Forbes’ annual list of the highest-paid athletes in the world has been released, and the 2019 money amount is up 5% from last year. With the introduction and rise of max and supermax contracts in the NBA, it’s no surprise that superstar basketball players are at the top of the list.
With that in mind, here are the five highest-paid NBA players in 2019.
5. James Harden ($47.7 M)
Coming in at number five is Houston Rockets star James Harden. Since getting traded to the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, Harden has become one of the premier scorers in the NBA. A seven-time NBA All-Star, five-time All-NBA First Team member and last year’s MVP, Harden has led the Rockets to the Western Conference playoffs the past seven seasons. In 2017, Harden and the Rockets agreed to a four-year, $228 million extension, which is the largest contract in NBA history. This, alongside his massive sneaker deal with Adidas, makes him the fifth-highest paid player in the league, raking in $47.7 million in 2019.
4. Russell Westbrook ($53.7 M)
The triple-double machine and 2017 league MVP signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. An eight-time NBA All-Star, Westbrook is one of the flashiest and most explosive players in the entire league. Off the court, Westbrook has become a fashion icon, bringing in a variety of sponsorship opportunities to coincide with his massive salary. The same year in which he signed his extension, Westbrook also inked an enormous ten-year deal with Jordan Brand. The combination of his salary and endorsements brought in a staggering $53.7 million for Westbrook in 2019, good for fourth-highest in the NBA.
3. Kevin Durant ($65.4 M)
When healthy, Kevin Durant is arguably the best player in the entire NBA. Unfortunately for Durant, staying on the court has been an issue of late. After exiting Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with an Achilles injury, questions arose surrounding the effect his injury would have on his impending free agency. Based on the amount of money Durant reeled in this past year, I don’t think he has much to worry about. The two-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP made more off of endorsements this past year than his salary. In 2019, Durant made $30.4 million from his contract and $35 million from endorsements. In large part, the endorsement money is coming from Nike, where his Kevin Durant brand shoes are one of the most popular on the market. With recent speculation being that teams will still offer Durant max contract offers despite his injuries, expect Durant’s overall income in 2020 to take an even bigger jump.
2. Stephen Curry ($79.8 M)
The consensus greatest shooter of all-time, Steph Curry is on top of the world as of late. The two-time MVP has made the past five NBA Finals, winning three and currently down 2-3 in a series against the Toronto Raptors. In 2017, Curry agreed to a five-year extension with the Warriors worth just over $200 million. Making a staggering $37.8 million off his salary alone in 2019, Curry still made more off endorsements, bringing in an additional $42 million. His high endorsement salary is largely from his massive shoe deal with Under Armour, for whom he’s there signature athlete. On the side, Curry is also sponsored by a variety of other companies including Brita Water and Nissan. In total, Curry brought in almost $80 million in 2019, making him the second highest paid NBA player. The scary part is, his total income will continue to rise as his salary is set to increase annually.
1. LeBron James ($89 M)
It’s no surprise that King James tops the list of highest-paid NBA players. One of the best and most influential athletes in the history of sports, James has revolutionized the game while also capitalizing on building his own brand. In 2018, James signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, making him one of the highest paid players in the league while also playing in a big market. James received $36 million last season from his contract and $53 million off endorsements. This combination of salary and endorsements brought in a total of $89 million for James in 2019. One of Nike’s highest-paid and signature athletes, James’ Nike gear is among the most purchased merchandise in sports. With his recent move to Los Angeles, expect James’ endorsements to continue rising as he becomes involved in more opportunities. He has already been announced as the lead role in Space Jam 2, which releases in 2021, and has expressed interest in becoming more involved in film and other ventures in LA.