NCAA basketball champion Angel Reese isn't fast-tracking her college career, even if she had the option to go pro.
The Louisiana State University sophomore, who won't be WNBA draft-eligible until next year, says she's enjoying her time in the NCAA. "I'm in no rush to go to the league," Reese, 20, recently told the "I Am Athlete" podcast. "The money I'm making is more than some of the people that are in the league that might be top players."
Reese's on-court performances have landed her 17 name, image and likeness (NIL) sponsorship deals with brands like Amazon and Coach, according to a March Sponsor United report. That's more than any other college basketball player, the report says.
Those deals net her an estimated $1.3 million per year, according to sports media platform On3. (Reese did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It's request for confirmation.) Reese knows exactly what she wants to spend her newly gained fortune on, too: a Mercedes-Benz, she said on the podcast.
WNBA players make less in salary — last year's league average was $102,751 — but can pad their earnings significantly with NIL-like sponsorship deals. The Las Vegas Aces' Candace Parker, for example, made $5.5 million in 2021 through brand partnerships with Adidas, Band-Aid, Capital One and CarMax, Forbes estimated last year.
It's still pennies, in comparison to the NBA: Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, the league's highest-paid athlete, will make $48 million in salary this year alone.
Curry also recently signed a new long-term partnership with Under Armour. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed, but it included $75 million in Under Armour stock, according to a public company filing. Curry's previous Under Armour deal was worth $215 million, and also included company equity.
But while men still out-earn women on the professional court, female basketball players are starting to bridge the pay gap at the college level. Women's basketball was the third most lucrative NIL-compensated sport behind men's football and basketball, as of September 2022, according to NIL technology company and marketplace Opendorse.
Of the top 10, six are women-dominated sports, CNBC noted in October.
For Reese, who has dubbed herself the "Bayou Barbie," the best part is that she no longer has to accept every NIL offer that comes her way. Now, she says she avoids endorsing products or services she wouldn't personally use.
"My first year [in college], I was just taking money," Reese said. "I was doing anything. Now, I have to say no to certain things that I don't like, or don't want to put on my Instagram ... All money's not good money."
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