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Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving make top 25 of world’s highest paid athletes

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In Forbes annual list of the world’s 100 highest paid athletes, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving make the top 25, KD at No. 7 and Irving No. 24. The two are also the highest paid athletes in New York.

According to Forbes, KD earned $63.9 million in the last year, $35 million in endorsements and $28.9 million in salary. Irving earned $41.9 million, $18.0 million in endorsements and $23.9 million in salary. Only one other NBA team had two players in the top 25: the Rockets with Russell Westbrook, No. 12 and James Harden at No. 17.

Among NBA players, Durant ranks No. 3, behind LeBron James and Steph Curry while Irving runs No. 7. Of the top 100, 36 are NBA players.

Forbes also reprises a December 2019 story on KD’s growing business interests, Forbes quotes Durant’s watchword on making money off the court. “How well you play on the court determines how big your business is going to grow,” Durant said.

Forbes also laid out just how KD makes his money...

That business starts with a $164 million contract he signed with the Brooklyn Nets this summer and a ten-year, $275 million Nike shoe deal that assumes his continued superstardom. With those two alone, he will earn more than $70 million this season without suiting up for a single game. Durant’s goal is to turn that income into assets at a scale few athletes not named Jordan or LeBron have attempted.

Durant’s ambition is simple, says Forbes: By the time his playing career is over, he’ll have made well over $500 million from salary and sponsorships.

“I want to use the checks I get from companies to create true generational wealth.”

The model, says his agent and manager Rich Kleiman, is LeBron. The endorsements and sponsorships are only part of the KD plan, centered on Thirty Five Ventures, his Manhattan-based company.

LeBron James was the first case study that you can build a real business while you’re playing,” says Kleiman. “Kevin is building a real and authentic company.”

Durant tells Forbes that his 2014 footwear negotiations with Nike and Under Armour opened his eyes to his financial potential. And he gave some insight on how his financial potential helped guide his choice of venues, going from Oklahoma City to the Bay Area to New York and Brooklyn.

“I learned a lot about the business side through that. It really broke things down for me.” Oklahoma City offered slim options, he said. “There’s oil and real estate, but that was a real old boys’ club, and it was hard to break into.”

Durant and Kleiman then moved on to Golden State and the tech world in Silicon Valley,

“All the founders and investors come [to Warriors games], and you get to interact with and meet them,” Durant told Forbes. “They look like normal people, but they are changing the world so fast and have so much power.”

Among the companies he’s invested in are Coinbase, Robinhood, Caffeine TV, Imperfect Food, Lime scooters, Postmates and the robo-investor Acorns.

“New York will be the culmination of the different communities Kevin’s touched, and it will take our company to the next level,” said Kleiman.

Like many in the sports world, Durant started out poor, the son of a single mother. For him and others, generational wealth —that is wealth that can be passed down through generations— is the goal.

“I started down here,” Durant told Forbes, touching the floor of his apartment. “I know there’ll be kids popping up in my family, and I want them to start above this roof. The only way to get there for your family is to create money, and I want to do it in a cooler way, not just being greedy and accumulating as much as I can.”

The world’s highest paid athlete? Roger Federer who earned $106.3 million.