LeBron James, Kobe Bryant Top Forbes' List of 2013 NBA Endorsement Deal Earners

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIFebruary 17, 2014

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To the surprise of no one, Miami Heat four-time MVP LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers five-time champion Kobe Bryant are incredibly wealthy.

The earnings of those superstars go well beyond their annual salaries, as James and Bryant top Forbes’ list of NBA endorsement deal earners in 2013, per Kurt Badenhausen.

King James raked in $42 million from his shoe deal with Nike and endorsements from McDonald's and Coca-Cola, to name a few. Bryant came in second among NBA players by earning $34 million through deals with Nike, Turkish Air and others.

The rest of Association’s top endorsement earners were as follows, per Forbes:

NBA's Top Endorsement Earners of 2013
PlayerTeamEarningsCompany
Derrick RoseChicago Bulls$21 millionAdidas
Kevin DurantOklahoma City Thunder$14 millionNike
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat$12 millionLi-Ning
Carmelo AnthonyNew York Knicks$9 millionJordan/Nike
Amar'e StoudemireNew York Knicks$6.5 millionNike
Dwight HowardHouston Rockets$6 millionAdidas
Blake GriffinLos Angeles Clippers$6 millionJordan/Nike
Chris PaulLos Angeles Clippers$4 millionJordan/Nike
Forbes.com

James led Miami to a 37-14 record entering the NBA All-Star break, which is the second-best mark in the Eastern Conference behind the Indiana Pacers (40-12). He’s averaging 26.5 points, seven rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. His player efficiency rating of 29.0 ranks second in the league behind Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant (30.9).

LeBron’s teammate, Dwyane Wade, who signed a contract with Chinese shoe brand Li-Ning in 2012, earned $12 million—fifth-most among his peers.

Bryant, who signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension with the Lakers in November, has only been able to play in six games during the 2013-14 campaign due to injury. He was criticized by many in NBA circles for not taking less money in order for management to build a championship contender around him.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote, “Making Bryant the highest-paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons is, objectively, not a smart a thing.”

Bryant later defended his contract, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, but considering that he earned more money in endorsements last year than any NBA player’s 2013-14 salary (including his own $30.453 million), his defense now rings somewhat hollow.

Much is made of each individual player’s yearly salary, but the league’s biggest stars have the added perk of making millions in endorsements. Last February, James told the Sun-Sentinel it didn't matter that he wasn't the NBA's highest-paid player, at least in terms of salary. 

It doesn't matter to me, being the highest-paid guy in the league. What I do on the floor shows my value. At the end of the day, I don't think my value of what I do on the floor can be compensated anyway because of the CBA, if you want this truth.

A massive haul from endorsement deals certainly makes a lower salary easier to stomach.