21 Highest Paid Athletes in the World — How Much Do They Earn?

by Dusan Randjelovic

It’s no secret that elite athletes earn millions of dollars a year. To them, sports is no longer a hobby but a job they take very seriously. They train every day, even several times a day, and dedicate every waking hour to learning and improving their skills. 

Have you ever wondered who the highest paid athletes in the world are? And how much they earn? Some are exactly those that you expect to see on this list, whereas other names will certainly surprise you. 

In this article, we will show you the 21 richest sportsmen. The sports you can find them playing professionally include football, basketball, rugby, baseball, golf, and tennis. That’s not their only source of income, though – they earn money from endorsements as well. 

Highest paid athletes:

1. Lionel Messi — $127 Million
2. Cristiano Ronaldo — $109 Million
3. Neymar — $105 Million
4. Canelo Alvarez — $94 Million
5. Roger Federer — $93.4 Million
6. Russell Wilson — $89.5 Million
7. Aaron Rodgers — $89.3 Million
8. LeBron James — $89 Million
9. Stephen Curry — $79.8 Million
10. Kevin Durant — $65.4 Million
11. Tiger Woods — $63.9 Million
12. Ben Roethlisberger — $55.5 Million
13. Lewis Hamilton — $55 Million
14. Anthony Joshua — $55 Million
15. Khalil Mack — $55 Million
16. Russell Westbrook — $53.7 Million
17. Novak Djokovic — $50.6 Million
18. Mike Trout — $50.6 Million
19. Phil Mickelson — $48.4 Million
20. James Harden — $47.7 Million
21. Conor McGregor — $47 Million


1. Lionel Messi — $127 Million

(Source: Marca)

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is one of the most well-known players in the entire world. He is also one of the finest athletes European football has ever seen. Therefore, it does not surprise anyone that he is the highest paid sports athlete in the world as well. 

Messi earns $127 million a year, of which $92 million come from football salaries. He earns the rest of his money from endorsements with major brands such as Adidas. He has a permanent deal with Adidas, which increases his net worth by $12 million a year.

We don’t expect him to leave the throne in the following years, as there are no real threats to his number one position.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo — $109 Million

(Source: Business Insider)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi and Ronaldo often change places when it comes to being the best football player in the world. However, they never swap positions when it comes to the amount of money they earn. Still, we don’t think being the second highest paid sports player in the world is bad. We’re sure Ronaldo isn’t too bummed about it either.

He earns $65 million from sports salaries and the remaining $44 million from brand endorsements. Ronaldo has a much bigger following on social media, which is why he grosses more from sponsorship deals. 

Some of his most lucrative contracts include those with Nike, KFC, EA Sports, Tag Heuer, and more.

3. Neymar — $105 Million

(Source: The Street)


Just a few years ago, Neymar used to play side by side with Lionel Messi in Barcelona. This was a real treat for their fans and the fans of good football in general. However, Neymar wanted out and signed a massive deal with PSG where he is building his career at the moment. 

PSG will reward Neymar with $350 million a year until 2022, which makes him one of the wealthiest athletes of the world. He earns $75 million in salaries, which is more than Ronaldo, and $30 million from endorsements. 

His highest-grossing brand deals include those with Nike, Volkswagen, Unilever, and so on.

4. Canelo Alvarez — $94 Million

(Source: Forbes)

Canelo Alvarez

We’ve seen what sport has the highest paid athletes — it’s football. However, in the fourth position, we have an athlete who made a career by knocking his opponents out. Canelo Alvarez is one of the best boxers in the world. 

At the moment, he has a record of 51-1-2, which is quite impressive. His one and only loss came from Floyd Mayweather in 2013, which we can definitely understand. 

His boxing engagements bring him $92 million a year, whereas his endorsements are worth just $2. Some brands that have partnered with Alvarez include DAZN, Roger Dubuis, Tecate, Henessy, and Coppel. 

5. Roger Federer — $93.4 Million

(Source: Iol.co.za)

Roger Federer

As we could see from the examples above, most athletes earn the majority of their income from salaries and a nice bonus from endorsements. Well, not Federer. He is one of the highest paid athletes in 2019 because of sponsorship deals – they brought him $86 million. Prizes from tennis tournaments were worth “just” $7.4 million. 

His longest-lasting and most expensive endorsement deals include those with Nike, Rolex, Uniqlo, Mercedes-Benz, and many others. 

Roger Federer is considered to be the greatest of all time in tennis. Even though he is no longer number one, he managed to reclaim the first position for a while in 2018.

At the moment, he is 38 years old, one of the richest athletes, and still does not seem to be thinking about retirement.

6. Russell Wilson — $89.5 Million

(Source: BleacherReport)

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He plays for the Seahawks, whom he helped get to two Super Bowls and win one of them.

