10 years after Michael Jordan played his last game — even though he can probably lace them up and start for the team he owns tomorrow because Lance Stephenson has been THAT bad — he is still, arguably, one of the faces of the NBA and the face of his own Nike empire.
His empire is so profitable, Jordan officially became a billionaire in 2015.
But, it is more than his sneaker sales that have vaulted Jordan into the stratosphere and into the world’s elite. He is also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets (previously the Bobcats and not the old Hornets who eventually became the Pelicans). In a climate where the NBA’s global expansion, potential mind-bogglingly (not a word) enormous TV revenue deal and influx of tremendous young talent have given the league a monumental boost, franchises have become more valuable than they ever have before.
According to Forbes, the value of NBA franchises going up contributed more to Jordan’s financial rise than his brand:
The most famous rookie on the billionaires list? Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time and indisputably the best-paid athlete of all time. Forbes first outed Jordan as a billionaire last June. Most of his cash comes from Nike payouts on his iconic brand. The Jordan brand grossed an estimated $2.25 billion in 2013, earning his Airness some $90 million.
But his most valuable asset is his stake in the Charlotte Hornets, worth more than $500 million. When ex-Microsoft MSFT -1.28% CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for a stunning $2 billion, values of all NBA teams skyrocketed, creating three new billionaires. Jordan’s old boss Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls, joined the list with a fortune of $1.3 billion, and Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander boosted his net worth to $1.6 billion.
In the article, Forbes makes note that Jordan sneaker sales grossed over $2 billion in 2013, which is still tops among all NBA players even today. The next highest grossing sneaker? LeBron James.
In comparison to the rest of the top-selling NBA players, it really isn’t even remotely close. After James, the next highest grossing shoe sales belonged to Kevin Durant, who jumped from $35 million to $175 million between 2012 and 2013.
Like Jordan, James is also signed to Nike as well as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
The main competitor to Nike is Adidas, and their top-grossing shoe belongs to Derrick Rose. Rose’s shoe sales grossed $40 million in both 2013 and 2013, despite not being on the court as much as the Chicago Bulls would like him to be because of injury. It is telling that despite Rose’s career trajectory, he is still essentially the face of the Adidas brand.
The other notable NBA players signed to Adidas include: Dwight Howard, tim Duncan, Damian Lillard and John Wall. Under Armour, led by Stephen Curry, have become increasingly more valuable in recent years and are ready to challenge the top two companies.
While the NBA has become a more valuable entity than it has ever been in the last 30-plus years under the leadership of former Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver, it’s astounding that the most valuable stars of the league today still can’t match the precedent that Jordan set during his heyday.