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Who is the Richest Basketball Player?

Publish Date: 20.06.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

It’s no secret that the NBA is a lucrative organization. Professional sports pay extremely well, especially for superstars or seasoned veterans who can afford to be on larger contracts. Such athletes tend to earn extra income through endorsements or business ventures as well.

That combination makes high-end NBA players some of the richest people on Earth. They don’t just pull in money from the game, they do so from several different ventures. That’s how they expand their wealth, and what takes the wealthiest athletes to the next level.

michael jordan dribbling ball

The Richest Basketball Player Ever: Michael Jordan

There have been many high-earning NBA athletes throughout history, but when asking “who is the richest basketball player?” the answer is Michael Jordan. The Bulls superstar turned himself into a brand, which allowed him to become a businessman beyond basketball.

Where many players used to stop at high contracts, Jordan is a unique case because he showed the power of additional revenue streams. Not only did he get into commercials and TV, but he created the now-iconic Jordan shoe line with Nike.

That venture pushed his earnings into the stratosphere, allowing him to become the first billionaire athlete and the first basketball player to buy stake in a team. His net worth on the court was large, but his shoe deal is how he reached a net worth of $3.5 billion.

Looking at those numbers, Jordan’s net worth is among the highest of anyone on the planet. His career earnings were $94 million, with the rest of his money coming from a combination of Nike, Hanes, and Gatorade. That alone shows the power of external deals.

Though some players tried to get into additional ventures before Jordan, none of them had the foresight he did. That changed the landscape and allowed a lot of other big name stars to turn  a strong NBA career into generational wealth with just a few key moves.

More of the Richest Basketball Players

Jordan greatly diversified his income, which allowed him to get ahead in the shoe market and turn himself into a billionaire. In today’s world, with so much information readily available, such moves are much harder to make than they used to be.

Even so, LeBron James also used his business savvy and external endorsements to turn his NBA contract into amazing revenue. With a net worth of little over $1 billion, the superstar channeled his power and prestige to bring in money from a range of different places.

Like Jordan, LeBron earned a lot of money from Nike deals. He also has a stake in a wide range of companies, ranging from Blaze Pizza to Tonal Fitness, and is not afraid to help companies get off the ground as long as they share in the revenue.

Where many NBA players get rich on the court, it takes a lot of extra ventures to truly hit the upper net worth category. LeBron and Jordan are two examples of that phenomenon, but Magic Johnson is as well.

Johnson joins the other two in the billionaire club, and he did so by buying up stake in a range of different professional sports teams. The ex-point guard owns part of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the LAFC.

On top of that, Magic Johnson Enterprises also owns a marketing company, movie studio, and several theaters. With so many revenue streams in so many different aspects of entertainment media it’s no wonder that Johnson grew his wealth to where it is today.

While Johnson rounds out the basketball billionaires, there are a few other NBA players who made smart money moves after retirement. One of the biggest is the lesser-known Junior Bridgeman.

After playing in the NBA for twelve years, the guard stepped away from the game and started Bridgeman Foods Inc. That allowed him to operate a range of Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants, and enabled him to become a bottler for Coca-Cola.

Those three aspects, combined with his two magazines (Ebony and Jet), allowed Bridgeman to grow the several millions he made during his time in the NBA to a staggering $600 million during his long and lucrative retirement.

The only other basketball players to be worth more than $500 million are Vinnie Johson and Shaquille O’Neal. They both achieved that mark by understanding the worlds around the sport as much as they understood the sport itself.

Shaq made a lot during his career. However, he truly expanded his income by becoming a brand ambassador for a wide range of companies, acting in commercials, and investing smartly in several big-name products over the years.

In contrast, Johnson only made $6 million during his time in the NBA. To reach his staggering net worth, he started the Piston Group automotive company. That allowed him to become an add assembly supplier, which proved to be extremely profitable in the long run.

Business Ventures and Post-Retirement Careers

The NBA pays well, but the above examples show that no matter how much someone makes on the court will never be able to match what they can make off of it. Endorsement deals, business ventures, and smart investments have a much higher ceiling and add up greatly over time.

Jordan, Johnson, and LeBron are all extreme examples of business deals gone right. Finding the time to invest in the right company, starting one from scratch, or knowing when to put money into a project are all ways a player’s income can reach new heights.

However, even those not on that level can turn their contracts into gold mines if they are smart with their money. For instance, Stephen Curry has put a good amount of his $100-plus million into Nirvana Water Sciences Corp and owns plenty of real estate around the world as well.

While some players like Vinnie Johson, do make one big move and hit it big, more often than not NBA athletes make a lot of money after they retire by spreading out their wealth into a series of smaller projects. It’s a lot easier to make passive income going that route.

On top of that, they make smart purchases and get people around them who understand where to find good deals. It’s not about going for gold with one move, it’s about being patient, divesting across multiple industries, and understanding that such growth takes time.

Conclusion

NBA players can make a lot of money during their career, but even those that pull in $100 million or more have to go beyond the game if they want to join the above players. Endorsement deals and external investments have much higher ceilings than contracts.

Even those that don’t hit it big still may need some security after they retire. The NBA pays well, but many players struggle financially once their income runs out. Being able to smartly invest is one of the main ways to prevent that from happening.

All NBA players, even those on rookie contracts, have enough money to last them quite a long time if they’re smart with it. The above examples show what can happen at the top end, but even a few small purchases can make the difference in an athletes post-playing career.

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