Faster, higher, stronger: it’s an attitude that pays off both on and off the pitch.
The world’s 50 highest-paid athletes raised $2.97 billion before taxes and agent fees in the 12 months ending May 1, beating the record 2021 total of $2.76 billion.
There are plenty of more notable numbers in this year’s list, however. Here is a breakdown.
3: The number of athletes who exceeded $100 million in total revenue in the past 12 months. LeBron James, with $121.2 million, hits the milestone for the first time on the Forbes roster of athletes while Lionel Messi ($130m) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($115m) are each five-time Club of the Century members. Only seven other athletes have achieved the feat: Roger Federer, Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor, Neymar, Manny Pacquiao, Dak Prescott and Tiger Woods.
WORLD’S 50 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES BY SPORT
9: The number of sports represented on the list, led by basketball with 18 athletes. Football has 14, followed by football (5), boxing (3), golf (3), tennis (3), Formula 1 motor racing (2), baseball (1) and mixed martial arts (1). Other sports, including cricket, hockey and Nascar, have no athlete represented.
14: The number of nationalities represented on the list. The United States is home to 35 of the ranked athletes. The UK, along with Tyson Fury, Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy, is the only other country to have more than one.
WORLD’S 50 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES BY COUNTRY
6: The number of athletes in the top 50 who had never appeared on a Forbes list of athletes: boxer Jake Paul and footballers Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk and TJ Watt. Huge NFL signing bonuses, which are usually paid upfront, guarantee high turnover. For example, Matthew Stafford ranks 13th on this year’s list with $72.3 million in total earnings, including $60 million from his signing bonus. But his on-court earnings are expected to drop to $27.5 million for next year’s tracking window, which even combined with his $2.5 million in annual off-court earnings will most likely keep him going. out of the top 50.
20: The total number of athletes in the top 50 who were not on last year’s list. This includes names like Kawhi Leonard and Rory McIlroy who made the 2020 ranking but were missing out in 2021.
32: The average age of the 50 athletes on this year’s roster. Kylian Mbappé, at 23, is the youngest, one of seven athletes in the rankings who are 25 or younger. Phil Mickelson, at 51, is the oldest. Four athletes are in their 40s: Tiger Woods (46), Tom Brady (44), Roger Federer (40) and Serena Williams (40).
$43,500: The amount Tiger Woods won in prizes during Forbes’ tracking window, the lowest field win number on the list. Woods, whose injuries from a car crash in February 2021 limited his competitive schedule at this year’s Masters, comes in at No. 14 on an estimated $68 million off the field earnings. Along with lucrative endorsements with brands including Nike, Rolex and TaylorMade, he’s earned $8 million through the PGA Tour’s Player Impact program, designed to reward golfers who bring the most attention to the game.
$37.6 million: The threshold for making this year’s top 50, as established by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt. This surpasses the previous high of $34 million from last year and represents a 69% increase since 2013.
10 YEARS OF THE 50 HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES, BY CUTOFF
$38 million: Jake Paul’s 12-month earnings, including $30 million from two fights and $8 million from outside the ring. The 25-year-old YouTube star made his professional boxing debut less than two-and-a-half years ago and has since become one of the sport’s biggest attractions.
$40 million: Canelo Alvarez’s earnings reported from his May 7 loss to Dmitry Bivol. The fight just fell outside Forbes’ tracking window and did not contribute to Alvarez’s total of $90 million, which took him to No. 8. If the $40 million had been included, Alvarez would have been tied with Lionel Messi for the No. 1.
$43 million: Conor McGregor’s 12-month earnings, putting him tied for 35th with Kylian Mbappé. Excluding the $150 million Forbes estimates he made last year from the sale of his majority stake in Irish whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve, which represents a $13 million increase from his 2021 total, when he topped the chart with $180 million.
$45.3 million: Phil Mickelson’s 12-month earnings, including $42 million off course. Mickelson has not competed since sparking controversy with the publication in February of his comments that he was prepared to ignore allegations of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia as he sought to join a next golf league. Sponsors such as Workday, KPMG and Amstel Light dropped him, but the loss of endorsements was made up for by the $6 million he earned through the PGA Tour’s Player Impact program and the August sale of six golf courses he co-owned in Arizona.
$49.5 million: Mike Trout’s 12-month earnings. That leaves him just shy of the $50.6 million record he set for baseball players in 2019, after signing a 12-year, $426.5 million contract. Trout, the only MLB player on this year’s roster after 2021 had none, scored a big gain on his stake in Bodyarmor when Coca-Cola bought the sports drink brand in the fall. James Harden (No. 12, $74.4 million) was among the others to take home a handsome reward from the deal.
$59.2 million: Naomi Osaka’s 12-month earnings just behind the $60 million she posted on last year’s list to set a record for female athletes. Serena Williams took her 12-month total to $45.3 million, the best mark of her career, but the two tennis aces, who ranked 19th and 31st, are the only women to make the top 50.
$80.9 million: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s earnings over 12 months, representing the threshold to break into the top ten. The threshold is the highest ever, up from $75 million last year.
$121.2 million: LeBron James’ 12-month earnings set a record for an NBA player, breaking the $96.5 million mark he set last year. He is one of only four athletes – along with Roger Federer, Conor McGregor and Tiger Woods – to earn more than $70 million off the court in one year; it took home around $80 million in our tracking window.
$130 million: Lionel Messi’s 12-month earnings, equaling the football player record he set last year and propelling him to the top of this year’s rankings. In his first season at Paris Saint-Germain, Messi’s salary was down around $22m from his last year with Barcelona, but a major new partnership with fan engagement app Socios has helped. to make up the difference.
690 million: Cristiano Ronaldo’s number of followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, by far the highest in sport. This helps explain the exorbitant rates he can get from sponsors like Nike and Herbalife.
10 YEARS OF OFF-PITCH REVENUE
Here are the total off-field revenue figures (including endorsements, appearances, memorabilia, license fees and other commercial activities) for the world’s 50 highest-paid athletes each year since 2013.
$1.06 billion: The amount this year’s top 50 have raised off the field through endorsements and their other business efforts, breaking last year’s record of $1.04 billion. Roger Federer leads the way this time around with $90 million, which is nearly all of his $90.7 million tally. Seven other athletes have earned at least $50 million off the court: LeBron James ($80 million), Tiger Woods ($68 million), Naomi Osaka ($58 million), Lionel Messi ($55 million ), Cristiano Ronaldo ($55 million), Tom Brady ($52 million) and Kevin Durant ($50 million).
Information on the methodology Forbes uses to compile the list, which captures income athletes earned between May 1, 2021 and May 1, 2022, can be found here.