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While most professional athletes receive handsome salaries, sport’s biggest stars are in a league of their own. That reality can be plainly seen in the 2020 Forbes ranking of the highest-paid athletes in the world. At the top of the list, you’ll see all the standard names, ranging from Roger Federer and Cristiano Rolando to the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Astute observers, however, might remember that the Brooklyn Nets forward hasn’t played a game of basketball in roughly a year. While you’re right about that lay-off, Kevin Durant is still the seventh-highest paid athlete in the world.

Kevin Durant’s rise to NBA stardom

While Kevin Durant is now an NBA star sitting near the top of Forbes’ list, he wasn’t always a global star. His rise to fame, however, started pretty early.

Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Durant cut his teeth on the AAU circuit. After playing ball for some prestigious high school programs—he spent time at both Oak Hill Academy and Montrose Christian School—the forward headed to the University of Texas.

Durant entered college as one of the top recruits in the country; while he only spent one season with the Longhorns, he didn’t disappoint. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per outing, claiming the Naismith, Wooden, and Rupp awards in the process.

On the back on that strong freshman campaign, Durant entered the 2007 NBA draft and went second-overall after Greg Oden. The forward landed with the Seattle SuperSonics and continued his rise to stardom; after averaging 20.3 points en route to the Rookie of the Year title, it was safe to say he arrived.

Taking things to the next level in Oklahoma City and Golden State

After Kevin Durant’s rookie season, the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. Despite that change, the forward only continued to improve.

Teaming up with Russell Westbrook, Durant developed into one of the modern NBA’s best all-around players. He helped turn the Thunder into a perennial playoff team; while they could never get over the hump, the forward did virtually everything possible on the offensive end of the floor. He captured four NBA scoring titles and one league MVP Award in the process, averaging as high as 32 points per game.

For all of that individual success, however, Durant eventually jumped ship and joined up with the Golden State Warriors. While that decision was met with plenty of criticism, it ultimately paid off; while the forward’s individual numbers tailed off a bit, he did win two NBA titles alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Kevin Durant hasn’t played basketball in a year, but he’s still making plenty of money


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Kevin Durant’s career, however, didn’t end there. During the 2019 NBA Finals, the forward tore his ACL; after the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors, he chose to leave the Bay Area and join up with the Brooklyn Nets.

Despite taking center stage alongside Kyrie Irving as the centerpieces of the Nets’ rebuilding efforts, Durant still hasn’t taken the floor in Brooklyn. While there was some speculation that the league’s suspension could give him time to recover, it looks like we’ll have to wait until the 2020 campaign to see him suit up for his new club.

That period of inactivity, however, hasn’t hurt Durant’s earning power. He still landed at seventh in Forbes’ 2020 ranking of the world’s highest-earning athletes. The publication estimated his pre-tax earnings at $63.9 million, with $28.9 million coming from salary and an additional $35 million coming from endorsements; that makes him the third highest-paid NBA star on the list, only trailing Steph Curry and LeBron James.

While there may be some quirks with the numbers—Durant’s salary data on Spotrac, for example, doesn’t match up with the figures from Forbes—one clear truth remains: when you’re a massive star like Kevin Durant, even a year-long injury can’t tank your earning power.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Basketball-Reference