A jarring new stat from a recent Forbes story shows both how profitable NBA stars are and how unmarketable MLB has become.
The Forbes study notes that in 2013 LeBron James and Kobe Bryant led all American athletes with endorsement earnings of $42 million and $34 million, respectively. Those numbers are extremely impressive by themselves. They're even more amazing when you consider that the total endorsement figure for the top 10 MLB players was $30 million.
That's right, James and Bryant each made more than the top 10 MLB endorsers combined.
Business Insider produced a great graphic depicting the lopsided earnings:
— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) February 25, 2014
Much of the gap is due to the extremely lucrative nature of shoe deals. While there is little interest in cleats worn by NFL and MLB players, sneakers worn by stars like Bryant and James are in high demand. Top NBA stars can earn $10 million a year from companies like Nike and Adidas.
LeBron has deals with brands including Samsung, Nike, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Upper Deck, Audemars Piguet and Dunkin' Donuts.
In a sign of just how global the NBA has become, the only sport where top athletes rival it in endorsements is soccer. According to Forbes, David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo each made more than $20 million in endorsements, and the top 10 soccer earners came in at $120 million.
Forbes also reported that Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki were the only two MLB players to earn more than $3 million from sponsors and merchandise. And in Ichiro's case, his deals were all in Japan.