It seems that Seahawks know how to appreciate what he has done for the team, so in 2019 they rewarded him with a new contract. He will be earning $140 million over four years, which will make him one of the world’s highest paid athletes.

In total, he earns $80.5 million from sports-related payments and another $9 million from brands. He has a long-term deal with Nike, which he signed in 2016.

7. Aaron Rodgers — $89.3 Million

(Source: Radio)

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is just slightly below his opponent on the field, Russell Wilson when it comes to the total amount of money he earns. His earnings cap at $89.3 million, which is still excellent for an NFL player. 

He plays as a quarterback for the Packers and used to be in the 6th position on the list of the highest paid athletes several years ago. Aaron signed a $134 million deal with Green Bay at the beginning of the 2018 season, so it seems that he plans to stay there. 

Why wouldn’t he? He earns $80.3 million from salaries and another $9 million from endorsements. 

8. LeBron James — $89 Million

(Source: 90min)

LeBron James

Finally, we come to one of the wealthiest athletes from the NBA world. Apart from being one of the best players in the league, LeBron James is one of the most loved and most popular personalities in the sport as well. 

Therefore, it makes sense that he, just like Roger Federer, earned more money from endorsement deals than from salaries. Namely, his income from actually playing basketball is $36 million, whereas endorsements bring him $53 million every year.

Some of the contracts that made him one of the highest-earning athletes include those with Nike, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, and so on.

9. Stephen Curry — $79.8 Million

(Source: Business Insider)

Stephen Curry

We can see the power of endorsements on the example of Stephen Curry. He is just below LeBron James on our list of the top-earning athletes, but there is a $10 million gap between them. They both earn a similar salary in the NBA, but Curry signs much fewer endorsements. 

However, he is still one of the best players in the sport. He competes for the Golden State Warriors who have been in five consecutive NBA finals and won three of them. 

When it comes to endorsements, Curry was approached by Nike, but he turned the offer down. The reason was that he was offered more by Under Armour.

10. Kevin Durant —  $65.4 Million

(Source: Marca)

Kevin Durant

Some NBA fans love Kevin Durant, others hate him. However, nobody can say anything about the quality of his game and the amount of money he earns from it. He left the Oklahoma City Thunder to transfer to Warriors where he helped create an unstoppable team. 

That also helped him become one of the richest athletes in the NBA and in the world. Durant earns $30.4 million from playing for the warriors and another $35 million from endorsement deals. 

Some of the companies he has contracts signed with include Nike, Google, and Alaska Airlines.

11. Tiger Woods — $63.9 Million

(Source: Radio)

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is one of the most popular golf players in the world. However, he’s famous to a lot of people for a different reason. The general public knows about him because of his scandals and rowdy lifestyle. 

Nonetheless, he is still the highest net worth athlete in golf and the golfer with the most trophies. Similar to tennis players, Tiger earned the majority of his wealth through endorsements. His golf endeavors bring him $9.9 million a year, whereas he grosses $54 million from large companies.

The lion’s share of his money comes from contracts with Nike, Monster Energy, and TaylorMade.

12. Ben Roethlisberger — $55.5 Million

(Source: Forbes)

Ben Roethlisberger

Let’s go back to the USA and the NFL for a while and talk about Ben Roethlisberger. He is the 12th richest sports player in the world, mostly thanks to his sports accomplishments.

Ben has played for the Steelers since 2004, where he earns $54.5 million a year. He is 37 years old, so he is slowly approaching the end of his career. However, he can definitely squeeze a few more years to further increase his wealth. 

Ben earns just $1 million from endorsements, due to accusations of sexual assault a few years back. Still, he managed to ink a few deals with names such as Nike, Panini, Sprint, and others.

13. Lewis Hamilton — $55 Million

(Source: 90min)

Lewis Hamilton

When it comes to Formula 1 racing, there aren’t many athletes who can come close to Lewis Hamilton. He is one of the richest athletes of all time as well as one of the best drivers of all time. 

He drives for the Mercedes team and earns a total of $55 million a year. According to Forbes, $45 million of that comes from racing, whereas the other $10 million is from endorsements. 

So far, Lewis Hamilton has won five championship races in Formula 1, including four of the last five. 

Following his latest championship trophy, he penned another contract with Mercedes, which will earn him even more money and help him stay one of the highest paid athletes in the world. His most lucrative endorsements come from Police and Tommy Hilfiger. 

14. Anthony Joshua — $55 Million

(Source: The Street)

Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua is the second boxer on this list. It seems that it is quite profitable to fight for a living nowadays. He has been a professional boxer since 2013 and has won most of his fights thus far. 

Twenty-one of his victories were by knockout and just one by the judges’ decision. Joshua, just like Lewis Hamilton, receives $45 million from playing his sport of choice and $10 million from various brands. The combination of the two is what helped him end up on the list of highest paid athletes.

His most notable sponsorship deals include Under Armour, Jaguar, LandRover, Beats, and Hugo Boss. 

