LeBron James has willingly surrendered more in salary than perhaps any NBA player in history, but it doesn't seem to have impacted him in the slightest. According to a report from Forbes, the star's career earnings is set to hit $1 billion this year.
James will earn $95.4 million in 2021, including about $64 million from endorsements, media and memorabilia. "It is a record haul for an NBA player and the highest ever in American team sports," Forbes reported. "The historic year will push his career earnings to $1 billion, including $700 million off the court."
James, 36, is coming off his fourth title and his first with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2010 and 2018, he turned down opportunities to maximize salary earnings to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also turned down an opportunity to become the first NBA player to sign a super-max contract extension in 2018.
James may not set NBA contract records, but it's quite clear that hasn't been his priority.
"NBA salaries have skyrocketed over the past three decades, up tenfold to a pre-COVID-19 average of $9.5 million per player last season," Forbes reported. "The figure is more than double what baseball players make and three times the average in football. There were 44 NBA players scheduled to make at least $25 million in salary this season, compared with seven in MLB and 12 in the NFL (a coronavirus-induced salary cut will drop the NBA’s figure to 34). Credit the disparity to smaller rosters and soaring TV deals that trickle down to players. The gains occurred despite the NBA operating as the only one of the three sports with a cap on individual salaries, first implemented in 1999."
James will be the NBA's highest-earner. Rounding out the top five -- Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards and James Harden of the Nets, respectively.