Asked to select between having truckloads of money and being among the world's best in a particular sport, most people would likely experience difficulty making their choice. And then there are the world's highest-paid athletes who have the fortune of simultaneously enjoying both options. These rich sportsmen are featured in Forbes Magazine's listing of the highest-paid athletes in the world, a ranking based on earnings from salaries, prize money, bonuses, and endorsements between June 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014.
The 2014 edition of the list highlights just how lucrative becoming a top athlete has become; the 100 highest-paid sportsmen collectively earned $2.75 billion, which is 5% higher than last year's total. So who made it to the upper echelons of the rankings? Find out as we take a look at the ten highest-paid athletes of 2014:
10 Matt Ryan (QB, NFL) / Total Earnings: $43.8 Million
On July 25, 2013, two-time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan signed a five-year, $104 million contract extension with the Atlanta Falcons. That deal included stipulations for a $28 million signing bonus and a $12 million option bonus that were both paid to Ryan in March of 2014. All in all, the star quarterback's salary for the period covered by this listing was a whopping $42 million. And that amount, along with his $1.8 million in endorsements -- combining for a total of $43.8 million in earnings -- was enough to make Ryan the highest-ranked newcomer to the Forbes 100 Highest-Paid Athletes list.
9 Rafael Nadal (Tennis) / Total Earnings: $44.5 Million
Spanish #1 Rafael Nadal had an amazing second half of 2013 that saw him win his second US Open title and end the year as the world's #1-ranked tennis player. Similarly, the first half of 2014 was an impressive one for "The King of Clay" as he reached the final of the Australian Open and claimed an unprecedented ninth French Open title. Those achievements resulted in $14.5 million in prize money and $30 million in endorsements, aided in no small part by sponsor bonuses. Rafa's partnership with Nike, for instance, involves a clause whereby his earnings are largely dictated by his ranking at the year's end. Unfortunately, the second half of 2014 has so far seen Nadal exiting Wimbledon early, failing to compete at the US Open due to a wrist injury, and being hampered by appendicitis late in the season.
8 Phil Mickelson (PGA) / Total Earnings: $53.2 Million
Each year, Phil Mickelson earns over $40 million from appearances and endorsements alone. And after winning the Open Championship for the first time in July of 2013 (his fifth major overall), the American picked up considerable bonuses from his deals with sponsors like Barclay's, Callaway, KPMG, Rolex, Exxon Mobil, and Amgen/Pfizer. Overall, while Mickelson moves down a notch from last year's #7 ranking, his finances are on the uptrend; Phil's winnings increased from $4.7 million in 2013 to $5.2 million in 2014, while his endorsements are up from $44 million last year to $48 million this year. And if Mickelson can somehow manage to complete his set of majors by winning the US Open, where he has finished runner-up a record six times, his earning capacity as an athlete endorser will surely rise even further.
7 Roger Federer (Tennis) / Total Earnings: $56.2 Million
"R-Fed" hasn't been as dominant on the courts as he was in his golden years, thus significantly cutting his total prize money for the period covered by this listing. Nevertheless, Federer's winnings from June 2013 to May 2014 still add up to a staggering $56.2 million. Meanwhile, his endorsement portfolio, while also down, is still very healthy, with high-profile companies like Rolex, Nike, and Credit Suisse paying Roger a total of $52 million in just twelve months. Overall, Federer's $56.2 million in earnings is down more than 21% from the $71.5 million he made in the previous version of this list. However, a recent resurgence in performance has him back at #2 in the world, which bodes well for the financial health of the man many consider as the greatest tennis player of all time.
6 Tiger Woods (PGA) / Total Earnings: $ 61.2 Million
Tiger Woods had been ranked #1 on this list for 11 of the last 12 years, 2012 being the only time he missed the top spot in that period. However, in 2014, he tumbles to a comparatively low #6 due to several financial setbacks. First, Electronic Arts, the company responsible for the 14 versions of Woods's video game, announced that their relationship with the former World #1 has ended and that they will no longer be producing another edition of his game. The decision was a significant blow, considering that the series had generated $800 million in sales. Secondly, Tiger's prize money took a major hit due to his comparatively lackluster finishes and after back problems sidelined him in March of 2014. The good news for Woods, however, is that Nike renewed their deal with him after the company's golf division registered an impressive $791 million in sales for fiscal year 2013.
