This isn’t just because they’re the best at what they do – many athletes have also created high-value brands that are implicated in everything they do. Here are the best examples of high-value basketballers, past and present.
Of course, the namesake of the Nike Air Jordans tops any discussion of high-brand-value athletes. Just recently, a blockbuster movie with A-listers at the helm took on the unique origin story of Nike Air Jordans. On top of his ludicrous sponsorships and affiliations, Michael Jordan is also the richest person to have played in the NBA thanks to his $2 billion net worth, outranking every active athlete in the association today. Naturally, a lot of it came from being a savvy businessman during and after his b-ball days.
Jordan’s connection to gambling is also well-known, with some of his stories including a legendary session of high-stakes blackjack on the Bulls’ franchise jet, an occasion on which he bet $100k on a game of rock, paper, scissors. Unsurprisingly, Jordan’s love of betting caught on with fans, and his influence popularized blackjack as well as other casino games (he was also a fan of slots) to new audiences. It’s no coincidence that those new audiences became the first generations on the internet, where online casino gaming exploded in popularity.
However, Air Jordan can’t take all the credit. In recent years, the sector has invested massively in game development, offering high-quality graphics and immersive titles for players to experience from laptop and mobile devices. Not only this, but top franchises have leaned less on the big spenders and opened up their services to old-school casino gamers and newbies alike with unprecedented casino offers. Using incentives and promotions, like getting 20 free spins for your first-ever deposit, big franchises are hell-bent on standing out from the crowd with exemplary quality.
It can’t be disputed, though. The glamorous appeal of high-rollers like Michael Jordan has certainly had an impact on activities like gambling. Once upon a time, it was word-of-mouth chatter that was needed to get players into brick-and-mortar casinos, yet now it’s easier than ever with adverts galore and the internet facilitating online casino gaming. Nowadays, the games Jordan played in the back room of his plane are more popular than ever.
It helps that Jordan is a GOAT contender after 15 straight years averaging 30 points per game, for a 32,292 career total. This made him a trendsetter at whatever he put his mind to in the 90s and beyond, whether that’s shoes, cards, or slots. Having the most money is great but Jordan’s influence back in the day – that’s strong brand value.
That brings us to LeBron James, who has the highest brand value out of any current player today. Like Jordan, he’s become a household name that defined an entire decade of basketball alongside other modern greats like Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers aren’t taking championships home like they used to but LeBron is still around, with an annual salary of $44 million (not including endorsements) and a net worth closer to a billion. Like Jordan, a lucrative partnership with Nike contributed to a lot of that. Unlike Jordan, LeBron is the first NBA billionaire to still play. While he’ll be retiring soon, LeBron is still out on the court this year and plans to make the 2024 season too.
If LeBron and his Lakers cohort defined 2000s basketball, it’s Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors who conquered the NBA in the 2010s. With four championships in the last eight years, Curry is the face of the GSW, which is still one of the most competitive high-value franchises in the association.
Curry brings home $48 million before endorsements are added under his current four-year contract worth $215 million. A lot of non-NBA cash comes his way through a partnership with Under Armour, including the Curry brand that makes sportswear for many different sports, even golf. His net worth is around $200 million, smaller than the rest here, yet his name is by far the most relevant when it comes to modern basketball. With a LeBron retirement on the horizon, Curry’s brand profile is only going to get bigger this decade.