Top 20 Richest Athletes

 

All top athletes can get rich but some get richer than others.  Here are the top 20 richest athletes in the world (based on earnings up to and including 2021).

Conor McGregor (MMA)

Total earnings $180M

On-the-field earnings $22M

Off-the-field earnings $158M

When Conor McGregor retires from the ring, he looks set to have a great career in business ahead of him.  Most of his $180M earnings were from the sale of his stake in the Irish whiskey distiller Proper No. Twelve.

Lionel Messi (Soccer)

Total earnings $130M

On-the-field earnings $97M

Off-the-field earnings $33M

Lionel Messi earns most of this money on the field.  He was formerly with Barcelona and is now with Paris Saint-Germain and the Argentinian national team.  His endorsements include Pepsi, Gillette and Turkish Airlines.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer)

Total earnings $120M

On-the-field earnings $70M

Off-the-field earnings $50M

Like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo earns most of his money on the field.  He currently plays for Manchester United and the Portuguese national team.  There is, however, much less of a gap between his on-the-field and off-the-field earnings.  

Ronaldo is a known sponsorship magnet.  His endorsements include Nike, Armani, Tag Heuer, Egyptian Steel, Herbalife, Italia Independent, Clear, PokerStars and Castrol.

Dak Prescott (American Football)

Total earnings $107.5M

On-the-field earnings $97.5M

Off-the-field earnings $10M

Dak Prescott earns the vast majority of his income in his role as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.  Even so, he has a broad roster of endorsements including AT&T, Beats, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, Adidas, Direct TV, 7-Eleven, Sleep Number, Oikos, Pepsi, Citibank and New Era.

LeBron James (Basketball)

Total earnings $96.5M

On-the-field earnings $31.5M

Off-the-field earnings $65M

Currently a forward with the Los Angeles Lakers, NBA legend LeBron James surely has to be looking towards his retirement.  Even when his playing days are over, however, he definitely has at least one endorsement to keep him going.  His deal with Nike is for life.  Other endorsements include AT&T, Beats, Blaze Pizza, GMC, Pepsi, Rimowa and Walmart.

Neymar (Soccer)

Total earnings $95M

On-the-field earnings $76M

Off-the-field earnings $19M

Neymar plays for Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team.  His off-pitch endorsements include DAZN, Triller, Above Cosmetics and Konami.

Roger Federer (Tennis)

Total earnings $90M

On-the-field earnings $30K

Off-the-field earnings $90M

Roger Federer famously turned down Nike and went on to make vastly more money with Uniqlo and On Running ($440M versus $7M).  He has long-running sponsorship deals with global names including Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Wilson.  Federer has also appeared in shorter campaigns including starring in adverts for Lindt chocolate.

Lewis Hamilton (Motorsports)

Total earnings $82M

On-the-field earnings $70M

Off-the-field earnings $12M

Lewis Hamilton is another athlete who is closing in on retirement.  His standing as a global celebrity will, however, probably still see him get plenty of endorsements.  Current deals include Tommy Hilfiger, Gran Turismo Sport, Bell Helmets, MV Augusta Motorcycles, Monster Energy, Pune, IWC, Sony, Bose and Petronas.

Tom Brady (American football)

Total earnings $76M

On-the-field earnings $45M

Off-the-field earnings $31M

Former NFL quarterback Tom Brady retired in February 2022.  Previous endorsements have included Under Armour, Sam Adams, Foot Locker and Tag Heuer.  It seems likely that he will have ongoing endorsements in retirement.

Kevin Durant (Basketball)

Total earnings $75M

On-the-field earnings $31M

Off-the-field earnings $44M

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant earns more off the field than on it.  His endorsements include 2K Sports, Degree, Master & Dynamic and Nike.

Stephen Curry (Basketball)

Total earnings $74.5M

On-the-field earnings $34.5M

Off-the-field earnings £40M

Stephen Curry is a guard for the Golden State Warriors.  His endorsements include FTX, Callaway Golf, Rakuten, Chase, Fanatics, Under Armour, and Infiniti.

