Top 15 Highest-Paid Athletes In the World for 2022 was written by Marjolein and originally appeared on Savoteur. Marjolein is the founder of Radical FIRE. She has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. Radical FIRE is a personal finance blog that helps you live your dream life through making more money and investing. It has been republished with permission. Please note that contributing opinions are that of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with our own opinions.
Do you have a favorite athlete? If so, do you know how much money he or she makes?
What follows is a list of the highest-paid athletes in the world – not only right now but of all time!
Some may argue that these sports superstars are grossly overpaid. Their on-field income, such as players’ salaries, perks, and bonuses, is supplemented by product endorsements, corporate sponsorships, and appearance fees.
Millions of sports fans will attest to each of these individuals’ priceless talent nurtured by years of hard work, persistence, passion, and discipline. In the real world, such talent is monetized.
We’ve written a list of the richest athletes but below we take a look at who is the highest-paid and what sports they're involved with. We will look at this elite group to find out what helps make them tick. Let the count-off begin!
Highest-Paid Athletes In the World
The list below is from #1 highest paid athlete, salary-wise, to #15 in the lineup. Note that the order of our list does not include their endorsements, which can often take their net worth from a few hundred million dollars upwards of double or triple that. The list is simply based on their salary, even when we mention additional endorsements.
1. Conor McGregor: MMA Fighter
Starting our list, we have the Irish menace with a loud mouth. Of course, everyone knows who Conor McGregor is. He made his debut in 2008, and since then has taken the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene by storm.
This MMA fighter was attracting a lot of love and hate from fans due to his next-level trash-talking, but he continuously backed it up by knocking out his opponents in the octagon.
In 2016, McGregor diverted his attention towards the global football star Cristiano Ronaldo saying that one day he would overtake him in the Forbes magazine list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
Last year, McGregor made $180 million. $130 million of that total came from selling his majority stake in Proper Twelve's Irish whiskey brand. This resulted in Conor McGregor’s net worth hitting $200 million; he rightfully took the top seat on this Highest-Paid Athletes in the World list.
2. Lionel Messi: Soccer Player
Lionel Messi is one of the biggest soccer stars in the world. This Argentinian goalkeeper played for FC Barcelona when he started his career in 2003. Since then, he has received FIFA’s player of the year award multiple times.
He currently plays a mixture of field roles for Paris Saint-Germain and will play for his own national team in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Earning a total income of $130 million last year with another $55 million in endorsements, Lionel Messi’s net worth is estimated between $400 and 600 million, making him one of the richest soccer players in the world.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo: Soccer Player
Just as Windows vs. Mac has been debated for a long time, Messi vs. Ronaldo has been a hot topic in the soccer world for as long as I can remember.
Who scored the most goals? Who earned the most? Who has the most awards? The competition was relentless. Eventually, the score was settled as soccer rankings decided the winner in 2022.
This Manchester United footballer takes home a salary of $70 million combined with $50 million in endorsements, leaving him with a total net worth of $120 million. Cristiano Ronaldo’s net worth, however, totals over $500 million. Needless to say, he’s doing extremely well.
Falling just $10 million short of number two on our list, this Portuguese superstar also takes the unofficial crown of the sexiest athlete in the world.
4. Dak Prescott: Football Quarterback
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback is next on our list. Being part of the most valuable sports team in the world certainly has its perk. Due to that, Dak Prescott was the first player in NFL to cross the $100 million mark.
Dak has a combined wealth of $107.5 million, including $97.5 million from his salary and $10 million from various sponsorships. This was a first in the history of the NFL.
Moreover, Prescott signed an extension with the Dallas Cowboys for four years, including a $160 million contract and a $66 million signing bonus. So, let’s see how well the quarterback ranks on this list next year.
5. LeBron James: Basketball Player
While this 36-year-old’s latest movie might have been a flop at the box office, his performance on the court is anything but that.
For the masses, LeBron James, a force to be reckoned with on the court, is the successor of His Airness, Michael Jordan.
LeBron signed a $153 million contract in 2018 with the Los Angeles Lakers. But, that isn’t the only source of his income. He has invested in multiple branches of Blaze Pizza and a production company (SpringHill Entertainment) over time.
His main earnings are from his endorsements; he has the top endorsement spot in the NBA. In 2021, LeBron earned an annual income of $126.9 million from his combined salary and endorsements.
6. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior: Soccer Player
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (known simply as “Neymar”) is the third soccer player on this list. Coming in with close competition to our fifth contender, Neymar has amassed $95 million.
From making deals with Puma to appearing in the popular battle royale game Fortnite, Neymar is everywhere. A total of 282 million followers across all his socials is a testament to his popularity.
Bagging the most expensive transfer in soccer history, a massive $263 million, is an even more impressive feat. Neymar makes a salary of $76 million, while his endorsements amount to $19 million.
7. Roger Federer: Tennis Player
Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the best tennis players to ever set foot on a tennis court.
The Swiss maestro has a lot of world titles under his belt, and for a good reason. His sportsmanship charms the fans and his skill leaves them mesmerized. Because of this, he gets sponsorships left, right, and center—more than any other athlete.
Roger made $90 million from sponsors and endorsements, alone, despite having a knee injury. That surely tells you something about how in-demand this man is. Earning just $30,000 from a tournament doesn’t matter when you take home $90 million in sponsorships.
Another thing to mention is that Federer has a ten-year $300 million deal with the Japanese brand, Uniqlo. As of 2022, Roger Federer’s net worth is an estimated $550 million.
