NBA players continue to get exorbitant contracts, but no team sport promotes a player's individual brand the way the NBA does. From Michael Jordan's shoes, to LeBron James' entertainment ventures, NBA stars are reeling in cash in more ways than one, making some of them the richest athletes on the planet.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Net Worth: $200 Million
Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, retiring in 2001-02 after an 18-year Hall of Fame career. He earned $110 million in his career, and continued to prosper in retirement by investing in real estate and flipping houses and a higher price in which he purchased them. As of 2015, Olajuwon's profits exceeded $100 million, per The Guardian.
David Robinson, Net Worth: $200 Million
Robinson, like Olajuwon, is another all-time great NBA center. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 after a 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs. In addition to the $119 million he earned in the NBA, Robinson has launched two private equity funds, the first of which acquired $350 million in real estate assets. Robinson gives back, too, donating 10 percent of his fund's profits to charity.
Grant Hill, Net Worth: $250 Million
Hill had a 19-year Hall of Fame career in the NBA from 1994-2013 in which he earned $142.8 million in salary. He earned another $120 million in endorsements, including an $80 million shoe deal with Fila in 1997 — the largest shoe contract at the time. In 2018, five years after his retirement, he signed a lifetime deal with the shoe company that will pay him north of $10 million per year to endorse the company. Hill was also part of the ownership group that purchased the Atlanta Hawks in 2015.
Vinnie Johnson, Net Worth: $400 Million
Johnson is certainly a peculiar name on this list. The former Seattle Supersonics and Detroit Pistons guard had a solid 12-year career from 1979-92, but was no All-Star or Hall of Fame player. After retiring, he worked as the Pistons radio analyst until 2001 and also founded The Piston Group — an auto parts supplier that has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. Johnson is the CEO of the company, which employs more than 200 people and generates $2 billion per year in revenue.
Shaquille O'Neal, Net Worth: $400 Million
What isn't Shaq doing these days? Even as a player, O'Neal ventured outside the NBA, exploring careers in acting and music. The Hall of Fame center earned at least $292 million in salary over his career. Even in retirement, Shaq has cashed in on endorsements, earning $60 million a year. He has made careers in television as an NBA studio analyst on TNT, as well as music, where he has become an EDM DJ. He is also on the Board of Directors of Papa Johns where he earns a salary and has stock.
LeBron James, Net Worth: $480 Million
The only active player on the top-10 list, James has maximized his star power on and off the court. James earns about $40 million in salary a year and another $55 million in endorsements. He has endorsement deals with several recognizable brands, including Nike, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Coca-Cola and more. He earns $20 million per year from Nike for his signature shoe line and has a 1 percent stake in Beats by Dre. He owns his own production company, SpringHill Entertainment, and media company, Uninterrupted.
Kobe Bryant, Net Worth: $500 Million
Like James, Bryant maximized his earnings both on and off the court. The former Los Angeles Lakers guard earned $328 million in salary during his 20-year career and another $280 million from endorsements. He owns a 10 percent wquity stake in the sports drink BodyArmour, which was bought by Coca-Cola. Since retiring in 2016, Bryant has ventured into Hollywood and won an Oscar for a poem he wrote, "Dear Basketball," that was turned into an animated short film.
Junior Bridgeman, Net Worth: $600 Million
Many fans may be seeing Junior Bridgeman as No. 2 on this list and thinking, "who?" Bridgeman spent 12 years in the NBA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, but was by no means an All-Star player. He is, however, an All-Star entrepreneur. Bridgeman took his earnings from the NBA and invested them in food franchises, specifically Wendy's, of which he owns 160 around the country. He also owns 118 Chili's, is on the board of the PGA and has a stake in Black Bear Beverages — a Milwaukee soda company.
Magic Johnson, Net Worth: $600 Million
Earvin "Magic" Johnson arguably paved the way for others to make a "brand" out of their name. Magic had personality on and off the court, becoming one of the most dominant players in the NBA and a star playing in Los Angeles. While he made $18 million in salary, he made millions more in endorsements. His career was cut short due to his diagnosis of being HIV positive, but Johnson continued to be active in retirement. He used his earning to launch Magic Johnson Enterprises, which owns Magic Johnson Theaters, a movie studio and promotional marketing company. He owned a small stake in the Lakers from 1994-2010 and owned a chain of Starbucks, which he also sold in 2010. He was the Lakers president for two years before abruptly quitting in 2019 and is also currently a part of an ownership group that owns the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Michael Jordan, Net Worth: $1.9 Billion
There is a reason Michael Jordan is considered the G.O.A.T. Not only was he a six-time champion with the Chicago Bulls, he mastered the art of branding. He scored endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Wheaties, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Hanes and more during his playing career, and still has contracts with many of them as a retired athlete. Air Jordan has been one of the most popular shoe brands spanning four decades and generates $2.5 billion annual sales for Nike. Jordan receives a yearly royalty check from Nike that is usually around $60 million, although sometimes reaches up to $100 million. In 2014, Jordan became a billionaire after he increased his stake as Charlotte Hornets owner to 90 percent.