15. Khalil Mack — $55 Million

(Source: Forbes)

Khalil Mack

Quarterbacks are usually the highest paid American athletes. Khalil Mack is a defensive player, but he is one of the best. That’s why he is one of the richest men in the NFL as well.

He knows he is the best, so he wanted to be paid accordingly as well. Oakland did not want to do it, so they traded him to Chicago Bears, who gladly accepted the deal. 

Today, Khalil Mack earns $54 million from playing American Football and $1 million from being an ambassador for several brands. Some of these include Nike, Panini, Mack Trucks, and New Era. 

16. Russell Westbrook — $53.7 Million

(Source: Oklahoman)

Russell Westbrook

Did you know that, according to Forbes, more than half of the current highest paid athletes are in the NBA or the NFL? Well, Russell Westbrook is one of them. 

He plays for the Oklahoma City and decided to stay after Kevin Durant chose to find his luck elsewhere. As a matter of fact, he was the player who had to pull the most weight in the 2016/2017 season. 

Therefore, he definitely deserves to earn a $35.7 million salary. He also gets $18 million in endorsements. This easily makes him one of the highest paid US athletes.

He extended his contract with Nike for another ten years in 2017 and received his first shoe, the Why Not Zero in 2018.

17. Novak Djokovic — $50.6 Million

(Source: 90min)

Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer might be the richest tennis player, but it is the great Novak Djokovic who is the current number 1 on the ATP list. Djokovic is generally regarded as one of the best tennis players ever. Still, he has had several ups and downs, mostly due to injuries. 

In 2018, he won two out of four annual Grand Slam tournaments — the US Open and Wimbledon. In 2019, he won the Australian Open. At this pace, he will definitely stay one of the top highest paid athletes for a while.

By playing tennis, he manages to earn $20.6 million a year, whereas sponsorship contracts bring him a profit of $30 million. 

18. Mike Trout — $50.6 Million

(Source: Moneypop)

Mike Trout

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the USA, but it is definitely not one of the highest paid sports. That’s why the first athlete from the MLB is in the 18th position on our list.

Mike Trout has made a name for himself as the GOAT in the MLB. He such a dominant baseball player that he has been signing extension after extension with the Angels. He signed his second extension in 2019, which is worth a whopping $426.5 million. 

Thus, he earns $47.6 million a year from hitting and pitching, and another $3 million from endorsements. His list of endorsement deals includes Bodyarmor, Nike, Topps, and so on.

19. Phil Mickelson — $48.4 Million

(Source: The Street)

Phil Mickelson

Even though he is 48 years old, Phil Mickelson is still one of the richest professional athletes in golf. He is not thinking about retirement any time soon, that’s for sure. I mean, why would he when he’s grossing $12.4 million from golf tournaments and another $36 million from endorsements.

Mickelson has not won a PGA tournament since 2014 and hasn’t won a Major since 2013. However, it seems that he is still having fun hitting the golf ball and profiting from it. 

Mickelson has been a pro for the last 30 years. During this time, he has partnered with brands such as Callaway, Rolex, Barclays, Amgen, and many others.

20. James Harden — $47.7 Million

(Source: Rocketswire.usatoday)

James Harden

James Harden became one of the best NBA players after he signed a deal with the Rockets. In the 2017/2018 season, he won the MVP title after he helped the Rockets become the number 1 seed of the Western Conference. 

Somewhere around this time, he became one of the highest paid professional athletes as well. James Harden earns $30.7 million by playing basketball and adds a nice $17 million bonus to his bank account from endorsements.

His most generous sponsors include the likes of Adidas, Electronic Arts, Bodyarmor, and others.

21. Conor McGregor — $47 Million

(Source: Forbes)

Conor McGregor

Last but not least is probably the most interesting and controversial athlete in the world of sports. Conor McGregor is known for his explosive temperament and his even more explosive left hook. 

He has never been afraid to speak his mind which has brought him both good and bad press. At the moment, he is one of the highest paid retired athletes because he announced his retirement from the UFC in March 2019. 

However, it remains to be seen whether or not he will become active once again. At the top of his glory days, he used to earn $32 million from throwing punches in the cage and another $15 million from sponsorship deals.


To summarize, the list of the highest paid athletes is quite diverse. It includes sportsmen from different sports, different backgrounds, and different profiles. 

Lionel Messi tops the list several years in a row and it seems that the situation is not likely to change in the upcoming years. Do you think he deserves to be the number one? 

Let us know what you think in the comments below!


1. Marca
2. Business Insider
3. The Street
4. Forbes
5. Iol.co.za
6. BleacherReport
7. Radio
8. 90min
9. Business Insider
10. Marca
11. Radio
12. Forbes
13. 90min
14. The Street
15. Forbes
16. Oklahoman
17. 90min
18. Moneypop
19. The Street
20. Rocketswire.usatoday
21. Forbes

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