James, who turns 30 in December, earned $53 million off the court in the past year and his brand is worth $37 million. For the first time since 2007, the No. 1 spot is not owned by Tiger Woods, who dropped to No. 2, followed by Roger Federer, Phil Mickelson and Indian cricket star Mahendra Singh Dhoni rounding out the top five.
Kobe Bryant was the only other NBA athlete to crack the top 10 on Forbes' list, which included Rafael Nadal as a newcomer to the club. The tennis star's brand is worth $10 million according to Forbes' calculations.
James signed a two-year deal with the Cavs worth approximately $42 million during the offseason.
Here are the top 10 athletes on Forbes' list:
1. LeBron James ($37 million)
2. Tiger Woods ($36 million)
3. Roger Federer ($32 million)
4. Phil Mickelson ($29 million)
5. Mahendra Singh Dhoni ($20 million)
6. Usain Bolt ($19 million)
7. Cristiano Ronaldo ($17 million)
8. Kobe Bryant ($15 million)
9. Lionel Messi ($12 million)
10. Rafael Nadal ($10 million)