In addition to his collection of All-Star MVP and Rookie of the Year titles, LeBron James, the likable forward for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, can cram another honorific on his crowded mantelpiece. King James--as he is known by his army of fans--tops Forbes' 20 Under 25 list of the Top-Earning Young Superstars, thanks to the $27 million he banked between June 2006 and June 2007.
That paycheck could be the low-end of James' earning potential. James, who turns 23 on Dec. 30, is primed to outpace Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, 29, as the highest-paid player in the NBA this year, thanks to a rich new four-year $60 million contract that has the Cavs paying him $13 million his first year. Endorsement deals with Nike, Coca-Cola and Upper Deck, among others, easily eclipse his on-court salary.
Those kinds of lucrative endorsement deals landed athletes in the top four slots of the 20 Under 25 list. Reggie Bush, 22-year-old running back for the NFL's New Orleans Saints, nabbed the No. 2 spot with $24 million, followed by comely tennis ace Maria Sharapova, who pocketed $23 million (only $3.8 million from winnings). The world's highest-paid female athlete, Sharapova edges out golf phenom Michelle Wie, who occupies the No. 4 spot with $19 million.
Rounding out the top five are former kid stars turned boho fashion icons Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who earn $17 million apiece, largely from their 'tween merchandise empire Dualstar. The petite duo parlayed their instant fame as child stars on ABC's late '80s hit series Full House to peddle straight-to-video kid flicks and tchockes to their loyal fanbase. That operation matured into a massive retail venture with billion-dollar annual sales that peddles $12 jumpers at Wal-Mart to $795 leopard print coats at Neiman Marcus.
Forbes' 20 Under 25 list of the Top-Earning Young Superstars examined earnings from June 2006 to June 2007. We included salaries, winnings, endorsement deals and royalties. No deductions were taken for taxes or management fees.
Two of the list members aren't old enough to vote. Thirteen-year-old actress Dakota Fanning banked $4 million, and commands as much as $3 million for major films. Disney's Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus, 15, earned $3.5 million on the heels of a successful new album. (She's poised to make much more now that her tour, which kicked off in November, has become the hot concert ticket of the year.)
The top-earning actor on the list, Harry Potter alter-ego Daniel Radcliffe, 18, earned $15 million. That's more than performers twice his age, like Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock, who earned $14 million and $10 million, respectively, made over the same period. The Potter franchise catapulted Radcliffe's co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint to the list with $4 million apiece. This summer's fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was the second highest-grossing film of the year (edged out by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), raking in $938 million worldwide. The trio are already filming the follow-up, Half-Blood Prince.
Singers Avril Lavigne ($12 million) and Carrie Underwood ($7 million) made the cut on the heels of their mega-successful album releases. Lavigne scored a massive international hit with "Girlfriend," the first single off her album The Best Damn Thing, which she recorded in eight different languages. And though Underwood, the fourth season winner of American Idol, debuted Some Hearts back in 2005, the album demonstrated serious staying power on both the country and pop charts.
Troubled actress Lindsay Lohan eked out a spot on the list, having earned $3.5 million largely from roles in middling films like Georgia Rule and I Know Who Killed Me, plus print campaigns with Miu Miu and Jill Stuart before her latest stint in rehab. The question of Lohan's current insurability has no doubt dampened her earning potential going forward. Regardless, the larger question remains: With a résumé pockmarked by box office duds, is Lohan even worth the bother?