Sports can be very lucrative, especially for those with extraordinary talent and skill. The contracts in top sports like basketball, soccer, football and MMA have increased dramatically over the years. The athletes have benefited greatly from this, as they now have an extra incentive to perform their best.
The primary source of income for a professional athlete is the contract that they receive from their team or organization. However, due to the popularity and reach of social media, top athletes can make money through endorsements, partnership with apparel brands, as well as other advertising channels. It is their secondary source of income, and in some cases, it can be more than the contract that the athlete receives.
Highest paid athletes in 2023:
10. Kevin Durant – $89M
Kevin Durant is arguably the most talented basketball player fans have seen in more than a decade. The 6’10” forward of the Phoenix Suns has a sleek and slender physique, but is deadly in his aim. This is why he was given his nickname, The Slim Reaper. KD signed a 4-year extension worth $194m with the Brooklyn Nets. He was traded earlier this year to the Phoenix Suns and is set to earn $44.1 million in this season.
Kevin Durant, in addition to his earnings on the field, has his own venture called Thirty-Five Ventures. Postmates, Acorns Overtime and Coinbase are some of the notable investments that his company has made. KD also has stakes with other sports leagues and teams, such as the Premier Lacrosse League. He has stakes with a nutrition brand and a nutrition company, Happy Viking.
Some of his most valuable endorsements include Beats by Dre and NBA 2K. He has also worked with Gatorade, Google and Nike. Recently, he became a Nike lifetime athlete and joined the ranks of Michael Jordan and LeBron. He earns an estimated $45,000,000 per year from his off-field activities.
9. Roger Federer – $95.1M
Roger Federer retired after a career spanning 24 years, during which he won nearly 20 Grand Slam titles in singles. Federer is one of those athletes who has made a great deal of money during his career. His on-field earnings are a mere $0.1 million. However, his off-field earning totals $95 million.
Federer is in partnerships with Barilla as well as Credit Suisse, JURA Lindt, LVMH Mercedes-Benz Rolex and Wilson Sporting Goods. Federer has reaped a substantial amount of money from these partnerships. He earned $5 million extra this year compared to last year.
8. Stephen Curry – $100.4M
Curry’s cooking skills on and off the pitch have paid off for him in spades! Curry’s legacy as a four-time NBA champion and one of the best PGs has been cemented. Golden State Warriors made sure to lock him in for four years by giving the PG a $215M contract.
Stephen Curry earns an estimated $48,4 million per year playing basketball. His endorsements with brands like Nissan Motor and Rakuten, as well as his links to Chase, Nissan Motor and Rakuten, are also financially rewarding. Stephen Curry’s most lucrative partnership is with Under Armour. This sports apparel and footwear brand makes his official gear. Curry Brand is an exclusive sub-brand of SC30, which was decided by the company. He stands to earn a lot from this lucrative relationship in the future. Steph earns nearly $52 millions through endorsements and investment.
7. Phil Mickelson: $106M
Phil Mickelson has been one of the most famous golfers to have ever stepped onto the tee. It is incredible that he has made over $1 billion as a professional golfer. His earnings are largely derived from playing golf. He makes an estimated $104,000,000 from playing golf. His second place finish at the Masters brought him $1.6 million.
He has reduced his company affiliations due to his association with LIV Golf, but he still remains a part of For Wellness, the brand he co-founded. He was also part of the group of investors who recently purchased a large plot outside Pheonix.
6. Dustin Johnson: $107M
LIV Golf is a popular golfing network. Dustin Johnson is one of the stars that switched to LIV in May last year and finished the season with estimated earnings of $35.6M. Dustin Johnson, like Phil, lost sponsors after he moved to LIV. He also suffered a financial blow as he did not crack the top 10 highest paid athletes list last year. However, this year he is back and stronger than ever.
Dustin co-owns the team he captains – the 4Aces Golf Club. He has so far earned $3.3M in just five LIV events.
5. Canelo Alvarez – $110M
Canelo alvarez earned nearly $100M in 2022 from his fighting. He has won every fight despite losing Dmitry Bivol and earning $40M. His victory over Gennady Glovkin brought him an additional $45M. He signed with Excel Sports Management last September and, in addition to his guaranteed amount per fight, he also gets a large chunk of the PPV revenue.
Canelo’s endorsements include Hennessy, Michelob Ultra and Yaoca. He also promotes the fitness app I Can and his own gasoline chain Canelo Energy. He also launched his own clothing line, VMC. The estimated amount of his off-field income is $10 million.
4. LeBron James – $119.5M
LeBron LeBron James is a prime example of an athlete who is not only great at his sport, but also a pioneer in countless other areas. James is one the best basketball players in the NBA. He recently beat Kareem Abd-Jabbar to become the all-time top scorer. LeBron has also become a certified billionaire. His entrepreneurial activities, along with his successful investments and endorsement portfolio, have helped him achieve the pinnacle.
The forward of the Los Angeles Lakers earns $44.5 million a year by playing basketball. His affiliations with brands like Ladder, a leading sports nutrition company, SpringHill Entertainment – a production house – and Fenway Sports Group – owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC – as well as a Major Pickleball Team – have also made him rich.
LeBron is a Nike lifetime athlete, and this partnership has been a great financial benefit to him. Recent success has been seen with some of LeBron James’ older investments, such as Lobos1707 Tequila. He also invested in Mitchell & Ness, a sportswear brand. Bron earns nearly $75 million through his investments and partnerships.
3. Kylian Mbappe: $120M
The French phenom Kylian MBappe, may not have won the World Cup Title in 2018, but he still wins in life. He is the only athlete in this list under 30 years old. He has signed a contract extension with Paris-Saint-Germain FC through 2024. His estimated annual football earnings are $100M.
Kylian is not only a footballer. He also proudly represents Oakley, Hublot and Nike. He is also the face for EA Sports’ FIFA Series. He also has ties with Sorare, an online fantasy game based on cryptocurrency. He has earned an estimated $20M in off-field income.
2. Lionel Messi – $130M
Lionel Messi wins another victory over Mbappe. The future of the PSG forward is uncertain as his chances of returning to the club are slim. Financially, regardless of where he goes, he’ll be well-off. In 2021, his contract gave him a salary of $41M and a signing bonus of $30M. He also gets a share in the jersey sales and player image rights.
He made $65M in 2022 playing soccer. His affiliations with brands like Adidas, Budweiser and PepsiCo, have also brought him substantial returns. Messi has signed a contract with Socios, a blockchain platform that pays him $20M per year. A World Cup win also led to increased benefits and brand endorsements. Messi also earns $65M from other sources.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – $136M
Cristiano Cristiano Ronaldo made a lot of money over the years. Nothing comes close to the contract he signed with Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr Football Club in January of this year. He will earn $75M per year, which is a lot of money. The additional revenue that he will earn through endorsements and marketing is not included.
The CR7 figure is as huge on social media, as it is in the soccer world. Ronaldo has a huge fan base of 850 millions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Brands are eager to get a piece of Ronaldo and will pay any price.
Binance is a cryptocurrency company that has been a major contributor to Ronaldo’s $90M in off-field earnings. He also represents Nike, Herbalife and Tag Heuer. Cristiano Ronaldo is the richest player of all time in soccer and the top athlete of 2023.