Growing up, your mother might have told you that it isn’t polite to ask about someone’s yearly salary, and she was definitely right. However, she might have forgotten to tell you that most top-earning athletes and celebrities have no problem displaying their yearly winnings on the internet. If you’re the type of person to become enraged by the amount of money the world’s elites make, you should probably think twice before reading this list, as it will make your blood boil with jealousy.
The world is a funny place, and while millions of humans struggle to keep a roof over their heads, millions earn a ridiculous amount of money each year, just by playing sports. Sure, athletes exhaust their bodies by constantly struggling to maintain stellar stats, but can we honestly say that their professions are more stressful and time-consuming than a brain surgeon’s? No, we can’t. In fact, there are so many people in this world that dedicate their lives to their careers (which are much more exuberating than playing sports), just to be paid an inkling of what professional athletes make.
Athletes might dedicate their early lives to excelling in the sport of their choice, but does that really entitle them to endless riches and a god-like status? Not really. Truth is, most athletes get millions of dollars, simply because they are the key players to a multibillionaire dollar industry. Let’s take a look at the 15 highest paid athletes in sports.
15. Gareth Bale — $35.9 Million
Gareth Bale is a professional soccer player who is currently playing the winger position for the Real Madrid soccer team. Bale has become well known for his swerving free kicks, long-range kicks and rare physical qualities. Born in 1989, Bale would soon be named the PFA Young Player of the Year, amongst many other titles. In 2013, Bale was transferred to Real Madrid for a fee ranging between €91 million and €100 million, which is still considered as one of the largest transfer fees in sport’s history. After being transferred to Real Madrid, Bale helped the team win the Copa Del Rey and UEFA Champions League in 2014, by scoring in both finals.
Bale became one of the highest paid soccer players in 2015-2016, earning a yearly total of $35.9 million. On top of that, Bale has become a sponsor for Adidas, which helped him acquire an additional $35 million.
14. DeMarco Murray — $40 Million
DeMarco Murray is an American football player who has been breaking records ever since he stepped onto the field. Murray started off his football career by playing for the Dallas Cowboys for 3 years back in 2011. He is currently the running back for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, Murray took a liking to football, basketball, and track, and although he played all 3 sports equally, he began to favour football. Murray played for the Oklahoma Sooners in College, becoming the first player to score over 4 touchdowns during his Sooner debut. As a result, Murray was added to the Oklahoma football record book, an accomplishment he would one day view as minor.
Murray has since then become one of the highest paid athletes in football, signing a deal with a base value of $40 million dollars over the span of 5 years. But that’s not all, his contract also offers additional income based on performance, a signing bonus and other perks.
13. Jordan Spieth — $52.8 Million
Some people might not consider golfing a sport, but that’s probably because they don’t know how much hard work, training and dedication it takes to become a professional golfer. Jordan Spieth is an American golfer who was at one point considered the number one golfer in the world. In 2015, Spieth won the Masters Tournament, making him the youngest golfer to win the Masters since Tiger Woods. At only 23 years old, Spieth has won over 11 different championships but is still very far away from his goal. On top of that, Spieth is the founder of the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation, which helps raise funds and awareness for special needs children, military families and youth golf.
Although Spieth earns his income from winning championships, he also earns a hefty sum from endorsements. In 2016, Spieth won about $4 million from competitions, and an additional $50 million from endorsement deals. All in all, the 23-year-old has earned an estimated value of $147.5 million since he went pro in 2012— just by playing golf.
12. Phil Mickelson — $52.9 Million
Another top-earning professional golfer is Philip Mickelson. Mickelson is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, and it isn’t too hard to see why. This American golfer has won over 42 PGA Tour events, managing to spend 700 weeks in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Michelson is a right-handed golfer who gained the nickname “Lefty” because of his killer left-handed swing. Mickelson went pro in 1992, and has since then landed himself a spot on the World Golf Hall of Fame.
In 2016, Mickelson was one of the highest paid golfers earning up to $2.9 million in competition winnings, and another whopping $50 million in endorsements. The 46-year-old golfer has over 51 professional wins under his belt, and does not seem to be considering retirement any time soon. Mickelson currently endorses companies such as KPMG, ExxonMobil, Rolex, Barclays and Callaway Golf, which has brought his yearly salary to new towering heights.
