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Forbes Releases List of NBA's "Endorsement Stars"

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If nurses and teachers constitute some of society’s most underpaid professionals, someone should tell them to land endorsement deals. Salary alone will only afford you so much bling. Ask LeBron James, who makes almost two and a half times his $14.5 million NBA salary in non-small forward-related duties. For Nike alone. In fact, “King James” started making serious sneaker money ($90 million over seven years) before even officially starting work for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

Today, in the thick of the Dallas-Miami NBA finals, Forbes released a list of the NBA's Endorsement Stars, only counting the athletes’ sponsorship deals with shoe/apparel manufacturers.

Player/total endorsement income/shoe sponsor
LeBron James: $34 million (Nike)
Kobe Bryant: $28 million (Nike)
Dwyane Wade: $12 million (Jordan/Nike)
Dwight Howard: $11 million (Adidas)
Yao Ming: $10 million (Reebok)
Shaquille O’Neal: $10 million (Dunkman/Li Ning)
Kevin Durant: $9 million (Nike)
Carmelo Anthony: $8 million (Jordan/Nike)
Amar’e Stoudemire: $8 million (Nike-expiring this summer)

While LeBron tops the list with his $34 million income from Nike, his partnerships with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, State Farm Insurance and the Upper Deck trading card company were not calculated in the rankings. And interestingly, the nine endorsement champs don’t necessarily earn the highest NBA salaries. While Kobe Bryant holds the number two endorsement and number one salary position ($24.8 million), LeBron (perhaps more appropriately “Pauper James” in this context) doesn’t even round out the top 20.

The Heat’s Dwayne Wade is the third highest-earning endorser but only the 26th highest-earning player and Adidas star Dwight Howard and Nike’s Kevin Durant are not only nowhere to be found in the top 20, they’re absent from the top 30.

Shaq chose wisely to retire this year. Rather than earn his sad $1.5 million salary the hard way (on the free-throw line), he could kick back and let his Payless Dunkmans and Li Nings net him nearly ten times what the Celtics paid him.

So take comfort, nurses and teachers of America. The next time you feel underpaid, remember that Shaq was recently in your shoes. And who knows, maybe Nurse Mates is looking for a sponsor.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.