Lebron James,Kobe Bryant,  Andre Iguodala

LeBron, Kobe lead Forbes top 10 list of NBA endorsers

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Forbes released its top 10 list of off-the-court NBA earners this week, and not surprisingly, a couple of the game’s biggest stars lead the pack.

Before we get to the complete list, something stands out when looking at the dollars the top NBA athletes rake in, especially when compared to other sports’ stars.

Thanks to basketball boasting the biggest shoe sponsorship deals, no one comes close to making as much in total sponsorship dollars as NBA players do, and that includes sports that are more popular — like the NFL in the U.S., and soccer internationally.

From Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes:

And the gap between NBA players and others in team sports all starts with the shoes. The NBA’s biggest stars can command more than $10 million annually from Nike and Adidas. Nike represents almost half James’ off-court income, and James was the NBA’s leading shoe salesman in 2013 with $300 million in retail sales in the U.S. of his Nike signature shoes, according to research firm SportsOneSource. Rose signed a 13-year, $185 million contract with Adidas in 2012. A $1 million a year shoe deal is extremely rare for an NFL or MLB star. Basketball players move product unlike their counterparts in other sports.

Basketball players can also take advantage of the global nature of the sport. Bryant has made trips to China the past eight years for Nike and he is one of the brand’s main chips in its battle against Adidas in China. Bryant partnered with Turkish Airlines in 2010 and has been featured in commercials with global soccer star Lionel Messi. James’ Dunkin’ Donuts deal is for Asia only, and he entered into a new partnership with Chinese Internet services firm Tencent last year. These deals are not available to football and baseball players.

And now, the list:

Player/total endorsement income/shoe sponsor

LeBron James: $42 million (Nike)

Kobe Bryant: $34 million (Nike)

Derrick Rose: $21 million (Adidas)

Kevin Durant: $14 million (Nike)

Dwyane Wade: $12 million (Li Ning)

Carmelo Anthony: $9 million (Jordan/Nike)

Amar’e Stoudemire: $6.5 million (Nike)

Dwight Howard: $6 million (Adidas)

Blake Griffin: $6 million (Jordan/Nike)

Chris Paul: $4 million (Jordan/Nike)

Remember, the shoe sponsor noted isn’t where all of the income originates, but it’s certainly where the bulk of it comes from. Stoudemire’s ranking is a function of him playing in New York, and for NBA players seeking a bigger piece of the sponsorship pie, there’s a reason free agent stars flock to large markets.

Only Kevin Durant plays in a smaller one, and although Miami technically fits the bill, the pairing of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the same team, along with the exposure the Heat has gotten in winning consecutive titles, certainly has made them high-profile stars where sponsors are concerned.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.