FACT CHECK: Is Kanye The Highest Paid Person In Footwear?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Rapper Kanye West tweeted Wednesday that he’s the “single highest paid person in footwear.”

“That means I make more money on shoes than Michael Jordan,” he said.

Verdict: False

Jordan made $110 million on his Air Jordan brand in 2017, while West earned $22 million from all sources of income combined.

Fact Check:

It’s been said that you haven’t made it big in the NBA until you’ve signed a shoe deal. “The best signature shoes are typically only reserved for the top of the top class in the NBA,” writes SB Nation.

Over 18 NBA athletes – past and current – had signature shoe deals with companies like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour in 2017; most famous among them were Jordan and LeBron James.

It’s unusual for a non-athlete to score a lucrative deal in footwear, but celebrities like West have done exactly that.

West signed a contract with Adidas in 2013 for a line of shoes called “Yeezy,” a deal rumored to be worth $10 million. He previously had a deal with Nike, but made the switch to Adidas for royalty payments and greater creative control.

Adidas expanded its partnership with West in 2016. “The unprecedented new alliance makes history as the most significant partnership ever created between a non-athlete and an athletic brand,” reads a company statement.

West touted his line of shoes and apparel Wednesday, claiming it would earn $1 billion this year.

“It is a unicorn on its way to becoming a decacorn,” he tweeted.

Adidas sells the shoes in limited releases that generate a huge amount of interest from shoe enthusiasts.

“Look, the Yeezy brand – because of its scarcity, because of him – sells extremely well in its initial sale. His shoes aren’t cheap, and on the secondary market, they’re some of the most expensive shoes out there,” Christopher Svezia, a footwear apparel analyst at the investment firm Wedbush, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

But on its face, it’s difficult to believe that West earns more than Jordan on shoe sales.

Adidas made headlines last year because it beat out Air Jordan, grossing a larger share of the athletic shoe market – 11.3 percent vs. 9.5 percent. That’s for all Adidas footwear though, not just the Yeezy brand. Some of the most popular shoes sold by Adidas come from its “Originals,” “Boost” and “NMD” product lines. The Adidas Superstar and Adidas Tubular Shadow were among the top 10 sneakers sold in 2017.

The Jordan brand sold $3.1 billion in shoes and apparel in 2017, compared to the $1 billion figure for Yeezy mentioned by West.

Jordan earns a portion of each sale, and Forbes estimates that the NBA legend rakes in well over $100 million in royalties and bonuses each year. Nike hopes to expand the Jordan brand to $4.5 billion in sales by 2020, which could mean earnings as high as $200 million a year for Jordan.

To put the magnitude of that number in perspective, West has accumulated $145 million (some say $160 million) in wealth over his lifetime, according to media reports.

Forbes, which puts together a list of “Hip Hop Cash Kings” each year, puts the earnings of West – including his contract with Adidas, but also income from touring, record sales, merchandise, etc. – at $22 million for 2017.

“The fashion firebrand’s lucrative arrangement with Adidas keeps him in the thick of our list,” writes Forbes.

This means that West not only earns less than Jordan on footwear sales – he also earns less than James, Kevin Durant and possibly other athletes.

Forbes talked with industry insiders to estimate how much the NBA’s top stars earned on shoe deals over the course of a year. They estimated Jordan at $110 million in 2017, with James and Durant at $32 million and $25 million, respectively.

West has claimed to have a bigger brand than Jordan for years now. For example, he released a song called “Facts” in 2015 where he rapped that “Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman,” referring to the Air Jordan logo.

TheDCNF contacted West’s publicist and longtime managers for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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