Naomi Osaka (Tennis)

Total earnings $60M

On-the-field earnings $5M

Off-the-field earnings $55M

Naomi Osaka has endorsements with Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Beats and Mastercard

Tiger Woods (Golf)

Total earnings $60M

On-the-field earnings $200K

Off-the-field earnings $60M

Tiger Woods has a huge range of endorsements and associations ranging from  Nike, Bridgestone and TaylorMade to Bridgestone, Discovery Communications, Inc., Hero MotoCorp, Monster Energy, Nike, Rolex, TaylorMade and Upper Deck.

Russell Westbrook (Basketball)

Total earnings $59M

On-the-field earnings $33M

Off-the-field earnings $26M

Russell Westbrook is a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.  His endorsements include  Nike, Subway and Pepsi.

Patrick Mahomes (American Football)

Total earnings $54.5M

On-the-field earnings $32.5M

Off-the-field earnings $22M

Patrick Mahomes is a quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.  His endorsements include Hunt’s, Oakley, Essentia Water, State Farm, DirecTV, Adidas and Head & Shoulders.

James Harden (Basketball)

Total earnings $51M

On-the-field earnings $33M

Off-the-field earnings $18M

James Harden is a guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.  His endorsements include Adidas, Beats Electronics, BodyArmor, Stance Socks and State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance.

David Bakhtiari (American Football)

Total earnings $48.5M

On-the-field earnings $48M

Off-the-field earnings $500K

David Bakhtiari is an offensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers.  His endorsements include Pepsi, Viking Waffles, Proactive (Skincare), American Family Insurance.

Ronnie Stanley (American football)

Total earnings $47.5M

On-the-field earnings $47M

Off-the-field earnings $500K

Ronnie Stanley is an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.  His endorsements include shoe company Zappos.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Basketball)

Total earnings $47M

On-the-field earnings $22M

Off-the-field earnings $25M

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks.  His endorsements include Nike, JBL, Hulu, Tissot, Kronos Foods, 2k Sports and T-Mobile.

Dustin Johnson (Golf)

Total earnings $44.5M

On-the-field earnings $24.5M

Off-the-field earnings $20M

Dustin Johnson’s endorsements currently include TaylorMade, Adidas, RBC, BodyArmor, Hublot, NetJets and Perfect Practice.

Who makes the most money in endorsements?

It’s hard to know for sure who the highest-paid endorsements athletes are.  Based on the available figures, however, the top 10 highest-paid endorsements go to:

Roger Federer $90M

LeBron James $65M

Tiger Woods $60M

Naomi Osaka $55M

Cristiano Ronaldo $50M

Kevin Durant $44M

Stephen Curry $40M

Lionel Messi $33M

Tom Brady $31M

Russell Westbrook $26M

Top 20 richest athletes by sport

The top 20 richest athletes all compete in a total of just 7 sports.

Basketball (6)

LeBron James

Kevin Durant

Stephen Curry

Russell Westbrook

James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo

American Football (5)

Dak Prescott

Tom Brady

Patrick Mahomes

David Bakhtiari

Ronnie Stanley

Soccer (3)

Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo

Neymar

Tennis (2)

Roger Federer

Naomi Osaka

Golf (2)

Tiger Woods

Dustin Johnson

Motorsports (1)

Lewis Hamilton

MMA (1)

Conor McGregor

FAQ

Which sport has the highest salary?

Overall, soccer players tend to be the highest-paid athletes in the world.  In some countries, however, in some countries, athletes in other sports tend to earn higher salaries.  For example, in the U.S., American football players and basketball players tend to be the highest-paid athletes.

Is LeBron James a billionaire?

LeBron James hasn’t quite joined the ranks of billionaire athletes.  His career earnings have surpassed $1B but taxes and fees have meant that he is not, yet, a billionaire himself.

Who is the richest sports player in 2021?

Technically, Connor McGregor is the richest sports player in 2021.  Arguably, however, the title of richest sports player in 2021 should go to Lionel Messi.  Although he only came second on the list of the top 20 richest athletes in 2021, he did make most of his earnings on the field.  Also, most of his off-field earnings were due to endorsements.

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