Professional sports are extremely lucrative. Anyone who manages to climb up the mountain and make their living by playing in one of the top leagues is heavily compensated, regardless of their playtime. Still, there are a few players who make much, much more than others.
In this article, I will list the richest NBA athletes and go over how they managed to amass their impressive wealth. While large contracts matter, they are far from the only way players generate income. There are plenty of other factors in play too.
10. Kevin Durant
While most of the richest NBA players are ex-players who made smart investments, Kevin Durant is one of the few current athletes who still has amassed a large fortune. The tall wing has some of the largest contracts in the NBA, but he’s made some incredible investments as well.
First, he’s been a top player for years. That comes with multiple massive deals, including several max contracts. Such moves have made him one of the highest paid players in the history of the sport, with his current deals pulling in more than $42 million a year.
Even so, what truly helped him earn his $200 million net worth was well timed deals. The superstar is a savvy investor, who has also made a lot of money in tech companies. He’s had a lot of partnerships with different brands as well.
9. Luol Deng
Though Luol Deng may not be as high profile as the other players on this list, the Sudanese-born athlete sure found a way to bring in extra capital. As with Durant, he’s worth a stunning $200 million. However, he didn’t earn his fortune in quite the same way.
While Deng did play in the league a long time, taking home over $100 million on the court, he made most of his money post-basketball through a series of strong real estate investments. He currently owns a small property empire of hotels, resorts, and apartments.
Those spaces alone count for $125 million, and they’ll likely only appreciate with time.
8. David Robinson
Also coming into the $200 million club is David Robinson. The ex-Spur made his share of money while playing in the 90’s, but the league didn’t quite have the same contracts or prestige that it has today. As such, he had to look elsewhere for his large wealth.
Though Robinson strung together a few solid endorsement deals while playing, he took Deng’s route to get to where he is now. That is, he bought a ton of lucrative property assets, reportedly worth well over $200 million, and got into venture capitalism.
Smart investments and years of saving helped Robinson turn from a hall of famer to a hall of famer with one of the biggest nest eggs in NBA history.
7. Grant Hill
Like Robinson, Hill is a hall of famer who played when the NBA didn’t quite dole out as much money as it does today. That’s not to say he didn’t get paid or make a lot of money in the sport, but he always had a strong mind for external deals or good endorsements.
In fact, he was one of the first players to dive into endorsements when he signed a strong $80 million contract with Fila all the way back in 1997. He still makes money off of that, and has also branched out into working with other companies like McDonald’s, Adidas, and AT&T.
It is those specific moves that allowed him to be worth nearly $250 million today. That’s much more than just about every other professional athlete.
6. Hakeem Olajuwon
Born in Nigeria, Hakeem Olajuwon moved to the U.S. to pursue a basketball career. Once in the states, he thrived. The hall of fame center didn’t just win two rings, become the first-ever foreign born NBA player, and take home Olympic gold, he made a lot of money as well.
His NBA contracts were extremely large for the 90’s, pulling him in tens of millions of dollars throughout his career. However, not content to stop there, he’s yet another wealthy NBA player who earned most of his money through real estate investments.
Keeping things close to home, the center bought up millions of dollars in real estate around the Houston area. Such moves paid off in a big way, and enabled him to more than triple his net worth up to $350 million.
5. Shaquille O’Neal
Most of the richest NBA superstars make their money by earning a good amount on the court, and then diversifying their assets or branching out into several fields. None have done that better or more widely than Shaquill O’Neal.
Shaq is known as the father of endorsement deals because, while many came before him, he was the first player who turned them into a huge fortune. He’s signed more than just about any athlete alive, working with everyone from Nike and Burger King to Icy Hot and the General.
There’s almost nothing Shaq has passed up, and almost nothing he’ll turn down. Such commercial deals, alongside his big NBA contracts and numerous years as an analyst with TNT, have allowed him to amass a net worth of more than $400 million.
4. Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman
Few modern NBA fans would recognize the name Ulysses Bridgeman, and for good reason. He wasn’t a superstar, nor was he someone who played in a time where there was a lot of money to be had. In fact, his biggest contract ever was right around $350,000.
Despite that, he comes in as four on this list with a net worth of $600 million. How? The answer is fast food. After retiring from the NBA in the mid-80’s, the intelligent businessman realized how much potential there was in quick food joints.
Using his NBA money, he began to buy up both Wendy’s and Chili’s fast food franchises. That paid off rather quickly, and he used his new income to get even more. Today he owns 160 Wendy’s and 120 Chili’s. That’s a ton of passive money no NBA contract could ever match.
3. Magic Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is one of the most famous and well-known NBA players of all time. He’s also one of the richest. The celebrity is worth a staggering $620 million, a figure that places him above almost all of the competition and makes him the third richest player of all time.
The reason he edges out Bridgeman is his company Magic Johnson Enterprises. Though he’s had other deals, contracts, and endorsements, all of those pale in comparison to the company that’s now valued at an incredible $1 billion.
Johnson owns a movie studio, multiple theaters, as well as a marketing company. It’s hard for most athletes to match that type of income. He’s always looking for new moves as well.
2. Lebron James
With fame, comes fortune. No player is a better example of that than Lebron James. The superstar isn’t just one of the biggest names on the planet, he’s also one of the only sports players in history to be worth more than $1 billion ($1.2 billion).
That’s an insane mark, and something that takes lots and lots of work. Lebron has always been a max contract player, with deals bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars. On top of that, he’s signed plenty of endorsement contracts, as well as a lifetime deal with Nike back in 2015.
However, what truly pushed him over the edge were his hundreds of investments. He has huge stakes in many large companies, including Blaze Pizza, his personal production company, and the Fenway Sports Group. All of that adds up to a lot of dough.
1. Michael Jordan
While Lebron is extremely rich, even he can’t touch the wealth of Michael Jordan. The G.O.A.T is worth a staggering $1.7 billion and, unlike most other stars, it all came from one source: shoes.
Jordan is synonymous with his shoe brand. He did earn an incredibly impressive $90 million while playing, but his hard work and business mindset allowed him to take that and turn it into the largest fortune of any professional athlete.
Jordan shoes have been sold everywhere in the world, and continue to be one of the biggest earning sneakers of all time. Having his name attached to them was a genius business decision, and something that allowed him to go from rich to unbelievably wealthy.
All NBA players are well off, but some are much more well off than others. While it’s easy to assume that everyone at the top is in the same category, the above list shows that’s simply not the case. There are a few players who have put together an impressive amount of wealth.
Typically, the bigger a player is, the more money they have. From there, it’s not just about signing the biggest contracts, it’s about being smart with their money, making solid investments, and looking for great brand deals.