James Harden always knew he would be an NBA superstar. He fulfilled his ambition beyond his own lofty expectations. And because of just how successfully he went about it, he won’t be short on cash anytime soon.
The Houston Rockets shooting guard makes the bulk of his money off what he does on the court. His infamous step-back threes and ability to draw fouls returned the moribund isolation style plays back to the forefront of the NBA. His individual impact nets him contracts in the hundreds of millions — yet this only accounts for around half of his total earnings.
How James Harden earned his $228 million extension in 2017
How does one go from dreaming about basketball stardom in their childhood bedroom, to agreeing to a $228 million contract with the Houston Rockets? For starters, you take on a massive workload. For one player to be worth a huge amount of the team’s budget, a direct impact on the court is necessary. Harden brings that.
Unlike a Kawhi Leonard type, who is deployed judiciously to ensure a win, Harden is the focal point of the Rockets. Although he now has Russell Westbrook to lighten his load, coach Mike D’Antoni still expects Harden to carry each game. Basketball-Reference pins his 2019-20 average points down at 34.4, proving just how much one player matters to the Rockets.
The eight-time All-Star didn’t rest on his laurels after getting that massive contract, either. In 2018 he played hard enough to win the league MVP. And in 2019, when Giannis Antetokounmpo took the honors, it was widely discussed that Harden may have put in the better season that year.
Harden’s shoe deal alone is worth nearly as much as his NBA contract
Clearly, Harden earns his keep in the NBA. He’s a draw, keeping fans invested in watching games and buying tickets in Houston. And he makes bank for the rest of the league, reports SB Nation, serving as something of a heel. Fans like to see their teams take on Harden’s frustrating iso ball style, even though he often gets the better of his opponents.
Yet Harden’s money-making ability in the NBA only tells half the story of his finances. His recent contract with Adidas accounts for up to $200 million over the next 13 years. That includes incentive opportunities based on sales, reports Forbes, which Harden continues to cash in on. His shoes are the crown jewel of Adidas’ sportswear line.
That’s in addition to other high-profile endorsement gigs. His work with Trolli, a gummy candy company, nets him yet more income. That brand loves Harden’s self-aware weird vibe, the way he plays against type for an NBA superstar. The $13 million a year Harden takes in from Adidas jumps up to $17 million a year accounting for Trolli and other commercial work.
How Harden justifies his massive endorsement deals
Harden is a great basketball player. Given the massive profit margins associated with NBA team ownership, he likely generates far more revenue than his contract nets him. Without a doubt, he earns his keep in the NBA.
But what about the other half of his income? Is Adidas’ relationship with Harden really worth handing him $13 million and up every year? First, the revenue generated by top NBA stars needs to be contextualized. Harden is the face of Adidas, which isn’t even the biggest shoe brand.
Nike, and their Air Jordan sub-brand, are much larger. Their top stars take in even more than Harden does for shoe endorsement deals, reports Forbes. His contract with the company coincides with hundreds of millions of dollars in increased sales, still trending up to this day. As wild as Harden’s contract seems at first blush, his impact is making Adidas millions more than they pay him.