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Kobe Tops LeBron In Forbes’ Highest Paid Athletes

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(Photo credit should: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit should: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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CBSsports.com
Ben Golliver

After a dominant, awe-inspiring performance against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, it seems like nobody can beat Miami Heat forward LeBron James on the court.

When it comes to who is bringing home the big money off the court, however, King James isn’t yet the King.

In a Forbes.com evaluation of the world’s 50 highest-paid athletes, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant checks in ahead of James. Forbes says Bryant has earned $53 million in the last 12 months, $5 million more than James’ $48 million.

Bryant and James are the only two NBA players ranked in the top 10. Golfer Tiger Woods holds the No. 1 spot at $75 million.

Bryant leads 15 basketball players that made the list, more than any other sport. Bryant added Turkish Airlines and Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Car to his endorsement portfolio this year. His $24.8 million salary with the Los Angeles Lakers is $4 million more than any other NBA player. No. 3 on the list is Miami Heat forward LeBron James, who earned $48 million over the past year.

Forbes notes that its rankings “are derived from salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, licensing and endorsement income in the 12 months ending May 1″ and do not account for “taxes or agents’ fees.”

Just as James looks poised to win his first NBA title this month, he could overtake Bryant — and possibly even Woods — on this list in the future. A recent report noted that a Heat championship could mean a billion dollar windfall in China for Nike and could push James past Bryant in terms of popularity in that crucial market.

The next highest NBA player on Forbes’ list is Houston Rockets cente Yao Ming, ranked No. 18, at $27.7 million. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is ranked No. 19 at $27.6 million. Dwyane Wade, James’ Heat teammate, and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony are the other NBA players that appear in the top 25.

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