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Let's Play Fantasy Basketball but with Only Money-Making Ballers

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September 4, 2018

Guaranteed contracts, an average career length of five years (contrast that with the NFL’s 3.3 years), a legit PR machine… Compared to other leagues, NBA players are set up for long-term success off the court. And as a result, the Association has been the leader in producing certified moguls.

 

So let’s play our own game then, shall we? Let’s take a minute to create a fictional starting lineup of the NBA’s biggest moguls of the decade. While we’re pretty crafty with a turn of phrase, we just gotta call this what it is: THE ONE37pm NBA ALL-MOGUL TEAM (cue money sounds).

 

Obviously, we need to set some ground rules. A mogul, or one’s 'mogulness' can be evaluated by a few criteria:

 

NET WORTH

How deep are the player’s pockets? Ideally this is pretty objective, but turns out you can’t demand financial records of strangers. I tried. I even asked Gary. So, we’ll do the best we can.

 

POTENTIAL

Youth helps here. Has the player in question postured themselves to make money moves in the future?

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

Harder to measure but equally important. Bonus points for a breadth of industries. True moguls invest in themselves and know how to spread their wealth.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

This might be the most important criteria of mogulness. Who is most likely to Euro-step the wait at New York's red-sauce joint Carbone without a reservation? Who can finesse an executive producer credit without ever making it to set? Who can land their homie a gig as assistant manager of player personnel on their current team?

 

AND WE WON’T TALK ABOUT YOU UNLESS

The player needed to actually play in the NBA after 2010, not just grow their worth. For example, Steve Nash played 15 games in the 2013-2014 season—he’s cool. But Michael Jordan retired in ‘03, even though his wealth made a leap this decade; he’s ineligible for this contest (still cool, though).

 

The lineup, while fictional, must be playable. Can’t start three bigs. However, we might be favorable to a three-guard lineup, or a stretch-four playing center—shouts to small-ball. This is the ‘10s after all.

POINT GUARD // STEPH CURRY

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Let’s avoid a corny reference to the last four seasons, but Steph Curry just beat out Chris Paul here. Ultimately, Curry’s popularity and his most recent contract put him over CP3’s lengthier tenure.

 

NET WORTH

Had this been 2014, Paul would have had the upper hand. But Curry tripled his previous salary and signed a five-year, $201 million contract last summer. And in addition to the $35 million he made from his salary this past season, he hauled an estimated $42 million from endorsers like Under Armour, Chase, Nissan/Infiniti, Brita, and JBL.

 

POTENTIAL

Assuming Curry’s off-court income maintains at $35 million to $40 million, in addition to his day job’s salary, he’ll make $323 million from the start of the upcoming season to the 2021-22 season. And that’s just the income that can be counted on. Like many of the Warriors, Curry’s proximity to Silicon Valley has steered him toward venture capitalism, and he is a participant in a $37 million investment round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

The NBA is very popular. The NBA has very popular players. Curry has led the very popular NBA in jersey sales for four straight seasons. Also, he earned the most honorable co-sign in pop culture: a Drake song name-drop.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

Curry isn’t at the top of this list, but there are not many tables he’s waiting for. Especially if he brings his food-superstar wife, Ayesha. Riley might even help the cause too.

SHOOTING GUARD // KOBE BRYANT

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Not much competition here. Bryant’s empire had a leg up on other opulent two-guards like Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. And on the other end, Mamba proved he’s built for a career post-NBA by snatching up both an Emmy and an Oscar within two years of his 60-point curtain closing (don’t @ me).

 

NET WORTH

Bryant is the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports, raking in $680 million—including endorsements—during his playing days. His $324 million salary earnings trail only Kevin Garnett’s $332 million. And, uh, also, his $6 million investment in Body Armor in 2014 is now worth $200 million after Coca-Cola’s recent purchase of a minority share.

 

POTENTIAL

LeBron James gets most of the attention when it comes to chasing Magic Johnson as a mogul in LA, but the reality is that Bryant was already tailing him. In addition to Bryant’s successful investment history, he is becoming quite the production prospect. In just two years of full-time commitment, he's bagged both an Emmy and on Oscar for Dear Basketball. How do I invest all my money in Kobe Bryant?

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

*Googles does winning an Emmy or Oscar mean people respect you?* What about two NBA Finals MVPs? And he’s got a Drake reference. Although I think even if he loses 150 ‘M’s, he’ll be okay.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

Los Angeles is a big city. And Bryant was its biggest athlete of the past 20 years. He might have the most clout in the city of any single athl—

SMALL FORWARD // LEBRON JAMES

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LeBrrooooooonnn James. The only question involved was whether to start him at the three or the four. But even in fictional mogul basketball, I value floor-spacing and wanted to put a shooter in at stretch-four, and it doesn’t even really matter in today’s league because everyone switches everything anyways. But, I digress.

 

NET WORTH

James has made $237 million in career salary, and boasts one of the NBA’s prime endorsement lists, including: Sprite, Beats by Dre, Kia Motors, Intel and Nike (with which he reportedly has a billion-dollar lifetime deal). He’s also had some notable wins while investing; his $6.5 million in Liverpool quintupled in seven years and, after sinking $1 million into Blaze Pizza in 2011, his portion is now valued at $25 million.

 

POTENTIAL

Even though James has played 15 years in the league, he finished third in MVP voting this past year, proving valuable enough to earn upwards of $35 million a year for years to come. This was underscored by the $155.3 million, four-year deal he signed with the Lakers this summer. And after the final year of that contract, he’ll have banked over $387.2 million, the highest salary-earnings by an NBA player ever. If his revenue stream via endorsements continues, he’ll have passed (trigger warning) Kobe Bryant as the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports.

