NBA Stars And Their Sponsorship Deals

The NBA is the third wealthiest professional sports league in the world – behind the NFL (National Football League) and MLB (Major League Baseball).

While the playing deals might net players millions over several year contracts for the major teams, some of the top stars make a surprisingly large portion of their earnings from endorsement and sponsorship deals.

What is the National Basketball Association?

The NBA was founded as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) back in 1946, in competition with the National Basketball League (NBL). The two merged in 1949 to combine teams and became known as the National Basketball Association.

The regular game season lasts from October through to April, and the NBA is pretty unique as the only league that regularly schedules competitive games on Christmas Day. The season pauses in February for the All-Stars tournament, which is a popular highlight for fans and players alike.

In the regular season, the teams are separated into two – Eastern Conference, and Western Conference. Each of the 30 teams in the NBA play 82 games in the normal league, and then the top eight from each have the opportunity to go into the playoffs to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The playoffs run into June – so the NBA season lasts most of the year, giving players (and their sponsors) a lot of potential air time. Top players mean more exciting NBA playoff odds – which is even more lucrative for endorsements.

The Top Three NBA Players by Endorsement Earnings

The top three highest sponsorship earning players who are currently in the NBA have also been recognized for their philanthropy – and like most famous sports people, they have business interests away from the court that help them create an income designed to last past their retirement.

LeBron James

LeBron James is the leading scorer in NBA history and is considered to be one of the greatest players in the sport. Currently playing for the LA Lakers, James has often been compared to Michael Jordan – and has even starred in the 2021 follow up to Space Jam, the popular kids movie that Jordan was in back in the mid-'90s.

Heavily recruited from his school days in Akron, Ohio, LeBron James has been All-Star 19 times, won two Olympic gold medals, and been MVP multiple times. He has created the LeBron James Family Foundation, which has opened schools, created housing, and even built a medical center in his home town.

Outside of the court, he has starred in TV commercials, featured in books and documentaries, and even hosted Saturday Night Live. Part owner of famous English soccer club Liverpool FC since 2011, it is his endorsement deal with Nike that makes up the bulk of his sponsorship earnings. After having been signed with the footwear giant since his rookie days, James signed a lifetime contract with Nike in 2015.

LeBron James reportedly earns 64% of his annual income through his endorsements, which are worth a staggering $70 million.

Kevin Durant

Also known as KD, Durant currently plays for the Phoenix Suns, although he has also played for the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets. KD is one of the most popular players in the league, with more than one of his sponsor companies using his reputation as the 'nicest guy in the NBA' to help further their own advertising.

After growing up on the outskirts of Washington DC, Durant reached six feet tall by the time he was 11 – and he was heavily recruited out of high school to join a pro ball team.

Off the court, Durant part-owns a US soccer team (Philadelphia Union), a media company, a production company and he has invested in a professional pickleball team. He is endorsed by Nike, Foot Locker, Beats by Dre and others, and is a brand ambassador for Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange.

Durant earns about $48 million from endorsements alone, which is reportedly around 55% of his annual income.

Stephen Curry

Currently playing for the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry is credited with revolutionizing the way that players shoot – making it more attractive to take the three-point shots.

Although he is the son of a pro ball player, Curry is more recognized in the game for his flashy play but also because he has a smaller physique than many of the other NBA superstars. This makes him more accessible to younger fans, showing them that you don't have to be huge to make it on the court.

His personal religious beliefs are something that he feels very strongly about, and this is part of the wholesome image that he portrays – and combined with the fact that people widely regard him as the greatest shooter in NBA history is why he has managed to sign some lucrative endorsement deals.

Curry has worked with brands like Nike, Rakuten, and Chase Bank, but he is most famous for his association with Under Armor.

Curry reportedly earns about 48% of his annual salary from endorsements, coming in at a cool $40 million.