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Top 50 Highest Paid Athletes of All Time in the World [With Net Worth]

Top 50 Highest Paid Athletes

Are you looking for highest paid athletes of all time in the world? Since salaries are always going up, fans often want to know which athletes in their favorite sports make the most money. But professional sports have turned into a global business, and leagues are making more money than ever before. Who is the richest athlete in the world, and what sport do they play? This is the question that sports fans should be asking.

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According to a story published by Sportivo recently, Michael Jordan is the best-paid athlete of all time, making $2.62 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Jordan was at the top of the list. Tiger Woods ($2.1 billion), Arnold Palmer ($1.5 billion), and Jack Nicklaus ($1.38 billion) are the next three golfers on the list. At number seven on the list, with $1.17 billion, is NBA star, LeBron James.

In this list of some of the highest paid athletes of all time and the sports that give them huge, multi-million-dollar paychecks every year, we hope to answer that question and a lot more.

Who are the Highest Paid Athletes of All Time in the World?

To find out who the highest paid athletes in the world are, you have to get rid of all the fluff. The average person doesn’t know what net worth is and doesn’t care that their favorite players make more money through endorsement deals. Fans of football, baseball, and basketball are interested in how much football, baseball, and basketball players make to play the sports they see as their full-time jobs.

But there are athletes in combat sports, tennis, golf, and auto racing who make a lot of money, but their wealth depends on winning, so they don’t get the same amount every year. This list is all about the stars who will make a lot of money no matter what happens in their current or upcoming seasons. Some of the names might surprise you.                             

Here’s a look at the full top 50 lists of Highest Paid Athletes of All Time: 





Turned Pro

Inflation-Adjusted Earnings


Michael Jordan

United States



$2.62 billion


Tiger Woods

United States



$2.1 billion


Arnold Palmer

United States



$1.5 billion


Jack Nicklaus

United States



$1.38 billion


Cristiano Ronaldo




$1.24 billion


Floyd Mayweather

United States



$1.2 billion


LeBron James

United States



$1.17 billion


Lionel Messi




$1.14 billion


Michael Schumacher




$1.13 billion


Roger Federer




$1.12 billion


Phil Mickelson

United States



$1.08 billion


David Beckham

United Kingdom



$1.05 billion


Kobe Bryant

United States



$930 million


Shaquille O’Neal

United States



$870 million


Greg Norman




$815 million


Mike Tyson

United States



$775 million


Alex Rodriguez

United States



$650 million


Manny Pacquiao




$630 million


Kevin Durant

United States



$625 million


Lewis Hamilton

United Kingdom



$620 million






$615 million


Jeff Gordon

United States



$595 million


Oscar de la Hoya

United States



$580 million


Peyton Manning

United States



$570 million


Derek Jeter

United States



$555 million


Here’s a look at other statistics from Jordan’s net worth, NBA salary, and career endorsements. 

Top 50 Highest Paid Athletes of All Time

1. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Earnings: $2.62 billion

Jordan still has long-term endorsement deals with Gatorade, Hanes, Nike, and Upper Deck, but it was the $175 million fire-sale price he paid for the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) in 2010 that made him a billionaire. In 2013, Jordan increased his share of the Hornets to 90%, and the team is now worth $780 million. Currently, Michael Jordan secures the first position of the top highest paid athletes of all time.

2. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf
  • Earnings: $2.1 billion

Since the beginning of 2014, the 14-time major winner has only played in 18 official PGA Tour events because of injuries. He missed the cut or pulled out of half of them. Sponsors still think it’s worth it to work with Woods. TaylorMade, Bridgestone, and Monster Energy are the most recent companies to add their names to his list of endorsements. With all of these, Tiger Woods gets the second position among the top highest paid athletes of all time in the world.  

3. Arnold Palmer

Arnold palmer
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: Golf
  • Earnings: $1.5 billion

Even though Palmer died in September 2016, his estate still made $40 million in the last year. More than 400 stores in Asia sell clothing with the Arnold Palmer brand, and there are plans to expand into new markets like Thailand and Vietnam. 39 people have signed contracts with his estate. Mark McCormack started IMG, and Palmer was his first client. When they worked together, they changed the way sports marketing was done.

