NFL, NBA, and MLB franchises derive much of their value from ticket sales, apparel purchases and television contracts. The driving forces behind all of these moneymaking revenue sources are the superstar players. Players like LeBron James, Peyton Manning, and Stephen Strasburg are worth every penny and more for the amount of revenue that they bring into their respective franchises. Let's take a look at a few of these superstars who are worth even more to their teams than you may realize. (Find out about the other side of the tracks in Top 10 Most Hair-Raising Sports Contracts.)

IN PICTURES: March Madness MVPs - Where Are They Now?

LeBron James
What was Cleveland Cavaliers basketball before LeBron James? It was pretty bad basketball. LeBron James is Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. He drives the ticket sales, jersey sales, and has the city excited about sports again. LeBron is worth so much to Cleveland that Forbes magazine estimates that the franchise's overall value will drop $100 million dollars if James bolts for greener pastures. That's a 21% drop in the team's current net worth of $476 million.

James is so popular that opposing teams tickets saw their resale value in the secondary market fall when James' Cavs were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. James is not just an exciting NBA talent; he is a global icon. There are a lot of good reasons why teams were lining up outside James' door at 12:01 am on July 1, and most of them are green.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning has taken what was once a perennial NFL laughing stock and turned it into one of the most popular teams in the NFL. Manning is the face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise and the poster child for the NFL. He is the number one player in the NFL in influencing consumer purchases. He has endorsement deals with Direct TV, MasterCard, Gatorade, Pepsi and Kraft.

The Colts are expected to give Manning a raise to a salary of $20 million a season and there are rumblings that Manning is still underpaid. There is no other player in the league whose team is so dependent upon him for their success both on the gridiron and off.

Stephen Strasburg
In just a few starts, Strasburg has breathed new life into a depressed Washington Nationals fan base. Baseball fans have not been this excited about a player since the days of a young Roger Clemens and Dwight Gooden. The Washington Nationals have only sold out one game all season after opening day and guess who was pitching when that happened. That's right, Stephen Strasburg! Strasburg's economic impact has been felt across the country.

The excitement over Strasburg is so great that the Nationals are rumored to be thinking about raising ticket prices for home games that he starts. Strasburg's jersey is already the best selling jersey in team history. His first pitching performance was the most watched program in the history of the MLB network. The Strasburg effect is hitting other teams too. Opposing teams are seeing noticeably larger crowds at their home games as well. Strasburg's impact is so big that he is expected to boost the National's franchise value by $50 million dollars over the next two years.

Kobe Bryant
All time Laker greats Jerry West and Shaquille O'Neal both have deemed Kobe the best player to wear the purple and gold. The Lakers star has five NBA championships and he has helped catapult the Lakers to the number one spot in franchise values among NBA teams. Thanks in part to Kobe, the Lakers are valued at a whopping $607 million dollars. Kobe's star power drives the Lakers. Fans are willing to pay $3,000 a night to see the jaw dropping performances of number 24. Bryant's appeal is not just limited to the United States. His jersey remains one of the best selling among NBA fans in the U.S., China and Europe.

The Bottom Line
Although these stars may appear to make a lot of money, when you consider their value to their respective franchises they may actually be underpaid. (For more, check out 8 Money-Saving Tips For Sports Fans.)

Catch up on the latest financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Shocking Court Rulings, Sinking Markets.

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