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A Record $3.9 Billion Haul For The World’s 50 Highest-Paid Athletes

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The top 11 athletes earned more than $100 million each, 29 Americans made the list—and two are already billionaires.

By Matt Craig, Forbes Staff


The 50 highest-paid athletes in the world set a record for earnings for the fourth consecutive year, combining to make $3.88 billion in the past 12 months. That total is up nearly 30% from 2021, and more than double what the top 50 was making a decade ago.

Here are a few of the most eye-popping numbers from the athletes on this year’s list.


$936 million

The amount of money this year’s list-makers earned from their off-the-field endeavors, including endorsements, appearances, licensing and memorabilia income, and other businesses. Interestingly, this total is down 13% from last year’s all-time high, but on-field earnings set a record total this year of $2.94 billion.


10 YEARS OF THE TOP 10 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES


$260 million

Cristiano Ronaldo lands at No. 1 on the list for the second consecutive year, and fourth time in his career, nearly doubling his own record for soccer player earnings set last year. The majority of that total, an estimated $200 million, comes from his contract with club Al Nassr of the Saudi Pro League.


$218 million

Jon Rahm’s earnings in the past 12 months, second-most in the world and the highest total ever for golf. The 29-year-old Spaniard received a massive payday to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour in December, and added another $20 million in endorsements from sponsors, including Callaway, Rolex and Mercedes-Benz.


THE WORLD’S 50 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES BY SPORT


$85 million

The amount of money earned by Canelo Álvarez in the past 12 months. In addition to huge payouts for his fights against John Ryder last May and Jermell Charlo in September, Álvarez has begun building a business empire away from the ring, owning a string of gas stations and convenience stores in Mexico, among other ventures.


$45.2 million

Devin Booker’s earnings over the previous 12 months, which serve as the cutoff to rank inside the top 50. It’s the same amount that would have qualified for No. 50 on last year’s list. In 2020, the cutoff was $28.5 million.


$1 million

There are five athletes on the list who earned $1 million or less from off-field endeavors. While endorsements remain extremely lucrative for the most famous members of the list, they aren’t necessary for huge paydays. Four NFL players—Chris Jones, Brian Burns, Deshaun Watson, Rashan Gary—and MLB pitcher Max Scherzer earned more than $45 million just from playing contracts and signing bonuses.


THE WORLD’S 50 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES BY NATIONALITY


31.2

The average age of the athletes in this year’s top 50, down from 33 last year. While hitting the cutoff for this list remains elusive for those under 25, new maximum contract rules in the NBA and huge signing bonuses in the NFL have allowed more athletes to cash in at a younger age. There are 22 athletes under the age of 30 this year, up from just 17 a year ago.


29

The United States remains the most represented country in this year’s top 50, making up over half the athletes. The only other countries with multiple listees are the United Kingdom (4) and France (2). Joel Embiid, who will compete for Team USA at the Olympics in Paris this summer, was counted for his native country of Cameroon.


19

The number of NBA players on this year’s top 50, making basketball the most represented sport by a comfortable margin. NFL players take 11 spots, followed by eight soccer players and five golfers.


11

The number of athletes on this year’s list who earned $100 million or more in the past 12 months, a record. This is the first time in the history of the list that each member of the top 10 all earned nine figures. As recently as 2017, zero athletes cracked the $100 million mark.


6

The number of athletes 39 or older in the top 50. Two of them, Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James, rank among the top five in earnings with an estimated $260 million and $128.2 million, respectively. The others are 40-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 39-year-old F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, 39-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer, and the oldest athlete on the list, 48-year-old golfer Tiger Woods.


2

The number of billionaires among this year’s 50 highest-paid athletes. Tiger Woods and LeBron James were the first and only athletes to reach billionaire status during their playing careers. The others, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, joined the 10-figure club long after retiring.


0

The number of female athletes on this year’s list. Serena Williams was the only woman represented on last year’s list, her sixth appearance, but is now retired and no longer eligible. Only three other women have landed in the top 50 since 2012—tennis stars Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Naomi Osaka.


METHODOLOGY

Information about the methodology Forbes uses to compile the list, which captures income the athletes collected between May 1, 2023, and May 1, 2024, can be found here.

With additional reporting by Brett Knight and Justin Birnbaum.


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