4. Jack Nicklaus

Jack nicklaus
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: Golf
  • Earnings: $1.38 billion

Nicklaus’s company is in charge of designing 410 courses in 41 countries. The 18-time major winner is involved in three-quarters of these projects. Nicklaus’s business empire includes real estate, wine, ice cream, drinkware, golf academies, lemonade, and more, in addition to designing courses. With the latest achievements, Jack Nicklaus secures the fourth position among the top highest paid athletes of all time.  

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo Credit: The Mirror
  • Sport: Soccer
  • Earnings: $1.24 billion

Over the past two years, Ronaldo has become the highest-paid athlete in the world, making $93 million in the 12 months that ended in June. The soccer player of the year will make even more money now that he has signed a new deal with Real Madrid.

6. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

  • Sport: Boxing
  • Earnings: $1.2 billion

Our figure for Mayweather’s earnings doesn’t include the huge sum he made from his August fight with Conor McGregor (our scoring period ended June 1). With the money he got from McGregor, Mayweather became only the sixth athlete in history to earn $1 billion.

7. LeBron James

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Earnings: $1.2 billion

This year, Nike, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, and Kia Motor joined his list of endorsements, which already included Intel and Verizon. King James has a piece of 17 Blaze Pizzas, which is the food service business that has grown the fastest of all time.

8. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
Photo Credit: Facebook’s Official Page of Leo Messi
  • Sport: Soccer
  • Earnings: $1.14 billion

Messi has been playing for Barcelona since he was 13. Last month, he signed a new contract that will keep him at Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season. Under the new deal, the buyout clause for the player who has scored the most goals in Barcelona’s history has doubled to $835 million. Messi ranks in the top highest paid athletes of all time. 

9. Michael Schumacher

  • Sport: Formula 1
  • Earnings: $1.13 billion

Since a skiing accident in the Alps in 2013 put Schumacher in a coma, his health has been in danger. The F1 superstar won seven titles and was the best at his sport. He is one of only six athletes since 1990 to be at the top of the Forbes list of the highest paid athletes of all time.

10. Roger Federer

Roger federer
Photo Credit: eurosport
  • Sport: Tennis
  • Earnings: $1.12 billion

Federer recently took back the title of ATP Tour player who has won the most money over the course of his career. He did this by having a great year on the court in 2017. His total of $111.9 million is more than Novak Djokovic’s total of $109.8 million and Tiger Woods’ total of $110 million in prize money from the PGA Tour. Therefore, now Roger Federer has been included in the list of highest paid athletes of all time in the world.

11. Phil Mickelson

  • Sport: Golf
  • Earnings: $1.08 billion

Mickelson pitches for Amgen, ExxonMobil, KPMG, Rolex, Grayhawk, the Greenbrier, and two new partners, Intrepid Financial Partners and Workday. His total prize money of $84 million is second all-time. Lefty has made a lot of money by coming in second to Tiger. In 2015, he finally made more money than Tiger for the first time since Woods turned pro in 1996.

12. David Beckham

  • Sport: Soccer
  • Earnings: $2.1 billion

Beckham has made the most money since he retired, thanks to royalty deals with Diageo and Global Brands Group. Diageo is launching a new single-grain Scotch whisky called Haig Club, and Global Brands Group is making Beckham-branded consumer products. Beckham is getting closer to bringing an MLS expansion team to Miami. He paid a steal of a price of $25 million for the rights to do this.

13. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Earnings: $930 million

Bryant made more money than any other team athlete in history, and for the last six years of his career, he had the highest paid athletes in the NBA. The Black Mamba is taking on retirement as he did guards in the NBA during his 20-year career. He used $100 million to start Kobe Inc. and Bryant Stibel, a venture capital firm.

14. Shaquille O’Neal

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Earnings: $870 million

Last year, O’Neal sold a piece of Shaq’s business to Authentic Brands Group. In exchange for a lump-sum payment, Authentic Brands Group got the rights to about half of O’Neal’s future licensing and endorsement income. During his career, Shaq’s line of cheap sneakers has sold more than 120 million pairs.

