The five American professional athletes who are financially most valuable to their franchises:
1 LeBron James: Wherever LeBron goes, more than the team is transformed. The franchise becomes the NBA’s lightning rod and most marketable.
2 Kevin Durant: The Thunder is one of the NBA’s most profitable and most popular franchises, despite a market size a fraction the size of the biggest cities in the league. Durant is the reason why. He’s made the Thunder an NBA contender and nearly doubled the value of the franchise, which was purchased in 2006 for $350 million and was estimated to be worth $590 million last year by Forbes.
3 Tom Brady: Among the three major American team sports, only NFL quarterbacks can match NBA superstars in terms of impact on and off the court or field. In 13 years as the New England quarterback, Brady has turned the Patriots into another America’s Team.
4 Kobe Bryant: Kobe is in the twilight of his career. But his value to the Lakers remains apparent. The Lakers could have voided Kobe’s contract last year and foregone his $30 million salary. But the Laker brand has risen so high in the Kobe era, the two are largely indistinguishable.
5 Peyton Manning: Much like LeBron’s jump from Cleveland to Miami, Manning’s departure from Indianapolis to Denver proved his value. The Broncos were a vaunted franchise before Manning became their quarterback, but Manning’s addition lifted the franchise significantly in the NFL pantheon.
By Berry Tramel