The Los Angeles Lakers have not met expectations on the field this season, despite LeBron James, 37, continues to defy Father Time with the second highest average in the league and second in his career. Off the field? King James crushed him.
The 18-time All-Star has grossed $ 127 million over the past 12 months from the Lakers and its expanding off-field empire, according to Sportico estimates. It is the largest sum of his career of two decades and more than any other athlete on the planet.
The 100 best athletes play in 10 different sports and together they have earned about $ 4.5 billion in salaries, money and awards over the last 12 months – an increase of 6% compared to last yearbest paid stars. James leads a trio of world football stars and boxers, as Lionel Messi ($ 122 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($ 115 million), Neymar ($ 103 million) and Canelo Álvarez ($ 89 million) round out the top five.
It’s good to be king
James has the biggest NBA shoe work among active players and a wide range of support partners outside of Nike, including Rimowa, Walmart, GMC, AT&T, PepsiCo and recently Crypto.com, which started in 2022. But for 0.01% of professional athletes, such as James, Tom Brady, Kevin Durant, Roger Federer and Naomi Osakathe game has moved beyond just cashing confirmation checks.
“Business ownership, along with stock-based business and royalties, has always existed, but there has been a shift,” said David Schwab, EVP in the Octagon, in a telephone interview. He points to three developments in the 2000s that triggered the move. These include launching social media, where athletes could build their own audience; the proliferation of niche cable channels, including CNBC, that have reached major viewers and sparked deeper interest in entrepreneurship; and finally, the purchase of Vitaminwater by Coca-Cola in 2007, which sparked huge returns from rapper 50 Cent and a handful of athletes.
James is the archetype for this new era of athletes. It has direct access to its 200 million followers on social media and can promote its traditional sponsors, along with those brands in which it also has equity stakes, such as Calm, Ladder / Openfit and Lobos 1707 tequila.
The quadruple MVP has built brand ownership for more than a decade. With a 2011 marketing deal with Fenway Sports, he was given an ownership stake in Premier League club Liverpool and eventually the rest of the FSG platform, including the Boston Red Sox and NESN. James has extended his contract with McDonald’s to redouble his belief in the Blaze fast food chain, where he is a sponsor, franchise owner and investor.
James has been courted by brands since early childhood and quickly realized his value and the value of capital when, as a high school student, he was circled by shoe companies 20 years ago. “I started thinking, if [then-Reebok CEO Paul Fireman] is willing to give me a $ 10 million check right now, which means Nike or Adidas aren’t willing to give me 20 or 30 in advance, ”James said in the 2017 episode Mixing the doughwhich is broadcast on his Uninterrupted media platform. “Maybe money in advance is not the biggest thing. Maybe let’s start thinking about the back. “
James was definitely thinking about the back. The biggest business of James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter is The SpringHill Company, which was founded in 2015 and includes the production company SpringHill Entertainment, Uninterrupted and commodity consulting Robot. SpringHill sold a minority stake last year to a sports-focused consortium led by Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital, which also included Nike, Epic Games and FSG. The contract estimated the company at $ 725 million. Revenue for SpringHill this year is expected to be north of $ 100 million. It is expected that most of the cash infusion will go to building the company, and Sportico gave James only a slight increase in his off-field earnings, which we estimated to be $ 90 million.
“What I really like is that we support two people who, individually and together, are quite unique at the crossroads of sport and culture and in their ability to be catalysts for progress, empowerment and diversity,” Cardinale said Sportico in a phone call after an appointment.
James ’fellow NBA league MVPs, Stephen Curry ($ 86.2 million) and Durant ($ 85.9 million) are in sixth and seventh place among the highest paid. Curry has its own brand within Under Armor and multimedia company Unanimous Media. Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures is run by his longtime business partner Rich Kleiman. It has 32 full-time employees focused on KD’s recommendations, more than 80 investment portfolios of companies, film and TV projects, as well as the sports and entertainment business media network Boardroom.
Brady ($ 58.4 million) dropped eight places to 16th because his football earnings fell by $ 40 million due to low tide and bonus flows for NFL signatures. However, his off-field game is growing, driven by lucrative new approvals with FTX and Subway, as well as its business expansion.
Last year, Brady was a co-founder of the NFT platform Autograph, and the company announced $ 170 million in new equity from a funding round in January led by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins. Autograph joins TB12, 199 Productions and the BRADY brand in its quarterback portfolio. His latest venture: NFL analyst for Fox Sports, after retiring forever.
The highest paid women
Osaka was again ranked as the highest paid athlete with $ 53.2 million and 20th place overall. Injuries and a tennis break limited her earnings on the court to $ 1.2 million, but she estimated $ 52 million from more than 20 partners. Of the sponsors, only James, Federer, Tiger Woods and Ronaldo earned more.
