Tip-Off Timer: Yao, China's Biggest Celeb, Earned $52 Million Last Year
Tip-Off Timer counts down the days until the first game of the 2009-10 season. On Saturday, there are 52 days remaining.
American athletes find themselves high on annual top-earning celebrity lists -- Tiger Woods is a perennial top-five finisher on Forbes's Celebrity 100 list, and Michael Jordan had seen that ink for decades. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James made the magazine's top 100 celebrity earners list last year as well.
But the top-earning NBA player last year, according to Forbes, wasn't an American-born player. It was Rockets star Yao Ming, who is said to have earned $52 million in 2008.
The financial impact Yao has had on the NBA, the Rockets, his Rocket teammates, and Chinese basketball has been studied widely. But don't think Yao isn't getting his cut. According to Forbes China, Yao has topped the Chinese celebrity list in terms of earnings for six straight years now.
Yao's Houston salary was only $15 million, with the rest of the cash coming from a wide range of endorsements -- Visa, Reebok, Garmin, Apple, McDonald's, Coca Cola. He owns a restaurant and a Chinese basketball team. While Kobe has become more popular in Asia than America, and LeBron continues to assert his future as a Global Icon, there's no question that Yao is tops in the Middle Kingdom, and thus, on top of the world.