It feels as if it was in a different lifetime when Tiger Woods was considered to be the best golfer on the planet. A former favorite to win whenever he stepped onto the golf course for a major, Woods is now physically a shell of what he was when in his prime. Woods is nevertheless the highest paid athlete of the past decade for all that he achieved during a legendary career. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes released the list of the highest paid athletes over the past ten years, and Woods has, according to the information that is found in that piece, made over $800 million during that time. That's not too shabby for a guy who currently struggles to make cuts at events.
A wide variety of sports are represented among the highest paid athletes of the past decade. Soccer, commonly seen as the “world's game,” checks in on the list multiple times, but it would be understandable if you find yourself a little surprised with how much – or rather how little – David Beckham earned over the past decade. Beckham is rich beyond rich, of course, but one may have assumed that Beckham would have been closer to the top of the list of the highest paid athletes over the past decade because of his appeal and his brand, both of which go well beyond the sports world.
No sports organization in North America is bigger than the National Football League, and the list of the highest paid athletes over the past decade begins with a man who has, for the better part of his career, been NFL royalty. Peyton Manning is still lining up behind center and notching victories even though some doubters would claim that he no longer has the goods to win on Sundays, and one of the more popular players of his generation has earned hundreds of millions of dollars because of his successes. Manning may soon ride off into the sunset, but he has made it clear that he will do so on his terms if he can help it.
20 Peyton Manning: $243 Million 10-Year Earnings
19 Lewis Hamilton: $246 Million 10-Year Earnings
Lewis Hamilton is a successful Formula One driver who has won multiple championships. One of the highest paid athletes in the world for 2015, Hamilton has picked up large amounts of winnings throughout his career, and he also has endorsement relationships with IWC and Bombardier. Hamilton secured his spot among the highest paid athletes of the past decade for the next several years when he put pen to paper on a new contract with Mercedes earlier this year. That deal, according to Forbes, could be worth up to $140 million. Hamilton will, if certain bonuses are met, make around $45 million per year off of that contract.
18 Maria Sharapova: $250 Million 10-Year Earnings
17 Rafael Nadal: $253 Million 10-Year Earnings
16 Kimi Raikkonen: $261 Million 10-Year Earnings
15 Derek Jeter: $271 Million 10-Year Earnings
14 Valentino Rossi: $275 Million 10-Year Earnings
13 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: $277 Million 10-Year Earnings
12 Fernando Alonso: $289 Million 10-Year Earnings
An accomplished Formula One driver who has made hundreds of millions of dollars during his career, Fernando Alonso was in the headlines in September of 2015 when he had some unflattering comments about his vehicle. Alonso, via his team radio, described his car's lack of speed as “very embarrassing” during a race. What was controversial about these words, as explained by the BBC, was the engine for that car was provided by Honda. Honda, according to the BBC, is responsible for about half of Alonso's yearly salary, a salary that is scheduled to earn the driver $40 million in 2015.
11 Alex Rodriguez: $291 Million 10-Year Earnings
10 Lionel Messi: $350 Million 10-Year Earnings
9 Cristiano Ronaldo: $407 Million 10-Year Earnings
8 Manny Pacquiao: $432 Million 10-Year Earnings
7 David Beckham: $441 Million 10-Year Earnings
You could not be blamed for assuming that David Beckham made closer to a billion dollars over the past decade. Beckham is arguably the most recognized personality in the sports world and a star far beyond the soccer pitch. He no longer plays for clubs such as Manchester United, LA Galaxy or Paris Saint-Germain, but Beckham is still set to be heavily involved in the industry. Beckham is, as of the posting of this piece, working to secure a MLS team of his own, one that will, if he has his way, be located somewhere in the Miami region.
6 Roger Federer: $455 Million 10-Year Earnings
5 Phil Mickelson: $468 Million 10-Year Earnings
4 LeBron James: $472 Million 10-Year Earnings
3 Kobe Bryant: $475 Million 10-Year Earnings
2 Floyd Mayweather: $660 Million 10-Year Earnings
1 Tiger Woods: $845 Million 10-Year Earnings
How will the highest paid athlete of the past decade be remembered ten years from now? Will Tiger Woods be seen as the greatest golfer of his generation? Will Woods be viewed as a once-famous figure who suffered a public downfall because of his activities off of the course and behind closed doors? Will we be saying that Woods refused to see the writing on the wall and hung around for too long? One thing we know is that Woods is the biggest single draw in the history of professional golf, and that is a reason why Woods has made over $800 million over the past decade.
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