NBA Players Make Millions from Big China Deals

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As NBA players increasingly lineup in support of the oppressive Chinese government, it’s becoming evident that the main motivating factor is their financial dealings with the communist nation.

NBA players are increasingly lining up in support of the NBA’s lucrative deals in China and to criticize Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for tweeting his support of the demonstrators in Hong Kong. But that support is drawing a backlash as fans come to realize that money is more important to these same players who parade themselves as political progressives and who criticize America over and over again.

Leading the pack of players enriching themselves with Chinese money is L.A. Lakers star LeBron James who is the lucky recipient of a one-billion-dollar deal with Nike, a company that is seeing incredible windfalls with the opening Chinese markets.

According to Fox Business:

[LeBron] holds a lifetime deal valued at $1 billion with sports retail giant Nike, which saw its sales in China surge 27 percent to nearly $1.7 billion in its most recent fiscal quarter alone. James’ signature sneaker line is one of Nike’s most prominent offerings.

James’ standing in China could also impact the future efforts of his media production company, SpringHill Entertainment. The firm is producing “Space Jam 2,” the highly anticipated sequel to NBA legend Michael Jordan’s original film, which will seek a massive return from Chinese audiences.

But LeBron James is not the only NBA player raking in cash with Chinese deals.

Indeed, while James is earning his windfall indirectly through Nike, other players have more explicit ties to China.

According to CBS News:

  • Retired Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade, one of James’s closest friends, in 2018 signed a shoe endorsement deal with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning that earns him $12 million a year.
  • Portland Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum also has a shoe endorsement deal with Li-Ning, though the dollar amount hasn’t been made public.
  • Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson has a 10-year shoe endorsement deal with Chinese shoe manufacturer Anta worth $9 million a year.
  • Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward and Rajon Rondo, James’s teammate in Los Angeles, also have Anta deals.

The league itself is also earning big money with China. The NBA has a deal with Chinese Internet provider Tencent worth $1.5 billion, and the Chinese basketball leagues working in cooperation with the NBA are earning the league $4 billion.

“While it is impossible to accurately estimate the NBA’s income derived from China, it has been conservatively estimated to be approximately $500 million,” Bentley University sports law professor Steven Weisman told CBS. “These funds, in turn, affect the NBA’s salary cap and the funds allocated based on the salary cap to players’ contracts.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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