Top 10 Most Expensive Nike Shoes Endorsements: From Kobe Bryant To Tiger Woods

Nike is one of the best-known brands worldwide, and those who wear Nike gear certainly get noticed. However, most of us have to pay handsomely for the gear–but that’s not true for everyone. In fact, some lucky souls are paid millions of dollars every year in exchange for wearing Nike on a regular basis. Those at the low end of this list are paid over $20,000 per day just for wearing Nike.

As preposterous as these numbers sound, they are probably worth it for Nike: while Kobe Bryant may cost Nike a precious penny, Kobe-branded shoes bring dollars by the truckload. And he sells so many shoes that Michael Jordan is still kicking around on the payroll.

Here are the ten highest-paid Nike spokespeople with the ten highest salaries. Any of them have a comfortable enough cushion that they should feel fine quitting their day jobs should they ever get bored.

10. Kobe Bryant, Basketball: $8 million/year


In his twelfth year as a Nike pitchmen (after starting out with Adidas), Kobe is currently in the middle of a five year and $40 million contract, pegging him at $8 million per year. In addition to this $8 million, he earns $23.5 million from his day job as shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

This year, Kobe is doing a bit better with his shoes than at his day job: the Lakers have won oly 16 against 29 losses, but the Kobe 8s shoes sold $50 million last year. That makes the return on Kobe even better than the return on Melo, from Nike’s perspective. In any event, not a bad performance from the aging superstar.

9. Kevin Durant, Basketball: $8.5 million/year


Kevin Durant turned down $70 million from Adidas to rep Nike, which offered $8.5 million per year for seven years–I guess Durant is a big fan of swooshes. In any event, combined with his $18 million per year salary from the Thunder, Durant is almost certainly the highest-paid resident of Oklahoma City. This is almost certainly true as Durant also earns endorsement checks from Gatorade, 2K Sports, Spring, Panini, and General Electric.

Last year Durant was the fourth highest earner for Nike, selling $35 million of KD shoes for the company. With his talents on the court, his youth, and his charisma, this shoe-selling relationship seems set for some time to come.

8. Maria Sharapova, Tennis: $8.75 million/year


What does it take for a woman to top the $8 million mark in Nike endorsements? Apparently she must win the US, French, and Australian Opens along with Wimbledon: the Career Grand Slam. Sharapova is truly an incredible athlete though, winning these honors alongside an Olympic Silver Medal over nearly a decade. Interestingly, she grew up in Sochi, home of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

In addition to Nike and her tour winnings, Sharapova cashes checks from Canon, Sony Ericsson, and Tiffany, totaling over $20 million annually. As a young child, her father worked odd jobs like dishwashing in order to fund her tennis lessons. Hopefully her Nike contract, along with the others, has enabled her to pay him back with interest.

7. Roger Federer, Tennis: $10 million/year


In the middle of a ten year and nine digit contract ($100,000,000 over ten years), Federer built his name (and his contract) by going on a preposterous streak of appearing in almost every Grand Slam Final from 2005 to 2010. In his career as a whole, he has won 17 Grand Slams, more than any other male tennis star in history (Serena Williams has also won 17, and the record of 24 is held by Margaret Court of Australia).

Annually, the Swiss star pulls $40 million including his Nike cash. With a haul like that, he is on a path to become a rare athlete-billionaire. Not a moment too soon, either–with that kind of cash, he can bail out the Swiss banks.

6. Derek Jeter, Baseball: $10 million/year


This one-time king of New York is now pushing forty–but as his Nike ads proclaim, “hustle has no age limit.” And it’s true: Jeter is hustling for Nike and getting paid eight-figures for it in the midst of his ten year, $100 million contract.

Not that he needs it: Jeter is one of the best-paid baseball players of all time, having earned over $200 million on the diamond. The shortstop has a host of other sponsors too, from Gatorade and Gillette to Ford and Fleet Bank, from Avon and Delta to XM and Visa. As a peanut butter fan, he also endorses Skippy. When he retires sometime this decade (one presumes), he’ll have multiple World Series titles, multiple Golden Glove awards, a World Series MVP, hundreds of stolen bases and home runs, and a career batting average over .300–not to mention an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of cash. Not bad for a forty-something.