11. Novak Djokovic — $55.8 Million
Novak Djokovic is a professional tennis player from Serbia, who has been ranked as the number 2 tennis player by the Association of Tennis Professionals. At 29 years old, Djokovic has become one of the most revered tennis players of all time. He has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 6 Australian Open titles, 3 Wimbledon titles, 2 US Open titles and one French Open title. On top of that, Djokovic managed to hold the number one spot in the ATP rankings for an impressive 223 weeks, which is not an easy thing to do. But that’s not all; Djokovic is the only tennis player to win 30 Master 1000 series titles, making him a force to be reckoned with.
In 2016, Djokovic made over $55.8 million. The young tennis player earned this money by winning $21.8 million in championships, as well as $34 million in endorsements, making him one of the first tennis players to earn over $20 million in prize money alone.
10. Kevin Durant — $56.2 Million
Kevin Durant is a professional basketball player who plays the small forward position for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. At only 28 years old, Durant has won an NBA Most Valuable Player Award, 4 NBA scoring titles, 2 Olympic gold medals and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award— which is very impressive. This American basketball player showed so much promise in his field that he was recruited in High School by the University of Texas, winning them countless games and getting named the Naismith College Player of the Year. After college Durant played for Oklahoma City, helping them make it to the 2012 NBA Finals. He played 9 seasons with Oklahoma City (who changed their name to Thunder), only to join the Warriors’ team in 2016.
9. Roger Federer — $67.8 Million
Roger Federer is a professional tennis player who has managed to keep himself afloat in today’s competitive world. Federer first went pro in 1998, and has since then been considered as one of the most valued tennis players of all time. He is ranked as the world’s number 16 player by the Association of Tennis Professionals, and has continuously been placed in the top 10 of his league since 2002. Amongst his many accomplishments, Federer held the number one position in his field for 302 weeks, won 17 Grand Slam singles titles and is the only male tennis player to win 5 US Open titles in a row. All in all, Federer has won over 88 competitions, 1 gold medal and 1 silver medal (in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics).
8. Bismack Biyombo — $72 Million
Bismack Biyombo was first discovered by Mario Palma when he was only 16 years old. Palma noticed Biyombo’s talents during a youth tournament in Yemen, and immediately gave him the opportunity to train in Spain. Biyombo now plays the center position for the Orlando Magic Basketball team. Biyombo is a Congolese professional basketball player who has made his way into the National Basketball Association by means of sheer dedication and talent. Biyombo started his professional career back in 2011, making his debut in the Spanish ACB League. Since then Biyombo has been drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors and finally the Orlando Magic.
Biyombo has recently signed a four-year contract with Orlando Magic, entitling him to $72 million dollars— without endorsements. By the end of the year, this great athlete will be rolling in dough (if he isn’t already), and it is all thanks to his hard work and dedication.
7. LeBron James — $77.2 Million
LeBron James is a name that nearly every sports abiding citizen has grown to know and love. James is an American basketball player who is currently playing small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association. Since joining the NBA, James has won 3 NBA championships, 3 NBA Finals MVP Awards and 4 NBA Most Valuable Plater Awards. James has also competed in the Olympics, winning 2 gold metals in 2008 and 2012. To say that James is an impressive basketball player is an understatement as this great athlete has been winning awards left and right ever since he stepped foot on the court.
James first went pro in 2003, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers for 7 years, Miami Heat for 4 years and finally returning to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers since 2014. In 2016, James earned $23.2 million in winnings, as well as an additional $54 million in endorsements, making him one of the highest paid athletes of the year.
6. Lionel Messi — $81.4 Million
Lionel Messi is a professional soccer player who is currently playing forward for the Spanish Club FC Barcelona team. When Messi was an infant he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, an irregularity that made him more injury-proned. When he was 13 years old, Messi moved to Spain to join Barcelona— who had agreed to pay for his medical treatment. Four years later Messi made his competitive debut, eventually helping Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish soccer. By the time Messi was 22 years old, he won the Ballon d’Or award, as well as the FIFA World Player of the Year award, and he won it by a landslide. Afterwards, Messi continued to play for Barcelona, winning many FIFA Ballon d’Or as well as many other awards.
