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Kobe Bryant, the Most Bankable Athlete of His Era: His Lifetime Earnings Prove It

(Forbes) Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed on Sunday morning in Calabasas, California, in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of the seven others onboard, according to reports Sunday evening in this developing story. Bryant was 41 and is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and his three other daughters.

Bryant was one of the most dominant players on the court in NBA history, racking up five NBA titles, a record 18 straight All-Star Game selections and four All-Star Game MVP Awards. His legacy off the court is equally impressive, with record earnings for an NBA playerwinning investments and a rich shoe deal that pushed his net worth north of $600 million.

The Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant 13th in the 1996 NBA Draft, but a trade had already been arranged to ship the Bryant pick to the Lakers, with whom he signed a three-year contract for $3.5 million.

A 21-year-old Bryant landed on the cover of Forbes in 2000, armed with a new six-year, $71 million playing contract and endorsement deals with Adidas, Mattel, Sprite, Spalding and Giorgio Armani.

Bryant was the subject of a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado in 2003. Bryant, who had married Vanessa two years earlier, said the encounter was consensual. Prosecutors dropped the charges when the accuser refused to testify at trial. Bryant and the accuser settled a civil suit privately.

McDonald’s and Nutella dropped Bryant as an endorser, but Nike, which had signed Bryant to a four-year, $40 million deal just before the accusation, stuck by him. His Nike signature shoes ranked among the NBA’s top sellers over the next 15 years and helped Nike build a $6 billion business in China, where Bryant was idolized for his ability on the court and his willingness to embrace Chinese culture.

Bryant retired in 2016 with $680 million in total earnings from playing salary and endorsements. It was the highest total ever recorded by a team athlete during their playing career.

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