Top Earning Ballers


Forbes magazine released their list of the top 50 athletes by earnings last year. Basketball players dominated the list, occupying 35 slots, with four current or former Orlando Magic players on the list. Here are the ballers who earned the most, with numbers representing their spot on the list of the top 50.

#4 Michael Jordan $35 million
Despite being retired for the last eight months of the year, His Airness didn't let retirement get in the way of making a great earning. He was still the top-paid basketball athlete on Earth last year.

#5 Shaquille O'Neal $31.9 million
The Big Aristotle didn't adopt the ancient Greek philosopher's disregard for money and material wealth. Instead, he has chosen the arguably more noble path of maximizing his God-given potential to earn the most he can for his descendants. Is that so wrong?

#6 Kevin Garnett $29.7 million
KG is finally surrounded by enough talent to reach the Finals next year, if the said talent can stay healthy. The reason that KG is finally surrounded by talent? He did not choose to insist on the Timberwolves paying him the most they could have. He took a pay "cut," in the same sense that Congress "cuts" budgets by decreasing the rate at which they balloon up.

#10 Kobe Bryant $26.1 million
This competitive All-Star has never met a list he didn't want to be on top of, and this Forbes list is no exception. By any measure one of the top two shooting guards in the league, Bryant just yesterday officially opted for free agency, meaning he can finally start earning the big bucks. No more chump change contracts for him.

#11 Grant Hill $25.9 million
Unless you have a calculator suited to astronomical calculations, don't even try to figure out what Hill has been earning for the past several years on a per-minute-played basis. Even scientific notation needs three digits in the exponent. Fortunately or not, this is Hill's last year on his amazing contract. Don't expect to see him on this list after the 2004-2005 season.

#16 LeBron James $21.1 million
It's people like LeBron that make a great case for having a flat salary for all players. His rookie contract is a mere pittance compared to his endorsement deals. And if all athletes could be paid by endorsement deals, it wouldn't really matter what their salaries were. Just don't tell that to the players' union.

#17 Vince Carter $20.2 million
Air Canada earns almost as much as Michael Jordan, and plays about as often. He played just half of the 2002-2003 season but has come back strong this past year, playing more games than he has since his famous shootout with Allen Iverson in the 2001 Eastern Conference playoffs.

#21 Allen Iverson $19.7 million
The second of the two offensive juggernauts that made the 2001 Eastern Conference playoffs so exciting, and the man who single-handedly carried the Sixers to an overtime victory of game 1 against the Lakers, AI is probably making more money per pound than any other basketball player. This season, he set a new career low for games started, as he was hampered by injury. Yet that won't keep him from representing at the Olympics.

#25 Tracy McGrady $19.0 million
The second of the two possibilities for best shooting guard in the world, young T-Mac just yesterday told the Magic that he wants to get traded. This will likely mean Orlando will sign him to an extension and move him out for whatever they can get in return. This means McGrady, like Bryant, will be moving on up in the list next year.

#41 Jason Kidd $15.9 million
With his new extension just starting to kick in for this fiscal year, and endorsements continuing to pile in, Kidd's stock should continue to soar -- as long as he can remain healthy. It's a good thing for his career and his team that he is sitting out the Olympics.

#43 Yao Ming $15.7 million
Socialists argue that China can't be converted to free-market capitalism overnight -- the people just aren't used to it. Hogwash. It's not enlightened paternalism to withhold freedom: it's slavery. Yao has broken all chains and thrown aside all doubters as he is quickly evolving into the next dominant big man. With Shaq on the downside, it is a matter of months before Yao usurps his throne.

#47 Rasheed Wallace $15.3 million
Two teams later, Wallace is now an NBA champion, and no one knows for sure where he will end up next season, though Detroit and New York appear to be the frontrunners for his selfless services. His earnings, however, will never reach such a level again. Expect him to drop out of the top 50 next year.

#49 Anfernee Hardaway $15.1 million
Penny joins Shaq, T-Mac, and Hill on this list as one of four current or former Orlando Magic players to be earning huge amounts. Is Disney World minting money and lining the locker rooms with it? Penny is way past his prime and is a current Knick; he does have skills but not enough to justify paying his bills.

#50 Andre Miller $15.0 million
This was the biggest surprise to me. First of all: no Carmelo Anthony? How many times must he be snubbed by comparison to LeBron James? Not a co-Rookie-of-the-Year. Not in the Olympics. Not even a top earner. Yet his teammate Miller made the list. Will that make 'Melo angry or happy for his fellow Nugget?