NBA Highest-paid players 2021

NBA Highest-paid player

NBA Highest-paid players 2021, Due to the pandemic causing empty arenas. This will dent NBA players salaries by 20% this season, but the biggest stars have blockbuster sneaker contracts that keep them among the world’s highest-paid athletes.

The NBA season tipped off last month and barely made it two weeks before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the schedule. Twenty-two games have been postponed while others have taken place with thinned-out rosters. Critics have questioned playing hoops during a pandemic, but NBA players have three billion reasons to lace up their high-tops—that’s the payroll that the league’s 400-plus players will divvy up this season.

NBA salaries have skyrocketed over the past three decades, up tenfold to a pre-Covid-19 average of $9.5 million per player last season. The figure is more than double what baseball players make and three times the average in football. There were 44 NBA players scheduled to make at least $25 million in salary this season, compared with seven in MLB and 12 in the NFL (a coronavirus-induced salary cut will drop the NBA’s figure to 34). Credit to the disparity to smaller rosters and soaring TV deals that trickle down to players. The gains occurred despite the NBA operating as the only one of the three sports with a cap on individual salaries, first implemented in 1999.

LeBron James is the NBA’s top-earning player for the seventh straight year, including off-court income (2016-17 was the only season of his career James had the highest playing salary). He’s expected to earn $95.4 million, including an estimated $64 million from endorsements, memorabilia and media. It is a record haul for an NBA player and the highest ever in American team sports. The historic year will push his career earnings to $1 billion, including $700 million off the court. He joins Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo

and Lionel Messi in reaching the three-comma club while still an active athlete.

The four-time MVP’s salary with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2020-21 season was set to be $39.2 million, but James and every other NBA player will have 20% of their pay placed in an escrow account to help balance the 50-50 split in league wide revenue, as defined by the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. Altogether, he will lose out on about $8 million and a chance to enter the rarefied club of athletes who have earned $100 million or more in a single year. The only other Americans to reach that peak as active athletes were Woods and Mayweather.

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Arenas generate roughly 40% of NBA revenue in a normal season, but that figure will be closer to zero this year. Translation: Players won’t see a dime of the escrow money with so few fans at games. The total league wide attendance of 103,000 to date is 2% of what it normally would be at this point in the season.

The coronavirus has put a deep freeze on new endorsements, but James is one of the most marketable people on the planet. So when Coca-Cola and James couldn’t reach a contract extension last fall for a partnership that began in 2003, PepsiCo pounced. James is expected to sign a multi-year deal to promote the Mountain Dew brand for the snacks and beverage giant, sources confirmed to Forbes. It joins AT&T, Beats, Nike, Walmart, Rimowa, GMC and Blaze Pizza in his endorsement portfolio.

The Pepsi deal “may include integration” into Blaze locations, replacing Coca-Cola products, according to Front Office Sports. It would be the latest example of the James business empire working in concert. He walked away from a $15 million McDonald’s endorsement in 2015 for a deal with Blaze. James was already a franchisee and early investor in the fast-growing restaurant chain, and now was being paid to pitch the brand. His investor group currently holds 18 franchises in Chicago and South Florida.

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Stephen Curry ranks second in the NBA with earnings of $74.4 million, including $40 million off the court. He is back raining 3s for the Golden State Warriors after missing all but five games last season recovering from a broken hand. The absence of Curry and his fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson pushed the Warriors to the league’s worst record, following four straight trips to the NBA Finals.

Under Amour is betting on the 32-year-old Curry sustaining his elite level. UA launched the Curry Brand in December, a similar model to what Nike did with Michael Jordan. It will feature a mix of footwear, apparel and accessories across multiple sports. Curry’s Under Armour deal is worth $20 million a year but will grow if the brand takes off. The Jordan Brand generates nearly $4 billion in revenue for Nike and is worth more than $130 million a year for MJ.

The Warriors have two of the NBA’s highest-paid stars in Curry and Thompson (No. 8, $43.3 million), but the Brooklyn Nets did them one better with their blockbuster trade this month for three-time reigning scoring champion James Harden. Kevin Durant (No. 3, $65.2 million), Harden (No. 5, $50 million) and Kyrie Irving (No. 7, $43 million) are an expensive trio but make the Nets an NBA title favorite, along with the Lakers.

The league’s ten top-earning players are projected to earn a combined $558 million in salary and endorsements for the 2020-21 season, largely flat versus year ago, with 44% of the total from off-the-court endeavors. They will all likely crack the top 20 in Forbes’ annual look at the world’s highest-paid athletes in June.