The 29-year-old Argentinian was recently found guilty of tax fraud, and has been sentenced to 21 months in jail. In 2016, Messi made $53.4 million from his salary alone, and another $28 million from endorsements.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo — $88 Million
Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese soccer player who plays forward for both Real Madrid and the Portugal national team. Ronaldo has often received praise for being one of the greatest soccer players in the world. In fact, he was even named the best Portuguese player by the Portuguese Football Federation in 2015. With that being said, it comes as no surprise that Ronaldo has been ranked one of the world’s best paid athletes, as well as most famous. By the time Ronaldo was 23 years old, he had already received nominations for the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. Ronaldo also holds the record for the most goals scored in a season, having scored over 50 goals for 6 consecutive seasons.
4. Harrison Barnes — $94 Million
Harrison Barnes is a 24-year-old basketball player who plays small forward for the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association. At 24 years old, Barnes is one of the highest paid athletes of the year, which is quite frankly amazing. In 2010, Barnes was ranked as the number 1 player of his class by Scout.com, receiving praise and countless awards from his high school and college teams. In 2012, Barnes entered the NBA draft, getting selected as 7th by the Golden State Warriors. Barnes helped the Dallas Mavericks win countless games, that is until he sprained his ankle and got himself ruled out for 16 matches. Once Barnes recovered from his injuries he jumped back onto the court, helping his team win a match against the Charlotte Hornets.
3. Mike Conley Jr. — $153 Million
Mike Conley Jr. is a professional basketball player who plays the position of point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association. In the 2007 NBA draft, Conley Jr. was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that he still plays for today. Conley Jr.’s father, Mikey Conley Sr., was an Olympic medalist who won both gold and silver medals in the triple jump. Conley Sr. has since then become certified as an agent by the NBA, gaining his certification the year before his son was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies. In 2015, Conley Jr. earned the 3rd spot on the Memphis Grizzlies’ scoring list, surpassing Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s once secured title. On top of that, Conley Jr. has been awarded the NBA Sportsmanship Award, on 2 separate occasions.
This past July, Conley Jr. re-signed a 5-year contract with the Memphis Grizzlies— a contract worth $153 million. Conley Jr.’s contract is the highest paid value in the NBA history, and that doesn’t even count his future endorsements.
2. Manny Pacquiao — $160 Million
Manny Pacquiao might not look like a dangerous man, but he definitely isn’t someone you want to mess with. Pacquiao is a Filipino professional boxer who also happens to be a politician. In fact, Pacquiao is currently serving as the Senator of the Philippines, and doing a great job at it. The humble and generous boxer has recently built 1,000 homes for poor Filipinos in the Philippines, helping them have direct access to clean water, shelter and electricity. Pacquiao is still considered as one of the best boxers in the world. He has won 11 major world titles, 5 lineal championships (in different weight classes) and is the first and only eight-division world champion.
In 2015, Pacquiao was the 2nd highest paid athlete according to Forbes. The professional boxer earned over $160 million, which included a sum of $12 million in endorsements. Pacquiao made $125 million when he faced Floyd Mayweather in the very much anticipated boxing match of 2015.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. — $300 Million
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a professional boxer who has recently traded in his boxing days to work as a boxing promoter. Mayweather Jr. had been boxing since 1996, only to call it quits in 2015, however, he isn’t opposed to jumping into the ring if the price is right. Mayweather Jr. is an undefeated boxer who will always be considered as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He has won 15 world titles, lineal championships (in 4 different weight classes) and been awarded with The Ring‘s fighter of the Year award (twice), the Boxing Writers Association of American Fighter of the Year award (3 times), and the Best Fighter ESPY award (6 times). Mayweather Jr. has been named the greatest pound for pound boxer of the last 25 years by ESPN, and it really isn’t hard to see why.
Since turning pro in 1996, Mayweather Jr. has managed to earn $700 million dollars total. In 2015, he was the top earning athlete, earning over $300 million dollars from a single fight alone. Can you believe that? Since 2016, he has made $44 million, and that’s not counting any endorsements.
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