoma City franchise has subdued his national appeal, as he made a mere $7 million off his shoe sales in 2011, despite leading the league in scoring and starring in his own feature film. That figure is sure to rise as Durant leads the Thunder to the top of the league standings over the next few years.
Regardless, Durant already holds endorsements from Sprint, Gatorade, Panini, General Electric and 2K Sports. The list is sure to grow as his brand improves and his game continues to evolve.
Outside of LeBron James, perhaps no other player in the league has as much international appeal as Jeremy Lin. His development in the nation's biggest market allowed the former New York Knick to become a worldwide sensation.
This past summer he signed with the Houston Rockets, and apparently turned down a wealth of endorsements.
"If I really wanted to, I could have triple-digit endorsements," he told Sports Illustrated (per Business Insider).
Lin also turned down a contract with Li Ning, the Chinese shoe company which lured Dwyane Wade away from Nike. Instead, Lin received a raise from Nike that could pay him between $2 million and $4 million.
The high-flying big man puts on quite the show when he steps on the floor. Los Angeles Clippers fans know not to leave their seats when Blake is on the floor, for fear of missing yet another highlight-reel dunk.
Griffin took that one step further when he won the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest by jumping over a Kia, one of his endorser’s cars.
Since his euphoric rise to stardom as a rookie, and YouTube sensation, Griffin has signed on to endorse multiple other products. Subway, NBA 2K13, Vizio, GameFly and Panini American are just a few of the big names. Additionally, Griffin agreed to become part of Nike’s elite Jordan Brand.
The sky is the limit for Griffin—literally. Expect to see him become one of the most sought-after endorsers in the league.
Despite missing the entire season thus far, Derrick Rose is still one of the hottest NBA endorsement names. Not only does he have a new collective bargaining rule named after him, thanks to the new max contract rule that allow teams to give players 30 percent of the salary cap toward a maximum contract, but he also signed the second biggest sneaker endorsement deal ever.
Adidas signed the ultra-athletic point guard to a 14-year, $250 million contract.
Safe to say Rose is the new icon of Chicago and somewhat of this era’s Jordan in the shoe industry, due to his immense talent, supreme athleticism and business-changing shoe contract.