Wednesday January 21st, 2015

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant are the two highest-earning players in the NBA, according to Forbes.

James will make an estimated $64.6 million this season between his $20.6 million salary and slew of endorsement deals. His endorsements include lucrative deals with Nike, Samsung and Beats by Dre.

James signed a two-year deal, $42.1 million deal with the Cavaliers last year to return to Cleveland. He is expected to sign a new contract in 2016 when the league's salary cap increases.

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Forbes estimates Durant will make $54 million this season. He has a nearly $20 million salary with the Thunder and will make more than $30 million in endorsements. Nike and Under Armour had a bidding war for Durant during the summer before he ultimately re-upped with Nike for a deal reportedly worth $300 million over 10 years.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant ($49.5 million), Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose ($38.9 million) and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony ($30.5 million) complete the top five. Bryant had been the highest-paid player for the previous nine seasons.

While Bryant dropped out of the top spot, the Lakers are once again the most-valuable franchise at $2.6 billion, beating the New York Knicks' $2.5 billion valuation. The Bulls are worth an estimated $2 billion. Eleven franchises are currently valued at $1 billion or more.

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The Los Angeles Clippers, which were sold for $2 billion last season, are valued at $1.6 billion. The Milwaukee Bucks are valued at $600 million after being sold for $550 million last year.

The average value of an NBA franchise is $1.1 billion, the highest in league history.

- Paul Palladino

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