These were the highest-paid Black players in NBA at the end of 2023

BY Ben Ebuka Oji January 24, 2024 2:17 PM EDT
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In a year filled with remarkable accomplishments by athletes across various sports, NBA players have emerged as standout performers in terms of their soaring career earnings.

Forbes recently released its list of the highest-paid NBA Players, which showcased a select group of top earners. LeBron James led the pack, solidifying his position as the first active NBA player to achieve billionaire status – with a net worth exceeding $1 billion at the pinnacle of success.

Following closely behind is Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, currently in the second season of a lucrative four-year contract worth $215 million, signed in 2021. 35-year-old Curry earned an impressive $51.9 million on the court during the 2023-24 Season, making him the first player to surpass the $50 million salary threshold.

In 2023, it was truly remarkable that the first six highest-paid Black NBA players collectively earned an impressive $517.7 million. This includes $284.7 million from on-court activities and an additional $233 million from off-court endeavors such as endorsements, licensing, appearances, and memorabilia.

Looking ahead to the 2024-25 Season and beyond, these figures are expected to increase significantly. The NBA is currently in talks to secure a staggering $75 billion television rights package, a substantial increase from the current 9-year $24 billion deal signed in 2014, which amounts to $2.6 billion annually.

Nigerian-born Greek superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo recently signed a multi-year $186-million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo, along with Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Phoenix Suns’ Bradley Beal, is on one of the current biggest contracts in the league. Antetonounmpo’s long-term deal extension solidifies his commitment to the Bucks and will potentially extend his stay to the 2027-28 Season.

As follows are the Black NBA stars who cashed the biggest checks in 2023.

LeBron James ($117.6 million)

Team/Position: Los Angeles Lakers/Forward

LeBron James has accumulated a staggering $479,466,457 On-Court earnings throughout his 21 seasons in the NBA (2003-04 – 2023-24), making him the highest-earning player in league history, as reported by Spotrac. If he completes his current contract (2024-25), James is projected to surpass $530 million in 2025. In the present season, he has earned a total of $117.6 million, with $47.6 million coming from on-court activities and $70 million from off-court endeavors. Notably, James retains his position as the primary stakeholder in the SpringHill Company, a prominent TV and movie production company that played a pivotal role in his inclusion on Forbes’ billionaire list while still an active athlete.

Stephen Curry ($101.9 million)

Team/Position: Golden State Warriors/Guard

Stephen Curry holds the second position on the earnings list with an accumulated $51.9 million from his on-court activities and an additional $50 million from off-court ventures, resulting in $101.9 million. Recently, Curry entered into a new agreement with Under Armour, a sports apparel company, a deal that will continue even after his retirement. As part of this deal, he received $75 million in stock, which will be vested in equal installments in 2029 and 2034, as stated in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Similar to LeBron James, Curry has established successful off-court businesses in various sectors. One of his ventures is a media business called Unanimous, which produced a documentary about him recently for Apple TV+. Additionally, Unanimous has plans to release a documentary about the late rapper Mac Dre in the future.

Kevin Durant ($91.4 million)

Team/Position: Phoenix Suns/Forward

Kevin Durant, renowned as one of the highest-earning athletes globally, continues to exhibit unwavering momentum in his career. He astutely expands his financial portfolio by strategically investing in various companies and thriving business ventures, preparing for a prosperous life beyond the basketball court. His total earnings amount to a significant $91.4 million, with $46.4 million generated from his on-court activities and an additional $45 million from off-court sources such as endorsements, licensing, appearances, memorabilia, and his entrepreneurial pursuits. Through his firm, 35V, Durant invests in lucrative ventures, holding stakes in major firms, including the Major League Pickleball team, the digital creator business Goldenset Collective, and ScorePlay.

Giannis Antetokounmpo ($85.6 million)

Team/Position: Milwaukee Bucks/Forward

Giannis Antetokounmpo, in the ongoing NBA Season, accumulated $85.6 million, with $45.6 million earned on the court and $40 million off the court. Apart from his basketball career, Antetokounmpo is investing in various profitable ventures. In February, he collaborated with Calamos Investments to introduce Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equity Funds, a collection of ESG funds accessible to the public. The pinnacle of his investment endeavors occurred in June when he and his three brothers established Ante Inc., a holding company responsible for overseeing their investments and businesses.

Damian Lillard ($63.6 million)

Team/Position: Milwaukee Bucks/Guard

After an exceptional season that can be considered the pinnacle of his career, 33-year-old Damian Lillard moved from the Portland Trail Blazers to join Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee Bucks, marking the end of his 11-year tenure with the Blazers. Notably, Damian Lillard secured a spot on the prestigious all-NBA third team, further solidifying his remarkable performance. In 2023, he also earned a place on the list of the highest-paid NBA players, accumulating $63.6 million in earnings. This impressive sum encompasses $45.6 million from his on-court endeavors and $18 million from various off-court pursuits. These off-court ventures include lucrative endorsement deals with renowned brands such as Adidas, Bose, and Modelo. Furthermore, Damian Lillard ventured into entrepreneurship by making his first startup investment with Kicks Crew. Beyond his basketball career, Damian Lillard showcases his artistic talents as a rapper, adopting the stage name Dame D.O.L.L.A. In August, he released his fifth studio album, further demonstrating his multifaceted abilities.

Joel Embiid ($57.6 million)

Team/Position: Philadelphia 76ers/Center

Joel Embiid holds the 7th position with total Season earnings, amounting to $57.6 million. This impressive sum includes $47.6 million from on-court activities and $10 million from off-court deals. The 29-year-old player from Cameroonian playmaker, in his pursuit of financial freedom, is actively engaging in multi-million dollar investments. Notably, he recently established Miniature Géan, a production studio, in collaboration with LeBron James’ SpringHill Company. Furthermore, in October of last year, Joel Embiid invested in Mitchell & Ness, a division of the renowned sports apparel Fanatics.