Here are 7 of the most profitable shoe deals in NBA history

Abu Mubarik June 12, 2023
Since the 1980s, NBA players have signed some lucrative deals worth millions of dollars. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

NBA players are undoubtedly recognized as some of the world’s top-earning athletes, with some having diverse streams of income including their salaries and juicy brand endorsement deals constituting the bulk of their net worth. 

From cars to clothing, to other luxurious products, these endorsement deals have a wide range of categories. However, one of the hottest endorsement deals in the NBA is shoe deals. Since the 1980s, NBA players have signed some lucrative deals worth millions of dollars. Highlighting some of these shoe deals, here are seven of the most profitable shoe endorsement deals in NBA history. 

Michael Jordan

NBA legend, Micheal Jordan signed a deal with Nike in 1984, a deal that would give birth to the Air Jordan brand shortly after. Before inking a deal with Nike, the brand played second fiddle to then-leading brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Converse.

After initially rejecting Nike’s deal, Jordan came around and started working on his own shoe brand, which led to the design and launch of Air Jordans.

Nike first offered Jordan a five-year deal with a base pay of $500,000 per year, triple any other NBA sneaker deal, according to Forbes. The first Air Jordan sneaker was an instant hit, racking up $126 million in sales in the first 12 months.

As the Jordan brand got bigger, so did his paycheck. In 2020, Jordan reportedly made $130 million from Nike, which Forbes estimates was four times bigger than what LeBron James earned. 

In the fiscal year ending May 2019, Forbes reported that the Jordan brand had revenue of $3.1 billion. Additionally, Forbes reported that the brand is easily “worth north of $10 billion, in addition to the billions of dollars in profits it has generated over 35 years and its halo impact on sales of other Nike-branded products.”

In 2021, Face2face Africa reported that the over 36-year partnership with Nike has earned Jordan $1.3 billion and counting. At the time of filing this report, Forbes estimates his net worth to be $1.7 billion.

LeBron James

In 2022, LeBron James became the first active NBA player to become a billionaire, according to Forbes. He is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion.

In 2015, James signed a lifetime contract with Nike. He has partnered with the apparel giant since he signed a $90 million contract before he graduated high school. The deal will carry him into retirement, according to CBS News. Meanwhile, the financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Kevin Durant

Durant started his professional NBA career after he was drafted for the 2007 season by the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Thunder after the team relocated to Oklahoma City. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year for the season. In the 2009 season, he came in third as the Most Improved Player. Durant was named in the first NBA All-Star Game during the 2009-10 season and he became the youngest NBA scoring champion with a point score of 30.1 points.

According to Sportico, Durant has made $580 million in career earnings and will most likely hit the billionaire status as an active player. What is more, he is owed roughly $85 million from Nike through 2024 when his 10-year Swoosh deal expires.

Stephen Curry

Between June 2016 and June 2017, Curry earned around $50 million from salary and endorsements. Between June 2017 and June 2018, sources speculated that he earned $76.9 million, however, Face2Face Africa cannot confirm this.

Curry has endorsement partners including Under Armour, Chase, Vivo, eHi, Nissan/Infiniti, Brita, Bubble, and JBL, and generates an estimated $42 million in off-court income.

According to Forbes, Under Armour, which pays Curry $20 million a year, launched Curry’s Brand in November 2020, hoping to challenge Nike’s Jordan Brand. The sales of his shoes reportedly skyrocketed,  bringing in a much-needed windfall to the company.

Kobe Bryant

In 2022, Nike ended its partnership with the Bryant estate, which means the estate is free to pursue any deal of its choice.

Bryant first signed a deal with Nike in 2003 after leaving Adidas when he entered the league in 1996. It was one of the biggest basketball deals Nike has signed. The company produced multiple lines of Kobe shoes and gear. He signed an endorsement extension in April 2016. The deal is said to be worth $12 million.

Dwyane Wade

At the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade won three NBA championships; first in 2006, second in 2012, and third in 2013, and eventually announced his retirement from the NBA after the 2018-2019 season. His 16-year career in the NBA saw him earn $200 million in salary alone and $17 million annually in endorsements, according to CNBC.

Wade has a lifetime deal with Li-Ning in 2012, according to ESPN. He started his career with a deal with Converse and, later, Jordans.

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving signed a show deal with Nike. The deal is reportedly one of the best-sellers since it was released nearly five years ago. The deal is said to be worth $11 billion.

However, in 2022, Nike cut ties with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. The development comes following a controversial social media post about a book and movie containing antisemitic tropes.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 12, 2023

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