It probably comes as no surprise that nine of the top ten income earners in the NBA are also among the top ten endorsement income earners as well. Star power is alive and well in the NBA, as salaries and endorsement deals are so closely intertwined. The players we will pay good money to see, can also get us to buy one of the products that they endorse.
This list combines 2013 endorsement income with the salaries from the 2012-2013 NBA season. References to a players current income are used only for building a case for the player being included on this list once again next year.
Depending on the contract situations with Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, a newcomer, Blake Griffin, is a likely candidate to leapfrog one of the two and end up on this list next year. Two of the top three players on this list, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, who have been out with injuries, have only played in a total of 16 games this season. Another, Amar'e Stoudamire, has been making fantastic money for a player coming off the bench.
10 Dirk Nowitzki - $21,407,000 Salary and Endorsements
The lanky seven footer has seen his appearances in the starting lineup steadily decline since starting in 81 games during the 2007-08 campaign. This season, Dirk has already been in the starting lineup more times than last year, and has responded by averaging 21.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The German superstar has always been a tough match up for opponents and remains the same this season, his 16th year in the league.
Dirk does not have many endorsements, managing to make this list primarily due to his 2012-2013 salary of $20,907,000. Dirk's mobility, respectable three-point shot, and seven foot frame have all helped prolong his career, but it is his signature fade-away jump shot that has helped him remain an offensive force in the NBA. He is in the final year of a 4-year, $80 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent following this season.
9 Chris Paul - $22,688,000 Salary and Endorsements
Chris Paul has struggled since returning from injury following an 18 game hiatus. In the five games since his return, Paul is averaging only 13.4 points per game, and the Clippers have only won only two of the games. The Clippers will need Paul's return to form in the home stretch this season, as they battle for playoff position in the NBA's rugged Western Conference. Despite his recent struggles overcoming the effects of a sprained right thumb, Paul is still averaging 19.0 points, 11.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.
Chris Paul is still the unquestioned leader of the Clippers attack, and his ability to get teammates involved (9.9 assists per game), still makes him a huge asset on this team. He is popular enough to be tenth in the league in endorsement income, bringing in $4 million from Jordan/Nike. As the Lakers struggle, Paul has the opportunity to be the new face of not only the Clippers, but even the city of LA.
8 Dwight Howard - $25,536,000 Salary and Endorsements
It is hard to blame Dwight Howard for fleeing from the Lakers where his game was scrutinized at every step. Howard might not ever be that consistent first option on offense, but his rebounding and defense, when he is healthy, can easily make up for that. Averaging 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots per game for Houston, Howard has managed to have fun playing the game once again.
The upbeat Howard was quoted as saying recently to reporters, "In order to enjoy this game, you have to be free".
Apparently, Howard didn't feel free enough to play well in Los Angeles. If Houston is able to make some noise this postseason, and the young players continue to gel, Howard could potentially move up this list. His $6 million in endorsement income from Adidas, could easily turn into more. Howard might still be a work in progress, as far as his career in the NBA goes, but big men with his potential are not just found growing on trees.
7 Amar'e Stoudemire - $26,449,000 Salary and Endorsements
For Lakers fans who can't seem to get past the departure of Dwight Howard, consider the Knicks situation with Amar'e Stoudamire. Stoudamire was signed to a 5-year, $99,744,000 contract in 2010, and while his pay has gone up each season, his stats have gone way down. Currently averaging only 10.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocked shots per game, Stoudamire and his contract have handcuffed the Knicks, drawing the ire of New York media and fans.
Stoudamire, once a perfect fit in Phoenix, averaged 26.0 points per game there by beating others down the court. He is now struggling to get into the flow of games. Thanks to $6.5 million of income from endorsements by Nike, and about $20 million in salary (2012-13), Stoudemire is planted firmly on this list. The time will eventually come when it will take more than just memories to sell shoes, and continue making over $20 million in salary, while coming off the bench.
6 Carmelo Anthony - $28,445,000 Salary and Endorsements
Carmelo Anthony is one of the top scorers in the NBA today, averaging 27.9 points per game. Having the ability to score from just about anywhere on the court, Anthony is no stranger to making just about any type of clutch shot. As much as his team needs his offense, the ball often stops moving when it ends up in his more than capable hands.
Anthony has been working on being a more complete player this season, logging a personal best 8.5 rebounds per game, to go along with a decent 1.2 steals per game. He is learning that he can't do it alone and the Knicks need to find more options if they want to make the playoffs in the NBA's weak Eastern Conference. Anthony is pretty set financially, with his $9 million in endorsement income from Jordan/Nike (2013), and the $21.4 million he is due to make this year (2013-14).
