Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James: Who Wins the Battle of Money?

Published 12/04/2020, 6:44 AM EST

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Waking someone up in the middle of the night and asking them to list the three most popular NBA players of all time will most probably fetch the same results. Michael Jordan (Bulls), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), and LeBron James (Multiple) are some of the greatest names that ever played basketball in the past four decades.

The three legends performed in different eras and hence tasted a distinct but succinct success. They earned multi-million through various brand endorsements, signed products, thriving businesses, and a smaller chunk from the NBA salaries. So which of these three lead the pack in those different verticals?

MJ vs Kobe vs LeBron James: The battle of dollars


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 1. Playing salary:

USA Today via Reuters

Michael Jordan lacks far behind the other two greats here. He made just $93 million in his entire career from the route of salaries. On the other hand, the Black Mamba earned $323 million in his 20 long years as an active volcano. But King James beat them all with his $349.3 million+ in the fee. One reason why LeBron leads the pack is of course the inflated salary cap with today’s franchises. But still, it is one major achievement that not many can boast.


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2. Net worth:

via Imago

Late legend Kobe Bryant runs second in this marathon. He had a net worth of $600 Billion prior to his untimely death. The man had a lot many verticals from where the money kept flowing, allowing him to earn like an oil king. LeBron comes third with that close to half a billion mark as his worth. He is still very much bankable at the age of 35 and so chances are he can beat Kobe in the coming year.

Air Jordan, the old man who once charted the untouched territories now understandably leads the pack with his phenomenal $2.1 billion fortune. He amassed this number to become the world’s richest athlete, thanks to his deal with Nike and other such prolific moves.

3. Contracts signed:

via Getty

LeBron James, playing in the most profitable era of NBA, of course, enjoys the unearthly signings. His recent $85 million 2-year contract with the Lakers definitely helped the case. In 2013, the Black Mamba had signed a $48.5 million two-year deal with the same Lakers.


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Michael Jordan, in the last few years during his prime, made a deal that was unheard of. In 1996, the Chicago Bulls offered him a $30 million Balloon payment so that they can save him from moving to the Knicks.

So who wins it from here?


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This part of the question is a little subjective. While MJ’s Jordan brand and Charlotte Hornets will keep the moolah flowing, Kobe Bryant has a dynasty to his own, with his high on return investments in big businesses. LeBron still has 3-4 years of an active NBA career left in him. He will continue to break records and attract even bigger brands.

However, the equation can be different when a net present value is calculated for the three stars when they were all 35-year olds. It is hence not easy to tell who beats whom, but the conclusion only makes this trio the most bankable NBA stars ever.


Written by:

Sourabh Singh


One take at a time

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.
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