5. Rafael Nadal, Tennis: about $10 million/year


Federer’s Spanish rival on the tennis court is a Nike comrade off it–a slightly better paid one, estimates suggest. Although the full contract has not been made public, taking Nadal’s total earnings and other known contracts suggests he’s just above $10 million, including royalties. That’s just about $1 million for each of his 11 career Grand Slam titles, which seems like a fair rate to me.

In addition to the hot Nike contract, Nadal cashes checks from the relatively un-sexy Spanish insurance giant Mapfre Seguros, as well as Korean Kia and the French racqueteer Babolat. Nadal has another edge too: unlike most superstars, he has his own corporation to manage his deals, earning himself the 15 percent fee that management companies usually take off the top. On the other hand, he lives in high-tax Spain so maybe it’s a wash.

4. LeBron James, Basketball: $15 million/year


The King on the court comes in fourth off it (although tops among current ballers). His current deal with Nike exceeds even his $13 million per year rookie deal, although it doesn’t quite touch his $19 million basketball contract from the Miami Heat. If you ask him though, he’s underpaid, having never received a max contract!

According to Forbes, James is right: in a free market (which basketball is not–they have a salary cap and all sorts of restrictions) LeBron would earn up to $40 or $50 million per year. But don’t feel too bad for the guy–his current combined Nike and Miami deals are earning him $34 million per year or about $5 million per foot of height on his six foot, eight inch frame. Long live the King.

3. Tiger Woods: $20 million/year


Tiger Woods has been one of the most famous athletes of the century. Some even claim he’s given the sport of golf a name in popular culture. Not only is he one of the highest paid endorsements that Nike has taken on, but doing so was revolutionary for the company who didn’t even have a golf division before Woods.

Woods has signed multiple contracts with Nike. The first was in 1996 for $8 million for five years. His most recent contract—at $100 million for five years—was more than twice the contract from the late 1990s.

To some it might be surprising that Tiger Woods is not at the top of Nike’s endorsement list. If you’re in this boat, you’ll be even more shocked to hear that he’s not even the most highly endorsed golfer…

2. Rory McIlroy: $25 million/year


Approaching the top as one of the athletes with the biggest endorsements from Nike is golfer Rory McIlroy from Ireland. His Nike collection offers everything a golfer could ever need before heading out to the green; including polos, pants, shorts, and gear.

At just twenty-three years old, McIlroy has been a professional golfer since the young age of sixteen. It’s no wonder Nike was so eager to win the athlete over to their side. A fresh face is great for the company, and a cool $25 million a year is a plus for McIlroy!

1. Michael Jordan: $60 million/year


Michael Jordan is not only one of the most well-known and loved basketball players of all time, but he’s also the player with the biggest endorsement from Nike. Air Jordans were introduced back in 1984, and ever since they’ve been some of the most popular athletic shoes on the market. In fact, Jordan still receives Nike endorsement money despite the fact that he has not been on the professional court since 2003.

Michael Jordan’s retirement years have been almost as successful as his years as a professional basketball star, at least in terms of bringing home the big bucks. He also earns money from his partial ownership of the Carolina Bobcats as well as additional endorsements from Gatorade, Hanes, Five Star Fragrances, and Presbyterian Healthcare.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Jenny Chang is a senior writer specializing in SaaS and B2B software solutions. Her decision to focus on these two industries was spurred by their explosive growth in the last decade, much of it she attributes to the emergence of disruptive technologies and the quick adoption by businesses that were quick to recognize their values to their organizations. She has covered all the major developments in SaaS and B2B software solutions, from the introduction of massive ERPs to small business platforms to help startups on their way to success.

susan kellar says:

Is this the reason the shoes are so high because we are paying people to endorse the shoe sales.As a single grandmother and tries to help my daughter and my grandchildren at $75-$100 a pair this is just extremely too much.

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Mateo Martinez says:

I think that if a professional athlete has the ability and the skill to make it to his or her professional league of their sport and year after year continue to perform at a high level of competitiveness and competition and continually succeed then I believe they earned the privilege to go out and accept the endorsement deals that themselves and agent can get them the most money all involved feel that it's the right price for the negotiations

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