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Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes of All-Time

Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes of All-Time

Sport as an entertainment has been vacuuming chunks of money with top athletes being at the very heart of it. Listed below are 10 of the highest-paid athletes of all time. 


Michael Jordan


Jordan isn't just the king of basketball, but king of sport. Out of his total earnings, only a small percentage comes from his time on court. An estimated 6% comes from the contracts that he signed with Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards during his 15 year stint. Jordan's salary during his first NBA season in 1984 was only $500,000.

Although he hasn't played since 2003, Jordan still has deals with Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck. His 37-year relationship with Nike is why he is top of the list. He has received $1 billion USD in royalties from the sneaker giant, since retiring in 2003. 


2. TIGER WOODS - $ 2.10B

Michael Jordan


3 golfers make up the Top 10 list with Woods taking gold. Similar to Jordan, Tiger's fortunes are mostly made off the pitch. Roughly 92.4% of his career earnings, around $1.6 billion, are from endorsements such as Nike, Gatorade, American Express, Asahi, Rolex, Gillette, Accenture, Tag Heuer, AT&T, EA Sports, and many more. 

Since 1996, Tiger has earned $118 million on the golf course. That amounts to 7.6% of his total career earnings. After turning pro, Woods only took 8 months to earn $100 million after signings deals with AmEx, Nike and Titleist. 


3. ARNOLD PALMER - $ 1.50B

Arnold Palmer


Palmer had an incredible 62 PGA Tour victories and 10 Championship tours. Globally recognised for his achievements, Palmer was part of "The Big Three" in golf, along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the three key players who are widely credited with popularising and commercialising the sport of golf around the world.

Most of his wealth is derived from his businesses that were golf related. He formed the company Palmer Course Design in 1972. As a designer, Palmer worked on more than 300 golf courses in 37 states, 25 countries, and five continents. This includes the first modern golf course in China, built in 1988. 

All of Palmer's endorsements, licensing, spokesman deals, and commercial partnerships were managed by Arnold Palmer Enterprises. One of his most well-known products is the drink known as the Arnold Palmer, which is a combination of iced tea and lemonade


4. JACK NICKLAUS - $ 1.38B 

Jack Nicklaus


Despite making only $5.7 million in his playing career on the PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus finds himself high up on the list. That is because he ran several successful businesses. He founded Nicklaus design more than 50 years ago, thereby designing golf courses in more than 40 countries. As of 2021, his net-worth is roughly $320 million. 

Over a quarter-century, he won a record 18 major championships, making him arguably one of the best golfers of all time. 



Cristiano Ronaldo


Ronaldo earns 480,000 pounds a week at Manchester United which roughly sums up to 19.7 million a season. His weekly earnings suggest that he costs more than the total salaries of the players at Norwich, Brentford and Leeds.  

The Portuguese overpowers his rivals is other income sources like commercial earnings and endorsement fees. Cristiano Ronaldo can command $1.6 million per Instagram post, more than any other celebrity, according to a social media analytics firm, Hopper. In 2020, he became the first footballer to reach the $1 billion mark. 



Floyd Mayweather


The boxer says he made $250 million to beat Manny Pacquiao and a further $300 million from his fight against Conor McGregor. 

Despite having very few endorsement deals, Floyd can easily earn $150 – $300 million a year when he is fighting. Outside of the ring, Floyd typically earns $10 million from endorsements per year. Mayweather has come a long way, earning $3.2 million in June 2005 to a whopping $300 against the Irishman. 


7. LEBRON JAMES - $ 1.17B

Lebron james


The four-time NBA MVP LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 on a four-year, $153 million contract. LeBron has seen a 15% hike in his earnings in comparison to the previous year, making him the richest NBA player. James accumulates a salary worth $40 million, along with off-court ventures like his $32 million Nike contract.

Since being drafted in 2003, James has earned $330 million in playing salary. Endorsements from Nike, GMC, AT&T, Walmart and many more, help him earn more than $100m annually. The LA star had also purchased a 2% stake in Liverpool in 2011 for $6.5m. That same stake is currently valued at $44m.


8. LIONEL MESSI - $ 1.14B

Lionel Messi


Leo is the most decorated footballer in the history of the game, but falls short to rival Ronaldo in the race to financial success. Messi's latest contract at Barcelona was reportedly worth a net £500,000 a week. However, a change in club saw a drop in earnings too. He is now on a weekly salary of £336,000. Messi pockets a fair share of wealth from his longstanding partnership with Adidas. 

Apart from that, Pepsi, Turkish Airlines, Gatorade make up for additional streams of income for the little Argentine. 



Michael Schumacher


Until Mercedes and Hamilton came along, Schumacher was the keeper of all the records. His net worth is believed to be close to $780 million. He has been endorsed by Shell, Marlboro and Vodafone. 

Despite being in coma due to a skiing injury in 2013, Schumacher still earns $50 million every year through endorsements. This might seem like a very high figure in isolation, but when compared to his endorsements during the peek of his career, it fades away.

That's because he was paid sums like $10 million per year by Shell to wear a hat with the company’s logo at nearly all public appearances. He made $8 million by just wearing a cap with the logo of Deutsche Vermögensberatung inscribed on it.


10. ROGER FEDERER - $ 1.12B

Roger Federer


Federer has won $130 million in prize money in his career, only behind Novak Djokovic's $145 million, but the total is dwarfed by his off-court earnings from appearances and endorsements. The biggest prize in his stable is Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo, which locked him up in 2018 under a ten-year, $300 million deal. 

He has a total net worth of $550 million. Between June 2018 and June 2019 he earned $94 million. Of that amount, roughly $86 million came from endorsements with companies like Credit Suisse, Rolex, and Mercedes Benz. Roger earns more from endorsements than any other athlete.

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the three key players who are widely credited with popularising and commercialising the sport of golf around the world.
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