10 Oct 2014

LeBron leapfrogs Woods on Forbes list

11:43 am on 10 October 2014

The American NBA basketball star LeBron James has leapfrogged compatriot Tiger Woods to the top spot on Forbes magazine's list of the world's most valuable athletes.

LeBron James during the first quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. June, 2014.

LeBron James during the first quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. June, 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Forbes Fab 40, the most valuable sports brands of 2014, lists the top 10 sports brands by business, events, teams and athletes.

The magazine says James pulled in $NZ68 million off the court during the past year and estimated his brand is worth $NZ47 million.

This list is different from Forbes' ranking of highest-paid athletes.

Woods fell to No.6 on that list earlier this year (boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is No.1) after holding the top spot from 2001-2011 and again in 2013.

In the Forbes most valuable athletes list the magazine tries to evaluate how much a player's brand is worth by calculating how much more he makes off the court than the average of the top 10 in his sport.

The ranking isn't simply a list of how much endorsement money the ranked athletes pull in, but rather a monetary assessment of their intrinsic value.

James' value grew $NZ13 million in a year, up to $NZ47 million, which is $1.3 million higher than Woods.

Woods had held the top spot on the list since 2007, but Forbes says his value has dropped $NZ13 million from 2013.

His drop to No. 2 was related more to the end of his long-standing relationship with video game maker Electronic Arts than his injury-riddled year on the golf course.

Nike, which employs James as one of its top endorsers, was listed by Forbes as the top sports business with an estimated value of $NZ24 billion, up $NZ2.2 billion from last year.

Woods' friend, the tennis world number three and 18 time grand slam champion Roger Federer, is third on the list.

The Swiss star's value was equal to that of Woods in 2013, but dropped even further than the 14-time major winner, down to $NZ41 million.

American golfer Phil Mickelson is fourth on the list, with his stock on the rise despite a lacklustre 2014 campaign.

Mickelson comes in valued at $NZ37 million, a $NZ5 million hike from a year ago.

James, 29, signed a deal to return to his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers after four seasons with the Miami Heat.

He signed a short-term contract that allows him to opt out after one season, and while he's made clear he has no intentions to leave he's also planning to maximise his earnings.

The NBA has signed a new $NZ31 billion TV and media deal that should result in a jump in the league's salary cap.

James knows the league's collective bargaining agreement is up again in 2017, that the Los Angeles Clippers recently sold for $NZ 2.6 billion and that his popularity - in a league of stars, he's the brightest - plays a big role in the league signing such a gigantic television deal.