Michael Jordan’s 2014 Sneaker Income Eclipsed Basketball Career’s Salary

Michael Jordan
The Associated Press

Michael Jordan earned more money from sneakers last year than he did from salary during his entire NBA career.

So informs a PBS Newshour infographic, which called 2014 “[t]he year ex-NBA player Michael Jordan made more money selling sneakers than he did during his 15-year NBA career. These earning made Jordan the highest-paid retired athlete in the world last year.”

It’s unclear where PBS came up with the numbers but Kurt Badenhausen from Forbes—not sourced by Newshour—made a remarkably similar observation earlier this year: “His 2014 haul is also more than the $94 million Jordan made in cumulative playing salary during 15 years lacing up his hightops for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.”

Newshour notes that Americans bought $34 billion in sneakers last year. The NBA takes in just a fraction of that every year with its $5 billion annual take. So, Jordan grabbing more from sneakers than salary, at least in that context, should not surprise.

And Sneakers account for just a portion of the cash in Jordan’s accounts. He enjoys endorsement deals with Gatorade, Hanes, Five Star Fragrances, and other corporate behemoths, he owns the Charlotte Hornets, restaurants, and an auto dealership, and a booking agency lists “$50,000+” as his appearance fee. And don’t forget the $8.9 million he just won in a lawsuit against a defunct supermarket chain.

All this adds up. Earlier this year, Jordan joined Michael Savage’s son Russ Weiner and executives from Uber and AirBNB on Forbes‘ new billionaires list.

And most of his riches come from his fame rather than directly from his basketball earnings. Badenhausen notes that Jordan ranks fourth among all celebrities in U.S. consumer awareness and 12th globally. He writes, “Jordan’s 98% awareness level in the U.S. is on par with Barack Obama.”