Osaka has equity in approximately a dozen brands it works with, including Hyperice, Sweetgreen, Modern Health, FTX and Autograph, where it was the first investor and advisory board member. She is also the founder and CEO of KINLO, a start-up sun care brand. It became available in 2,500 Walmart stores this month.
One early departure for the 24-year-old was BodyArmor, which Coca-Cola bought in November for $ 8 billion, and Osaka earned a seven-digit check. James Harden ($ 76 million, No. 9) and Mike Trout ($ 49.5 million, No. 24) had the two highest salaries of athletes since the BA contract, and Harden earned close to $ 20 million.
Osaka and Serena Williams ($ 35.3 million, No. 52) are the only athletes to enter the top 100, just as they were in 2021. Williams has more than 15 support partners, but has increasingly focused her time on its early stage Venture Capital Company, Serena Ventures, which has invested in more than 60 companies and is led daily by Alison Rapaport Stillman. The company has raised more than $ 100 million for its inaugural fund, announced this year.
Federer ($ 85.7 million, No. 8), Osaka and Williams are all crossover stars, and even when they’re not playing, they benefit from sponsors. The three tennis aces together earned $ 2.2 million in cash prize money and $ 172 million off the court.
The threshold to make the top 100 has risen from $ 26 million to $ 29.6 million – with basketball player Andrew Wiggins rounding out the list this year – thanks to the entire 2021 baseball season and rising wages in basketball and football. There were 41 newcomers, and nearly half were from the NFL, as big signing bonuses trigger football contracts.
NBA players accounted for most of the top 100 with 36 players. Matthew Stafford ($ 73.3 million, No. 11) scored a couple of huge wins in 2022, with the Super Bowl in February and a new contract in March. His expansion with the Los Angeles Rams included a $ 60 million bonus. He ranks first among 25 NFL players.
Football (13 athletes) and baseball (12 athletes) were the only other sports to win more than four stars in the top 100. Conor McGregor ($ 52 million, no. 22) and Virat Kohli ($ 33.9 million, no. 61) were lone representatives from MMA and cricket.
While the three tennis players on the list earned just 1% of their revenue on the court, three boxers – Alvarez, Fury ($ 69 million, No. 14) and Jake Paul ($ 37 million, No. 45) – earned more than 90 percent of their salary in the ring.
Athletes from 24 different countries succeeded, but Americans dominated with 69 entries, thanks to high representation for the NFL and NBA. The UK got five athletes, including those with dual citizenship, while France had four.
Nike, including Jordan Brand, is a partner to support at least 42 athletes, while Adidas has at least 16 athletes in its stable and PepsiCo 14 (Sportico could not confirm sponsors of all 100 athletes.)
Eight teams had three athletes qualify for the top 100, including the Brooklyn Nets, Buffalo Bills, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Paris Saint-Germain and Philadelphia 76ers.
Trevor Lawrence ($ 32.8 million, No. 72) was the youngest athlete among the top 100. The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback will not turn 23 until October. Golfer Phil Mickelson ($ 37.1 million, No. 44) is the oldest with 51. Amstel Light, KPMG and Workday dropped out Lefty after his controversial comments about Saudi Arabia were revealed in February, but he earned most of his $ 30 million on the course before the sponsor defected. Rolex said Sportico he clung to Mickelson.
Our estimates are based on 12-month earnings between June 2021 and May 2022. Salary and cash prize include all bonuses paid during that time, including signatures, incentives, playoffs and payouts for the All-Star Game. PGA Tour Player Impact bonuses are included in the $ 8 million cash prize for Woods. NFL signing bonuses paid out within 12 months of signing the contract are included in the sum, even if partial payments are made outside of our scoring framework.
Sportico reduced salaries in the NBA league by 10%. The league collective agreement provides for approximately 50-50 revenue sharing between players and teams, with an escrow account in place for salary retention to ensure division. In recent years after $ 24 billion in league TV contracts, players have returned all or almost all of their escrow funds before COVID-19 destroyed revenue. The league has agreed to smooth out escrow payments that are likely to cost NBA players approximately 10% of their salaries for 2021-22, according to several sources. In James ’case, that means that instead of $ 41.1 million, he received $ 36.9 million after adjusting the earnings of the All-Star game and the playoffs, as well as the suspension in one 2021 game.
Revenue from support includes earnings from sponsorships, licensing, royalties, souvenirs, performances, golf course design, media, book offerings and branded car outlets. Sportico conducted more than 30 interviews with industry insiders to assess earnings.
Investment income was not included, but we included payouts from the ownership stakes of brands that the stars promoted when the sale took place, such as BodyArmor.
With the help of Asli Pelit