Inside Kobe Bryant’s $600 Million Fortune
Basketball fans around the globe continue to mourn the tragic death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, who perished Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers. The 41-year-old Bryant leaves a rich legacy on the court for his accomplishments and a relentless drive that helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five NBA titles during his 20-year career.
Bryant was also admired for his wide-ranging business success, which made him one of the wealthiest athletes on the planet. His career on-court earnings rank second-most all-time, and he had endorsed more than 20 brands since he entered the NBA, including Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz and Hublot.
He plowed those earnings into many business ventures, including the emerging sports drink BodyArmor and small startups like Art of Sport and HouseCanary. Months after his retirement in 2016, Bryant unveiled his $100 million venture-capital fund, in a partnership with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel, to invest in media, technology and data businesses. Stibel told CNBC in September that their firm had 18 current investments, with roughly 10 exits so far. Fellow superstar athletes Peyton Manning and Steph Curry were also investors.
Bryant also published his own young adult books and became the first pro athlete to win an Academy Award, in 2018 for his animated short film Dear Basketball. Altogether, Bryant, at just 41, had amassed an estimated fortune of $600 million and established a thriving post-NBA career.
Here are some areas where Bryant had scored since he arrived in the NBA in 1996 as a skinny 17-year-old from Philadelphia.
Kobe’s Annual Earnings
Bryant’s paycheck soared with the NBA’s rising salary cap and his expanding endorsement portfolio
Bryant had the NBA’s highest salary for six straight seasons to end his career. The combination of his Lakers salary and his endorsement deals peaked at $62 million. Nike was his most important and lucrative partner. The relationship started in 2003 under a four-year, $40 million deal that helped turn Bryant into a global superstar with soaring annual earnings.
The sportswear giant sent Bryant to China nearly every summer to promote its products. Bryant’s brand exploded in China, and he picked up China-specific endorsements with Mercedes-Benz, Alibaba and more. Nike’s Greater China revenue is now $6 billion and growing 20% annually.
Nike and Bryant’s fans celebrate Mamba Day annually on August 24, the date that combines Bryant’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24. Nike continued the trend last summer with a series of limited-edition sneaker releases.
Bryant’s first contract with the Lakers was worth $3.5 million over three years, yet he knew early on that his salary potential was immense. He was one of only five players to vote against the NBA’s 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which capped individual salaries. Bryant’s annual salary eventually topped $30 million, making him only the second NBA player at the time, after Michael Jordan, to hit that threshold. Bryant retired second only to Kevin Garnett in career salary.