With the conclusion of the baseball season last October and of the football season last February, players have entered into a new round of negotiations for contract renewals. In the case of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, he actually had a downgrade when he agreed to a cut in his annual salary to allow his team to sign up other marquee players. Or in the case of Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens who had just won a Super Bowl ring, it was a massive increase as his clutch performance and Super Bowl MVP award allowed him to cash in that made him the highest paid player in his sport.
There were also several movements in the football front, as marquee players like David Beckham and Didier Drogba moved teams during the January transfer window. Players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta also signed new contracts in recent months that will tie them to Barcelona for the foreseeable future. Boxers’ earnings have also seen some movements, as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who had the highest salary in the previous chart, dipped in the rankings because he only fought once in the previous 12 months. While in golf, Rory McIlroy cemented his status as one of the sport’s brightest names by signing a lucrative contract with Nike that allowed him to become the third highest earning golfer.
How did these movements and contract renewals affect the rankings? Here is a slightly upgraded list of the highest paid athletes in the world as of March 2013.
11 David Beckham - $42.57 million
David Beckham never ceases to attract attention wherever he goes. He has played for some of the top teams in Europe, from Manchester United to Real Madrid to AC Milan. He then played in the United States with the Los Angeles Galaxy, which he capped off with a title. He moved last January to France to play for the top French club Paris St. Germain. He plans to donate his entire salary to charity though he would probably make up for it in endorsements in one of the world’s fashion capitals.
10 Lionel Messi - $44.68 million
Lionel Messi has been the most electrifying soccer player in recent years. He scored a record 91 goals in all tournaments during the entire calendar year of 2012. This is just one of the many scoring records he currently holds. He has also been the recipient of the Ballon d’ Or an astounding four times. A product of the Barcelona youth system, the team has rewarded Messi’s performance by recently signing him to a new contract that makes him the highest paid soccer player in the world.
9 Floyd Mayweather, Jr - $45 million
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the best boxer in the world pound for pound. Unfortunately, he only fights around once a year. Last June, he was considered the highest paid athlete in the world as he fought in a span of eight months, one in September 2011 against Victor Ortiz and another in May 2012 against Miguel Cotto. As the ranking only considers earning for the past 12 months, only his salary from Cotto is retained. Yet that one fight was still enough for Mayweather to remain in the top 10. Expect his ranking to jump back up next time around as he has a fight in May 2013 against Robert Guerrero.
8 Phil Mickelson - $46.7 million
Phil Mickelson is the second highest earning golfer in the world today. He has won four major championships, as well as 41 other PGA tournaments. Already a member of the sport’s Hall of Fame, Mickelson is affectionately called Lefty because of his left-handed swing, though he uses his right hand for all other activities other than golf.
7 Drew Brees - $49.4 million
Drew Brees hold the single-season records for most passing yards, completions and 300+ yards in a game. He also holds the Super Bowl record for most number of completions, which he accomplished during his championship year with the New Orleans Saints. He now also owns the record for highest earning player in the sport.
6 Kobe Bryant - $52.3 million
Kobe Bryant is the owner of five championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers. He owns the highest basic salary in basketball, even as he enters the twilight years of his career. The Lakers have surrounded him with marquee talents for the 2012-13 season in the hope of winning for Bryant a sixth ring.
4 Roger Federer - $52.7 million
Roger Federer pretty much owned tennis in the mid-2000s, staying at number one for 237 straight weeks from 2004 to 2008. He has won 17 Grand Slams and holds a share of the records for most titles at Wimbledon, French Open and Australian Open. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, however, have challenged his dominance, in recent years.
3 Lebron James - $53 million
Lebron James jumped straight from high school to the NBA with a lot of hype and under pressure to deliver. He was able to lift his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to become perennial contenders though the team failed to win a ring. James then took his talent to Miami and helped the Heat win a crown in 2012. The title finally vindicated James and erased his reputation for choking during the clutch.
2 Manny Pacquiao - $55 million
Manny Pacquiao used to jockey with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for the title of best pound for pound boxer in the world. His shock knockout defeat to archrival Juan Manuel Marquez however dented his reputation. Though he suffered back-to-back defeats last year to Timothy Bradley and Marquez, his twin earnings for the fight still netted him a healthy figure. His future earnings may start taking a hit, however.
1 Tiger Woods - $61.2 million
Tiger Woods used to consistently top the list of highest paid athletes as he dominated world golf throughout the last decade. His reputation took a hit in the wake of his infidelities that saw him losing some of his major sponsors. Though Woods has yet to fully regain his form before the scandal, the sponsors have come back in, attracted by the player’s still glowing reputation as the most popular golfer in the world. With Pacquiao’s earnings expected to decline and Mayweather’s penchant to fight sporadically, expect Woods to once again dominate the rankings.
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