5 Kobe Bryant (NBA) / Total Earnings: $61.5 Million
Due to a left knee fracture, Kobe Bryant played only six games during the 2013-2014 NBA season, but the contract he signed with the LA Lakers in November of 2013 still guaranteed him $30.5 million for the season, an amount that was at least $7 million higher than that paid to any other player in the league. In fact, the huge payout made the "Black Mamba" the highest-paid NBA player for the fourth straight year, with the upcoming 2014-2015 season being the fifth. Furthermore, the knee injury Bryant suffered didn't seem to affect his drawing power; his #24 jersey was still the third-highest seller last season with only LeBron James and Kevin Durant's jerseys outselling Kobe's. Then there were endorsement deals with the likes of Lenovo, Turkish Air, Nike, Hublot, and Panini, which altogether helped the 2008 Most Valuable Player bank $31 million more. A multimillion investment in the BodyArmour sports drink will likely bring Kobe even more wealth in 2015.
4 Lionel Messi (Football) / Total Earnings: $64.7 Million
Lionel Messi's streak of four straight FIFA Ballon d'Ors was broken by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013, but financially, the Argentinian is in no trouble at all as he increased his 2013 take of $41.3 million by 36% to $64.7 million in 2014. One major contributor to the rise in the FC Barcelona superstar's income is his new club contract that earned him $41.7 million from June 2013 to May 2014 and keeps the Argentinian in Camp Nou until 2019. Furthermore, new endorsement deals were extremely lucrative for Leo, whose Adidas contract involved the launching of a new shoe. There was also a Turkish Airlines deal that paired Messi with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Other contracts include those with Electronic Arts, Herbalife, Gillette, and PepsiCo. Unfortunately for Messi, he recently lost a tax appeal in a Spanish case involving over 4 million euros in unpaid taxes. If convicted, the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball awardee stands to serve jail time.
3 LeBron James (NBA) / Total Earnings: $72.3 Million
In 2014, LeBron James did not win the NBA Championship with the Miami Heat, nor did he claim his fifth NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Nevertheless, he still ended up being the highest-earning NBA player for the period covered. How did he do it? -- That's a valid question, most especially considering that LeBron's salary with the Miami Heat, while impressive at $19.3 million, was only ninth in the league. Well, "King James" was able to make up for the deficit by being the NBA's biggest endorsement star through his lucrative deals with McDonald's, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Upper Deck, among others. And that LeBron commands the largest endorsements shouldn't be surprising since his NBA jersey was the league's #1 seller, while his Nike shoes were #1 in 2013 with sales of $300 million worldwide.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo (Football) / Total Earnings: $80 Million
With 30.6 million Twitter followers and more than 100 million Facebook fans, Portugal national team member and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has certainly proven that he has the drawing power to command huge endorsement bucks. And the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or awardee has certainly raked in the sponsorship deals, including those with Nike, Emirates, Samsung Electronics, and Toyota Motor Co. -- altogether generating him $28 million annually. Furthermore, owing in part to the player-of-the-year honors Ronaldo bagged, Real Madrid signed him to a five-year extension contract worth $200 million, plus bonuses. That brought Cristiano's pre-tax Real Madrid salary from June 2013 to May 2014, with bonuses, to a staggering $52 million.
1 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Boxing) / Total Earnings: $105 Million
What is particularly amazing about Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Jr.'s return to the top of this list is how he was able to do it solely on the strength of his paydays from just two fights: against Saúl Álvarez in September of 2013 and against Marcos Maidana in May of 2014. In fact, Forbes listed "Pretty Boy" as having earned nothing from endorsements, and yet the $105 million Mayweather earned for 72 minutes of fighting in the ring was still enough for him to be named The Highest-Paid Athlete for 2014.
It's all about drawing power for Floyd; the figures from his fight against Alvarez were record-breaking: $150 million from pay-per-view grosses, $20 million from the gates, and $200 million in total revenue. In fact, Mayweather's $105 million total for 2014 made him only the second athlete after Tiger Woods to have breached the $100 million mark in annual earnings. And with the #1 pound-for-pound fighter winning his rematch against Maidana in September of 2014, a fight that earned Floyd a guaranteed $32 million, it's not unlikely that he'll once again be featured in the 2015 version of this highest-paid athletes list.
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