Ranking Summary: NBA Highest-paid players 2021, Teams, Salary, Endorsement


#10 | Damian Lillard

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Total Earnings: $39 million
Salary: $25 million
Endorsements: $14 million
Lillard recently joined Gatorade’s Bolt24 product line, which launched in 2019. “It is new now, but there will come a time when Bolt24 is a well-known thing. I saw it as an opportunity to be tied to that history,” Lillard told Forbes in December. He launched an annual internship program last year for a half-dozen underserved students at high schools in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

#9 | Chris Paul

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Phoenix Suns
Total Earnings: $40.1 million
Salary: $33.1 million
Endorsements: $7 million
The NBA Players Association president ramped up his impact investing in recent years. He invested in a pair of funds from Turner Impact Capital and made a personal investment in Beyond Meat. Paul has an option next season worth $44.2 million that he almost certainly will pick up. It is the final year of his four-year, $160 million contract.

#8 | Kyrie Irving

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Total Earnings: $43 million
Salary: $26 million
Endorsements: $17 million
Irving missed seven games with the Nets in January, explaining he “just needed a pause.” The break cost him nearly $900,000 for two game checks and a $50,000 fine for violating NBA Covid rules. Irving’s viral Pepsi ad campaign was the inspiration for the 2018 Uncle Drew movie starring Irving, although Pepsi does not have an active partnership with the guard.

#7 | Klay Thompson

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Golden State Warriors
Total Earnings: $43.3 million
Salary: $28.3 million
Endorsements: $15 million
Thompson joined Alex Morgan, Travis Pastrana and Paul Rodriguez to launch a CBD brand, Just Live, in October. The mission is to provide natural alternatives to painkillers for fitness recovery. The five-time All-Star endorses prominent brands Tissot, Mercedes-Benz and Kaiser Permanente, but his Chinese shoe partner Anta represents more than half of his off-court income.

#6 | Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Total Earnings: $49 million
Salary: $22 million
Endorsements: $27 million
The two-time reigning MVP committed to Milwaukee in December when he signed a five-year, $228 million deal—the richest in NBA history. Disney locked up the rights to a movie on the life of Antetokounmpo, who arrived in the U.S. from Greece in 2013. It is expected to be released in 2022 and to be along the lines of the the 2009 Academy Award-winning blockbuster The Blind Side.

#5 | James Harden

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Total Earnings: $50 million
Salary: $33 million
Endorsements: $17 million
Smart home fragrance brand Pura announced in December that the 2018 NBA MVP had joined the company as an investor and creative director. Harden’s Adidas deal pays roughly $14 million a year, and the guard has leaned toward equity deals for his other partners, like Stance, Art of Sport and BodyArmor.

#4 | Russell Westbrook

NBA Highest-paid player

Team: Washington Wizards
Total Earnings: $58.1 million
Salary: $33 million
Endorsements: $25 million
Westbrook has trimmed his endorsements in recent years—Nike represents the overwhelming bulk of his sponsorship income. But the triple-double machine has built a robust car dealership portfolio with ten dealerships in Southern California.

#3 | Kevin Durant

NBA Highest-paid player
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Total Earnings: $65.2 million
Salary: $31.2 million
Endorsements: $34 million
Durant scored in November when Uber bought food-delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion. He had invested in the San Francisco-based startup at a discounted entry price in 2016 in return for his endorsement and turned his $1 million stake into roughly $15 million.

#2 | Stephen Curry

NBA Highest-paid player 2021
Team: Golden State Warriors
Total Earnings: $74.4 million
Salary: $34.4 million
Endorsements: $40 million
Curry’s salary is the highest in the NBA for the fourth straight season. The run comes after he finished a bargain-basement deal worth $44 million over four years, during which he won a pair of MVP Awards and led the Warriors to two NBA titles. His production company, Unanimous Media, entered podcasting last year with a first-look deal at Amazon-owned Audible.

#1 | LeBron James

NBA Highest-paid player 2021
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Total Earnings: $95.4 million
Salary: $31.4 million
Endorsements: $64 million
NBA Highest-paid player: King James has long been compared to Michael Jordan. It will happen again in July when Space Jam 2: A New Legacy is released, as a sequel to the 1996 original starring Jordan. LeBron recruited fellow pros Thompson, Lillard and Anthony Davis for cameos. The movie is a 3-pointer for James as star, executive producer and cofounder of SpringHill Entertainment, which is producing the movie with Warner Brothers. James could net more than $10 million from the film.

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