15. Greg Norman

Greg Norman
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: Golf
  • Earnings: $815 million

Norman sold his future licensing rights to Authentic Brands Group in March, just like Shaquille O’Neal and Muhammad Ali did before him. Norman’s company will still run his real estate, investments, and course design businesses, but ABG will work on his other business interests in clothing, accessories, steak, and wine.

16. Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson
  • Sport: Boxing
  • Earnings: $775 million

Before going bankrupt in 2003, the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history had thrown away $400 million in earnings (not adjusted for inflation). At age 51, Tyson changed his life by becoming an actor and making business deals in gaming, motorcycles, and fitness centers. His achievements tell us about his successful journey to the highest paid athletes of all time.

17. Alex Rodriguez

  • Sport: Baseball
  • Earnings: $650 million

A-Rod played baseball for 22 years and signed two of the three biggest contracts in baseball history. The Yankees paid him $20 million in 2017 even though he retired last year. In retirement, he has been working as an analyst for Fox Sports and as a host for an upcoming CNBC reality show. He has also been dating Jennifer Lopez, which has brought him a lot of attention.

18. Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: Boxing
  • Earnings: $630 million

Pacquiao has sold 18.6 million pay-per-views and made a total of $1.2 billion from them. In the senator’s only fight of 2017, he lost to Australian Jeff Horn. Pacquiao made about $125 million for his fight with Mayweather in 2015. This was the most money he ever made in his career. As a result, Manny Pacquiao secures top positions of highest paid athletes of all time.

19. Kevin Garnett

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Earnings: $625 million

During his 22 years as a player for the Timberwolves, the Celtics, and the Nets, Garnett made a record-setting $334 million. In 1997, when he was 21, he signed a huge six-year, $126 million deal that helped push NBA owners to lock out the players before the 1998-99 season.

20. Evander Holyfield’s

  • Sport: Boxing
  • Career earnings: $475 million

Holyfield made $34 million for his second fight against Mike Tyson, which ended quickly when Tyson was disqualified for biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. Even though Holyfield had been making money from boxing for 25 years, he was having trouble paying his bills. His $10 million, 109-room Atlanta estate was foreclosed on, and he was being sued for not paying child support.

21. Andre Agassi’s

  • Sport: Tennis
  • Career earnings: $470 million

Agassi got a huge endorsement deal with Nike that paid him $140 million over 10 years. This amount includes the growth in value of the company stock he got as part of the deal.

22. Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon
Photo Credit:
  • Sport: NASCAR
  • Earnings: $595 million

Gordon won 93 Nascar races, which is the most in modern times. He has a stake in Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car and might get a bigger stake in Hendrick Motorsports.

23. Oscar De La Hoya

  • Sport: Boxing
  • Earnings: $580 million

Before Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao in 2015, the Golden Boy’s fight with Floyd Mayweather in 2007 was the biggest fight in pay-per-view history, with 2.5 million buys. As the fight’s promoter through his company, Golden Boy Promotions, which he started in 2002, De La Hoya made a then-record $52 million.

24. Peyton Manning

  • Sport: American Football
  • Earnings: $570 million

The five-time MVP retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (71,490), touchdowns (539), and total earnings (on and off the field). Even after he retired, Manning is still a popular pitchman. He sells Nationwide, DirecTV, Gatorade, Papa John’s, and Otterbox. He also hosted the ESPY Awards in 2017. 

25. Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter
Photo CRedit:
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Earnings: $555 million

In South Florida, Jeter’s time as an MLB owner is off to a rough start. Even though 14-time All-Star Derek Jeter only put up $25 million of the $1.2 billion needed to buy the Miami Marlins, he is CEO of the team and makes all the decisions.

What Sport Pays the Highest?

Even though many of the top 10 highest paid athletes of all time come from the same leagues, the sports with the biggest payouts are actually more diverse when you look at the number of athletes, the number of times competitors are on the field, and the prize amounts for different events. Here are the 10 sports that pay the most.

  1. Basketball
  2. Combat Sports
  3. Auto Racing
  4. Golf
  5. NFL
  6. Soccer
  7. Tennis
  8. NHL
  9. Baseball
  10. Cycling

What is the Biggest Sports Contract of All Time?