It probably will pale in comparison to playing in meaningful games late in the season, but for now "Melo" is the nicely paid face of one of the storied franchises in the NBA.
5 Dwyane Wade - $30,673,000 Salary and Endorsements
Dwyane Wade has been the face of the Miami Heat long before LeBron's arrival. Wade's ability to drive, get out in the open court, and pull up for just about any shot, has earned him the reputation of being one of the best guards in the NBA. The Heat might clearly be LeBron's team now, but Wade's 18.7 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game are still essential to the team's overall success.
Wade is sone of the Heat's leaders, with his ability to dig deep, make the clutch shot, or find an open teammate when a play breaks down. His endorsement from Chinese shoe company, Li-Ning, for $12 million is testament to his worldwide appeal, clean image, and terrific work ethic. At the age of 32, Wade has played frequently with injuries and has steadily seen his production decline. He is still a warrior who leaves it all out on the court, but his mentality and constant drives through the paint have subjected his sturdy 6'4", 220 pound frame to more than a fair share of abuse.
The Heat have decisions to make with more than just Wade after this season, but don't look for him to disappear from this list any time soon.
4 Kevin Durant - $31,833,000 Salary and Endorsements
Kevin Durant has quickly become one of the most exciting players in the NBA today. Durant has managed to help cover the absence of Russell Westbrook from the Thunder lineup this year by averaging 31.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Whether he is knocking down 3-point shots or throwing down thunderous dunks in transition, Durant has one of the most complete games in the NBA today.
Although he plays for a small market team (OKC Thunder), Durant has managed to get enough notoriety and respect to earn $14 million in endorsement income from Nike. If Westbrook returns to form, and Durant continues to play at this current pace, this could be the year the Thunder has a good chance of topping the Miami Heat.
Durant is young, his Thunder cast is too, and there is plenty of opportunity for him to remain near the top of this list.
3 Derrick Rose - $38,633,000 Salary and Endorsements
Amazingly, Derrick Rose is not only on this list, but near the top of it as well. Having played in just 49 games the past two seasons, Rose has battled injuries that have taken their toll. Averaging just 15.9 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game this season before getting injured once again, Rose is back to watching his team fight in the playoffs for the second straight year.
While he has managed to play in just 10 games this season, Rose still has plans to play for Team USA this summer. Although this might sit well with the head coach of the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau, you just have to wonder if Chicago fans will support this as well. The problem with Rose seems to be that he likes to operate in the paint. Unlike a stocky guard like Dwyane Wade, Rose has only 190 pounds on his wiry 6'4" frame. The faster he develops his outside shot, the better his chances for taking less of a pounding in his comeback bid.
Derrick Rose is still young and determined to lead the Bulls once again, but the vision of a healthy Rose in the lineup has been like more of a dream than a reality. Having made $21 million in 2013 from endorsement income thanks to Adidas, his 5-year, $94.3 million contract should continue to place him near the top of this list for years to come.
2 LeBron James - $61,068,000 Salary and Endorsements
LeBron James might be at the top of his game, but not at the top of this list. All James has done is win back-to-back NBA titles, averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game and solidified his position as king of the NBA . James is a model of consistency, with a remarkable 57.7% field goal percentage this season. His skills at the offensive end of the court are not to be overshadowed by his ability to shut down the opposing team's star player in each contest that he plays.
Miami has been a good fit for James, but he can opt out of his contract at the end of this season. With $42 million in endorsement income from McDonalds, Nike and Coca-Cola (2013), coming in, James is in position to worry more about his cast than the money he is set to make. LeBron will turn 30 when the next season starts and can make any team better, if he decides to move on.
James has earned plenty of recognition as the best current player in the NBA, but with Durant and a healthy Westbrook clipping at his heels, his legacy in the NBA can still change based on where he decides to play next year.
1 Kobe Bryant - $61,849,000 Salary and Endorsements
Kobe Bryant is certainly no longer the best player in the NBA, but he sure is paid like it. Bryant has appeared in six games this season, averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. The 35-year old player has the determination and strong will that certainly bode well for his return to form in the NBA, but what will be left of the Lakers when he does return, is a question most Lakers fans currently have.
Bryant brought in $34 million from endorsements by Nike and Turkish Air last season, and on top of the $30.4 million he is due for this season, his financial situation is far from being precarious. His high price tag does little to help the Lakers surround him with capable players who can help him win another title, but Kobe remains the gem of a Lakers franchise that has issues that go far beyond Kobe's health.
Kobe is beloved in Europe and Asia, in addition to the many admirers he has created in Los Angeles, so the healthy endorsements come as no real surprise. Add this to his league-best salary, and he is poised to top LeBron on this list at least for another year.