China-backed LeBron James tops athlete salary list with $127 million in 2021

LeBron James topped Sportico’s list of highest-paid players for 2022. He was not only the highest-paid athlete, but also the highest annual earner of his career.

“The 18-time All-Star has earned $127 million in the last 12 months thanks to the Lakers and his growing off-court empire,” Sportico reported, adding, “That’s the highest tally ever in his career spanning two decades and longer than any other athlete on the planet.

The Lakers were kicked out of the playoffs this year — and for the second year in a row — but that didn’t hurt James’ income. Instead, James raked it in with his rich shoe deals, his deep ties to China, and his TV and movie deals.

James earned $41 million in salary as an NBA player, Sportico reported, and ranked second in the NBA in scoring with 28.5 points per game in 2021-22. But it was the least of the future windfalls.

When it comes to sports, in addition to his stake in the Boston Red Sox, James also has a stake in Liverpool, an English Premier League soccer team.

The Laker also earns millions from his Nike contract and endorsement deals with Walmart, GMC, AT&T, PepsiCo and others. Additionally, personal brands including Calm, Ladder/Openfit, and Lobos 1707 tequila all generate rich returns.

Nike, of course, is heavily invested in the Chinese market and reportedly raked in over $6 billion in China in the past year alone. And James happens to be one of Nike’s best-selling names in the Chinese market.

Nike is listed among 83 international companies benefiting directly or indirectly from Chinese slave labor.

Protesters demonstrate against Chinese slave labor (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

James is also padding his pockets with earnings from his 7-year-old media group, the SpringHill Company.

Almost all of these deals lead back to China with the manufacture of products made by Chinese factories, to media projects bringing in millions to the Chinese public.

With all these lucrative ties to the communist nation, it’s no wonder James refuses to criticize China for its genocidal human rights abuses.

China-backed LeBron James tops athlete salary list with $127 million in 2021

Pro-Uyghur protesters rally against Chinese slave labor (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty)

Other top athletes from Sportico include Lionel Messi ($122m), Cristiano Ronaldo ($115m), Neymar ($103m) and Canelo Albarez ($89m).

Also in the top ten are Steph Curry at number six with $86.2 million, then Kevin Durant ($85.9 million), Roger Federer ($85.7 million), James Harden ($76 million) and Tiger Woods at number ten with $73.5 million.

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