Not only do professional athletes get idolized for playing great game, they also get paid the big bucks to do it. A pro NBA player rakes in a hefty salary each season as well as lucrative endorsement deals for things like appearing on a box of Wheaties or making an appearance at a corporate event. Savvy NBA players also branch out into entrepreneurship and entertainment– some opening restaurants or starring in multi-million dollar blockbuster films. At the end of the day, they are just great athletes but also great businessmen. Here’s a look at the 10 wealthiest NBA players of all time, Can you guess how high on the list are Magic Johnson and Air Jordan?
Gary Payton – $130 million
Starting the list off is Gary “the glove” Payton’s career, who began his career in 1990 after he was the second overall pick in the first round of the NBA draft. During his time at Oregon State University, Payton rose to become one of the school’s best players to date. After being drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics, he went onto create one of the most lucrative careers in basketball history. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Payton is the only point guard to have received the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. On top of that, he also happens to be the 10th richest player in NBA history.
Tim Duncan – $150 million
Tim Duncan may be one of the highest earning basketball players of all time, but surprisingly, he only started playing ball when he was a freshman in high school. Before discovering his talents for basketball, Duncan was training as a swimmer.
In 1997, he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs as their first pick– quite an achievement in such a short amount of time. He was honored as MVP in 2001/2002 and went on to play in the Olympics or for the US basketball team. On top of all this, Duncan is considered one of the best power forwards of all time. No wonder he earns top dollar!
Grant Hill – $180 million
Grant Hill is not only one of the most famous NBA players in history, he’s also one of the richest ever. Even in his current retirement, Hill is still raking in nice money thanks to his endorsement deals and smart business ventures.
He retired from basketball at the end of the 2013 season but hasn’t stopped earning the big bucks from his endorsement deal. As one of the richest players of all time, he’s now enjoying his retirement with his wife and children.
Kevin Garnett – $180 million
Imagine being drafted by a professional NBA team right out of high school. Sounds like a dream come true? Well, it’s exactly what happened to Kevin Garnett, when Minnesota Timberwolves called his name as the 5th general pick of the 1995 draft.
Garnett, the first player ever to be drafted out of high school, for such a position, has also become one of the wealthiest players in NBA history.
Garnette has made notable accomplishments both on and off the court, which include MVP honors, an Olympic gold medal, a Championship ring, and a long list of other achievements. During the 1997 season, he signed a $126 million contract for six years. In addition, he makes $10 million a year in endorsements for various companies that want him as the face of their product. Well played, Garnett!
Hakeem Olajuwon – $200 million
Despite the fact that he’s been retired for 12 years now, Hakeem Olajuwon is still one of the wealthiest men ever to play basketball for the NBA. When he played college basketball for the University of Houston, he helped his team make it to the NCAA Final Four in March Madness three years in a row during the early 1980’s.
Standing tall at a whopping 6 feet 9 inches at the young age of 15, Olajuwon was destined to play basketball.
Originally hailing from Nigeria, Olajuwon made career in America, playing for the Houston Rockets. He has scored several high-profile endorsement deals that bring in millions each year thanks to the fact that he’s considered one of the best centers in history.
LeBron James – $250 million
LeBron James, aka “The King” and “The Face of The NBA”, is the most famous basketball player in the world. He is still quite early in his career by NBA standards, having only played since 2003, but already has amassed great wealth.
He was the first round draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers and is the youngest player in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year.
LeBron has earned bronze and gold medals in the the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and also has two Championships under his belt (Miami Heat). James also won multiple MVP awards and is already considered a top 5 player in history. Thanks to all these early-stage achievements, he has a number of endorsements that earn him approximately $53 million per year.
Kobe Bryant – $260 million
Kobe Bryant was born to play basketball – the proof is in his lineage! He comes from a family of basketball players, including his father, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers for several years.
His parents named him “Kobe” after the famous beef that hails from Japan, which adds to the intrigue of this NBA superstar and his family.
Bryant was a good student in school and therefore had many options to pursue for is higher education, but instead he chose to go pro right away. He is best known for being one of the best Los Angeles Lakers player ever. At 35, he’s slowing down a bit but is still one of the highest paid players in the game. Plus he’s a scoring machine and nicknamed “The Black Mamba!”
Shaquille O’Neal – $350 million
He’s got the name “Shaq Attack” for good reason: Shaq is one of the most famous NBA players and earners of all time. Even though he retired several years ago, he still brings home tens of millions of dollars a year in endorsements, including sports brands and vehicles.
He has made appearances in commercials and even starred in a movie called Kazaam, in which he played the magically genie friend of a young boy.
Today, you can catch Shaq as a commentator on sports networks, and he’s a frequent visitor to many talk shows and news programs to share his expertise on basketball. During his time as a pro player, he earned almost $300 million for being one of the most dominant centers of all time and winning multiple championships and an MVP awards. Today, he still rakes in the dough thanks to endorsement deals.
Magic Johnson – $500 million
With a net worth of half a billion dollars, Magic Johnson is one of the wealthiest players ever to play for the NBA and certainly one of the biggest, most celebrated names. Where did the “Magic” come from? He earned his famous nickname after a stellar season at the tender age of 15 when he played ball in high school.
He also turned down some of the biggest colleges in the country to play ball close to home at Michigan State University.
Magic Johnson is also known for playing in one of the biggest basketball rivalries of all time against Larry Bird and the Indiana State University basketball team in the 1979 NCAA finals. To date, it was the most watched basketball game on television. He then went on to win multiple championships with the Lakers, MVP awards, and will go down as one of the best point guards to ever play the game. In his personal life, Johnson also campaigned for HIV/AIDS awareness and started his own foundation after he was diagnosed as HIV-positive.
Michael Jordan – $1 billion
Is it any surprise that Michael Jordan tops the list? With a net worth of $1 billion, Jordan is the wealthiest NBA player of all time. He is also probably the most famous and regarded as the best player the NBA has ever seen.
Although he has been retired for more than a decade now, he still brings in a fortune with endorsements that earn him approximately $100 million per year.
What’s his secret? He’s a savvy businessman. Jordan reached the billion dollar mark in 2014 after increasing his ownership in the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) to almost 90 percent. Will he be as successful as an team owner as he was a player? Only time will tell, but based on all of his career successes, his chances are good!