Professional athletes don’t always stop competing when they leave the field, rink, or court. Having the biggest contract in a sport gives you something to brag about. But one athlete has the biggest contract in sports history.

Lionel Messi, a famous soccer player, signed a four-year, $673 million deal with FC Barcelona in 2017. This was the biggest deal any athlete had ever signed. In the unique deal, he got a set salary and bonuses that could add up to nearly $167 million per season.

What is Michael Jordan net worth?

A March article from the Chicago Sun-Times said that Jordan is worth $1.6 billion.

According to the same story, that amount is $500 million less than it was last year. This may be because GameStop stocks went up a lot earlier this year.

What was Michael Jordan’s NBA salary?

HoopsHype says that Jordan made $86,760,000 (or $144,638,640 in today’s money) while he was playing basketball.

Jordan made the most money in his last year with the Chicago Bulls, 1997-1998, when he made $33,140,000, which is the same as $53,296,273 today. It was a lot more than what he made at the beginning of his career, and it was even more than the NBA salary cap at the time. Michael Jordan is one of the highest paid athletes of all time.

Which current endorsements does Michael Jordan have? 

According to the story in Sportivo, only 6% of Jordan’s total earnings come from his time playing for the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards. His estimated total is based on his salaries, endorsements, licensing, and memorabilia sales since he joined the NBA in 1984. This includes his ongoing endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck.

According to the article, Jordan will get about $150 million in royalties from his famous partnership with Nike in 2021. This is nearly 20 years after he stopped playing basketball after the 2002-03 season.

Jordan’s “retro” shoes from the 1990s, when he was playing, have continued to sell well since he stopped playing. This year, the Jordan brand led a rise in sales and shares for Nike in the fourth quarter.

Who has the Most Money in the World?

Since we’re talking about the highest paid athletes of all time in the world, you might be curious about who is the richest person in the world overall. Like Jordan, there is one person who has a lot more money than everyone else. Elon Musk, who started Space X and Tesla, has so much money that he could swim in it if he wanted to. He is the richest person in the world. Right now, the person who buys Twitter has a net worth of $240 billion.


The people on this list are good at what they do as athletes. Their charming personalities make them two of the most marketable athletes in the history of sports.

In addition to their skills, these traits have helped them get endorsement deals with top brands worth millions of dollars, making them the highest paid athletes of all time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Highest Paid Athletes of All Time

What is the net worth of Lionel Messi?

According to Goal, Messi is thought to have a net worth of $400 million. People say that his money comes from football contracts, endorsement deals, and investments, among other things.

How much is ballon d or worth?

How the Ballon d’Or is made, how much it costs, and how much it weighs. FIFA says that the winner of the award will get USD 20,000 as a prize.

What is the net worth of Neymar Jr?

How much money does Neymar have in 2022? Neymar, a football star from Brazil, is expected to have a net worth of around 182 million euros in 2022.

Is LeBron a billionaire?

Forbes says that LeBron James is the first active NBA player to reach a net worth of $1 billion. This makes him the first person to ever reach this mark. The star of the Los Angeles Lakers is also one of only two basketball players to have a net worth of $1 billion.

Which athlete is a billionaire?

This is where his money is. LeBron James is a basketball legend who holds many sports records. Now, he has one of the most coveted financial accomplishments: he has joined the ranks of America’s billionaires.

Who is the first billionaire athlete?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER is the first billionaire athlete and the best racer of all time. He is also the first billionaire in sports.

What NBA player is a billionaire?

Forbes says that LeBron James is the first NBA player who is still playing to make a billion dollars. LeBron James is now a billionaire. He had a very successful year and made a lot of money. 

How rich is LeBron James in 2022?

Forbes says that LeBron James has a net worth of $1 billion, which puts him in the club of people who are worth $1 billion or more. Forbes magazine says that LeBron James has a net worth of $1 billion. So, LeBron James has been included in the list of highest paid athletes of all time. 

Who is the richest footballer in the world?

Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the richest footballer in the world, according to a report that said the Real Madrid star now has a personal wealth of about €210 million.

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