 

Similar to the rest of the members of the All-Mogul Lineup, King James has invested in his own content network, Uninterrupted, which is proving to be a key force in Bron’s world takeover.

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

Let's gloss over Bron’s 12 All-NBA First-Team selections and head to the entertainment industry, where he was legitimately funny af alongside Bill Hader in Trainwreck. Uninterrupted is thriving, with The Shop securing programming on HBO. Not to mention, he was just named Most Stylish Man in the NBA in 2018 by GQ. To boot, Drake shouted out his jersey number change on his latest album. That said, James admitted that Jay-Z’s references to his name are most meaningful—moguls unite.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

James has the most pull of any athlete in the world right now. He could name Bronny (or Bryce for that matter) the CEO of Blaze Pizza if he wanted to. Bless the Los Angeles host that has to choose whom to seat first between him and Kobe Bryant.

POWER FORWARD // KEVIN DURANT

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This is where things get tricky. Kevin Garnett beat out Bryant as the highest career salary earner ever and he now hosts his own NBA-focused show on TNT. But Kevin Durant, alongside Rich Kleiman, have given blood oaths to the mogul game by moving to the start-up mecca. KD bounced on Oklahoma and a slightly richer contract for Silicon Valley, making his commitment to legacy over short-term wins clear. After 11 seasons in the league, the Big Ticket wasn’t this poised for a takeover, and when KD is 42, he might just own a show with an audience the size of NBA on TNT.
 

NET WORTH

In 11 seasons, Durant has earned over $160 million in salary, and has earned as much as $32 million in a single year from endorsements such as Nike, Beats by Dre, and Alaska Airlines. Along with Rich Kleiman, he co-founded the Durant Company and has invested in over 30 companies, including success stories like Postmates and Acorns. In just two years with GSW, he went from being the most endorsed player in the NBA (holding more than 10) to owning one of the widest investment portfolios in the Association.

 

POTENTIAL

It’s almost like KD was trying to convince us that he wanted to become a mogul by picking his life up and moving to the Bay. If that wasn’t enough, sporting Nike Tech Fleeces to formal events rules out all speculation of irresponsible spending. Unlike his fictional mogul-teammates, he leads a more frugal lifestyle. In addition to the Durant Company, Durant and Kleiman launched Thirty Five Media to help control and extend his personal brand. They’ve already sold their first original scripted series, Swagger, loosely based on Durant’s AAU days, to Apple.

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

KD is less interested in the burn of the spotlight than most players of his magnitude—especially those in key markets. As a result, he lacks the range others may have. Still got a Drake reference though—who, contradictory enough, compares the attention they both get. We’re not concerned though. KD is playing chess.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

Again, via KD’s keep-to-himself nature, his name might not hold the same weight in pop culture as the rest of these guys. He doesn’t distract himself with the scene and is about as likely to be caught with a Kardashian as an NBA coach (that is not a challenge, Kris). And while others are going wide, Durant is doubling down on himself and paving his own way. Stay tuned. I believe in you, KD.

CENTER // SHAQUILLE O'NEAL

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Shaq. Diesel. The Big Aristotle. Superman. Shaquille O’Neal locked himself a spot on this list while being referred to as the Big Shamrock, playing one season with the Boston Celtics from 2010-11. His name is a universally recognizable mononym, and his size has become the standard hyperbole for “a large human being.” But what’s most impressive, is that with every year that goes by, he manages to bury his NBA Career (in which he was named Finals MVP thrice) deeper and deeper on his resume.

 

NET WORTH

The oldest player on the roster, O'Neal managed to earn almost $300 million in his NBA career before contracts and endorsements became as lucrative as they are today. However, he still continues to work as an analyst (read: verbally tussles with Charles Barkley on live television) for TNT. What is lesser-known, however, is his success as an investor. O'Neal managed to get in early with Google, investing before it went public in 2004 when the stock was trading at just $85.


POTENTIAL

Similar to KD, a component of O'Neal’s potential is his commitment to saving a buck. After blowing $1 million within the first hour of signing his first contract, his spending philosophy cut back to saving 75 percent and living off of the 25 percent. In addition to Google and Apple and other Silicon Valley startups, O'Neal owns 40 24-Hour Fitness locations, and 155 Five Guys doors. He follows one rule when opening his wallet: invest in things that are going to change people’s lives. Keep it up, big fella.

 

RESPECT WITHIN ONE OR MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

Gyms, restaurants, nightclubs, even real estate—via The O’Neal Group, he touches more industries than anyone else on this list. On the mogul-front, O'Neal’s prominent on the set of NBA on TNT. He played a starring role in 1996 comedy, Kazaam, and most recently made an appearance in Charles Stone III’s Uncle Drew. No co-sign from Drake, but don’t think the big man will lose sleep over it—Notorious B.I.G. gave him props in “Gimme The Loot” before the rest of these players were even in the league.

 

ABILITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS

O'Neal is a household name and his array of ventures allows him to have control over a gamut of industries. Even before his post-career mogul status, he manipulated a move from Florida to California and back. When you factor in the potential tip, there’s not a center dead or alive who’s getting the table over O'Neal. The big mogul.

In an era when eight-figure NBA salaries have become commonplace, selections to the ONE37pm NBA All-Mogul Team distinguished themselves by their ability to parlay their income and publicity into a sustainable legacy. Basically, all these guys are super rich. And super famous. And can eat expensive meals without having to plan them in advance. And they will all continue to be super rich and famous and able to whimsically eat expensive meals for a long, long time. With the exception of MJ or Magic, this five might even hold true for the history of the NBA too.

 

So, what does that tell you? In order to be one of the NBA’s All-Time Moguls, you need to either be the GOAT, or play in California. Bring that energy in the comments.