8. Lewis Hamilton: Formula One Racer
Holding an impressive win record of 7 championships, Lewis Hamilton is no guest when it comes to gathering vast amounts of money.
He has been racing for McLaren since 2007 and currently drives for Mercedes in Formula One. In 2021, he extended his contract with them for one more year. Perhaps despite all his accomplishments, he signed for another year to finish some business!
In 2018, the champion racer signed with the famous clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger. His total wealth amounts to $82 million; $70 million is from his salary and winnings, leaving the remaining $12 million from endorsements.
9. Tom Brady: Football Quarterback
The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Tom Brady. Most athletes think of retiring once they are past their prime. They start to slow down as their bodies start acting up. But not Tom Brady.
The best quarterback in NFL history decided it wasn’t his time to settle down, even at 40.
In 2021, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory. All the while, he secured his personal 7th career victory. Brady has his own businesses as well: his wellness brand, named TB12, and 199 productions, his production company.
His salary of $45 million, plus $31 million in endorsements, makes this highest-paid athlete's annual income $76 million.
10. Kevin Durant: Basketball Players
Kevin Durant is one of the best basketball players to bless the sport with his talent. The Brooklyn Nets' love for him showed when they offered him a $164 million four-year contract.
Even though he suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon and had to take time off, the 12-time all-star returned with a fury and told the world to remember his name.
Outside of the court, Kevin has a media brand called Boardroom. He was also an executive producer on the Oscar-winning best live-action short film, Two Distant Strangers. It seems that he is a man of many talents.
Durant’s endorsements are $44 million – much more than his $31 million salary, making it close a close race with NFL legend, Tom Brady.
11. Stephen Curry: Basketball Player
The two-time MVP of the NBA and long-distance basketball sniper has made his presence known on the court. Putting the work in without being anywhere near the rim made him a fearsome opponent for any opposing team.
Like many athletes on this list, Curry also has his own production company. The company struck a deal with Audible in 2020 after moving on from Sony.
Curry has the highest salary contract in the NBA; he made a $200 million deal in 2017. At the time, that was unheard of for the NBA.
His sponsors include Under Armour, which launched a brand named after him. His total endorsements amount to $40 million, while he takes home a salary of $34.5 million. Overall, he is making a total of $74.5 million.
12. Naomi Osaka: Tennis Player
Introducing the first female and second tennis player on our list, Naomi Osaka. The Japanese-born tennis player has the highest-earning record among female athletes.
She won the Grand Slam four times along with its prize money of $5 million. However, that amount is entirely overshadowed by what she earns from her sponsors and endorsements.
Raking in about $55 million from endorsements, Naomi had an accumulated wealth of $60 million just last year.
13. Tiger Woods: Golfer
Tiger Woods started his golf victories in 1995 and took the world of golf by storm. He has 15 major wins under his belt and has accumulated a whopping $1.5 billion throughout his 27-year career.
Woods is by far the most famous name in golf; even people who don’t watch the sport know who he is.
Twenty-seven years is a lot of time to be playing a professional game. During that time, he has been a part of various endeavors such as designing his first public golf course (Payne’s Valley) and launching his signature golf clubs.
Despite sustaining serious injuries from a major car crash in 2021, he didn’t stop the struggle. Afterward, he managed to strike a deal with the PGA Tour 2K video game.
Though his total winnings were only $200,000, he has endorsements of $60 million.
14. Russell Westbrook: Basketball Player
The second to last highest-paid athlete on this list is Russell Westbrook, the king of scoring double-triples. Playing for the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook is a 9-time NBA All-Star.
With such performance, sponsors are sure to flock to your door. This is why it's not surprising that Nike extended his deal for ten years in 2017. On top of being a menace on the court, he is also an Olympic gold medalist.
As if his deal with Nike wasn’t enough, he signed a $207 million contract extension for five years that same year. Combined, he takes home $59 million. $26 million is from endorsements and $33 million is from sponsorships.
15. Patrick Mahomes: Football Quarterback
Last but not least, ending this list of the highest-paid athletes in the world, is Patrick Mahomes.
After winning the 2020 Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes made a deal with Biosteel. He also signed a $503 million contract extension for ten years.
Mahomes takes home an estimated $54.5 million. $32.5 million is from his salary and $22 million is from his endorsements and sponsorships.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Highest-Paid Athletes
Who Is the Highest-Paid NBA Player?
The highest-paid NBA player is LeBron James, who made $41.18 million from his NBA salary in 2021. This pushes his net worth to approximately $850 million, according to Forbes.
Who Is the Highest-Paid Soccer Player in the World?
Lionel Messi’s income is reportedly $130 million with $55 million from sponsorships and endorsements. His total assets are estimated between $400 and $600 million.
Who Are the Highest-Paid Female Athletes in the World?
Five of them are renowned tennis players, led by Naomi Osaka ($55M), Serena Williams ($44M), Venus Williams ($10.8M), and Garbiñe Muguruza ($7.5M). The fifth is gymnast, Simone Biles ($10M).
Others in this top ten list include gymnast Simone Biles ($9.7M), golfer Jin Young Ko ($7.2M), badminton champ P.V. Sindhu ($6.9M), tennis player Ashleigh Barty ($6.7M), golfer Nelly Korda ($5.7M), and WNBA forward-center Candace Parker ($5.5M).
Highest-Paid Athletes – Best Sporting Performance
Taking inspiration from their amazing feats on the field, ring, or court and its monetary rewards, we salute these highest-paid athletes around the world who truly deserve their hard-earned incomes.