In the world of sports, where fame, money and power are all within a compression-sleeved arm’s reach, it’s no surprise that the NBA is fast becoming one of the most lucrative leagues in the world.
From the days of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and, of course, Michael Jordan in the famous Bulls side featured in The Last Dance, to today’s modern ballers such as LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Luka Jokić, slam dunks have always, and will always, mean serious dollars.
And with each passing season, the NBA’s global stock continues to rise exponentially, producing more and more global superstars who are shattering longstanding records, penning the biggest deals in history and turning free throws into fortunes to make billions both on and off the court.
And with its successful implementation of social media platforms, entertaining sports product and championing of some of the most recognisable players on the planet, the NBA brand is reaching a wider audience now, than ever before. Simply put, NBA fans can’t seem to get enough.
WATCH LeBron James’ historic 40-point performance below.
In the recent Forbes list of highest-paid athletes in the world, NBA stars LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant all make the Top 10, beating out NFL players, footballers and Formula 1 drivers to claim 4th, 8th and 10th respectively in a list dominated by some of the biggest names in sport.
Ultimately, when the sport comes out on top, it’s the players who reap the benefits, and whilst Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokić recently signed the biggest deal in NBA history for $270m ($395m AUD) over the next 5 years, it’s interesting to see that the likes of King James, Curry and Durant are all balling out on that list, making more money off the court, than on it.
And it’s not only active players, but former professionals still in the game who are being rewarded for the NBA’s prolific global brand; players such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson are all turning their career earnings into serious post-playing profits through sports franchises, golf clubs, fast-food chains and more.
Here, we take a look at some of the game’s biggest ballers securing the bag off the court.
We couldn’t start this list without celebrating NBA’s first billionaire, Michael Jordan. One of the NBA’s most successful stars, the six-time NBA Championship winner has an impressive business portfolio almost as impressive as his on-court achievements.
The GOAT recently sold his majority share in the Charlotte Hornets for $4B ($5.8B AUD) after 13 years, which was previously a big money maker for him. Naturally, he also has a hugely profitable deal with Nike for the iconic Air Jordan sneakers, as well as a NASCAR Racing team, golf courses, steakhouses, a stake in a betting company and more. Clearly, he takes his business dealings personally…
The King moniker has never been so aptly applied to someone as LeBron James. The 37-year-old has a reported net worth of $1B (1.5B AUD), amassing more than $900m ($1.3B AUD) through brand deals and investments alone. King James sits on our list as the first official billionaire in history still actively playing in the NBA, with a business portfolio as illustrious as his distinguished career.
The four-time NBA champion boasts a portfolio that includes a majority share in his own entertainment production company valued at $725m ($1B AUD) producing blockbuster movies such as Space Jam: A New Legacy and Netflix documentaries. He also owns a minority share in the Fenway Sports Group; titans of the sporting industry who own Liverpool F.C., Boston Red Sox and NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins to name a few… Next up, the NBA?
From fast food empires to smart investments in tech start-ups, Big Shaq’s brand power has sky-rocketed to new heights in retirement; simply put, Shaq’s everywhere.
Alongside his collection of four NBA Championship rings, the Lakers legend has developed a love for a franchise, accumulating a portfolio of 24-hour gyms, Five Guys, Auntie Anne’s, Papa John’s and Krispy Kreme stores. Soon you’ll even be able to have a Shaq Attack or Shaq Daddy burger at one of his 18 Big Chicken chains across the states. Big Shaq means big business.
Although Magic Johnson’s 13-year playing career ended after he contracted HIV in the 90s, the five-time NBA Champion quickly turned his hand to business, buying a minority stake in the LA Lakers in 1995. Since then Johnson has been making more smart investments in the world of sports, taking stakes in other franchises such as MLS side Los Angeles FC as well as the LA Dodgers to turn serious profits off the court.