Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States and to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is the pinnacle of every player’s career. For some players, the NBA is the competition which transforms them from basketball to household names.

The very best player from the NBA have gone on to become global megastars who have ventured into other areas of the entertainment industry or some who have stepped away from the limelight, but who have used their earnings from basketball to become businessmen.

greatest nba players

We have taken a look at three of the greatest NBA players of all time and their transition from being the Most Valuable Player to their status outside of the sport.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson

When you take a look at the stars of basketball from the 1980s, Earvin “Magic” Johnson stands out as one of the greatest the sport has seen. Even though Johnson failed to win the Rookie of the Year award, the former Los Angeles Lakers point guard did win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award three times throughout his career.

In his 13 season with the Lakers, Johnson won the NBA championship five times. During his time with the team, he prepared for life after basketball by learning about business from the Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss.

It was his relationship with Buss which allowed him to first buy a stake in the LA Lakers and then to become part owner of the Major League Baseball team the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has since gone on to become part owner of the Los Angeles Sparks, who compete in the Women’s National Basketball Association and the Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Football Club.

LeBron James

Still active in the NBA to this day, LeBron James is regarded as the best basketball player of this generation. He has won the NBA championship three times in his career so far, twice with Miami Heat and once with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2018 he moved to the LA Lakers where he hopes to continue his dominance in the sport.

He has won the NBA’s MVP award on four occasions, the most recent being in 2013 and the small forward currently averages 27.2 points per game. Is he in contention for this year’s award? Check out the Betfair NBA betting odds to find out. His influence on the sport isn’t just on the court, as James is the current vice president of the Nation Basketball Players Association and has been a significant factor in important league decisions being made, such as the increase in the duration of the All-Star break.

Much like the final player on this list, James has endorsements with many companies, the biggest being with footwear and sportswear manufacturer Nike, where his signature shoes have performed well for the brand, thanks to his popularity in the sport.

Michael Jordan

Much like Pele in football, Tiger Woods in golf and Muhammad Ali in boxing, Michael Jordan is arguably the most famous player to have ever competed in his sport, Jordan is  a basketball legend with the sport running through is veins. The former Chicago Bulls shoot guard won Rookie of the Year and was also voted as an All-Star starter in his rookie season.

His basketball career went from strength to strength and he ended his career on the court with over 30 points per game. He won the NBA championship six times while playing for the Chicago Bulls and won the NBA MVP award on five occasions.

Jordan has remained successful since his retirement and in 2014, he became the first billionaire NBA player. His career off the court has ranged from product endorsements to film appearances. His most famous film cameo came in the 1996 movie Space Jam, which featured many characters from the Looney Tunes. It was Jordan’s endorsement of Nike’s Air Jordans sports shoes which have remained popular since their introduction in 1984.

Much like Magic Johnson, Jordan has also used his earnings to enter sports team ownership. In 2006, Jordan became a minority owner in the Charlotte Bobcats, who are now known as the Charlotte Hornets. He later became the majority owner of the team and, in doing so, became the first former NBA player to be a majority owner of an NBA team.