According to the list of top 10 highest paid athletes in the world over the last 12 months, it’s great to be a soccer star (Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi), NBA legend (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant), great at Golf (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson) or simply excel at Tennis (Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer). However, the best thing to be is Floyd Mayweather, leading the list for a third consecutive year.
There is one NFL player in the top 10: Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, but the richest league in the world doesn’t pay all of its money to a few. Boxing, a sport with plenty of problems, is about someone making the most of the opportunity given to him, and Mayweather, without any sponsors or endorsements, remains above everyone else thanks to being excellent, undefeated and hated all at once.
10th – Matt Ryan (NFL, Atlanta Falcons): $43.8 Million
Financially, it was an excellent year for Matt Ryan. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback signed a five-year contract worth $103.75 million with a signing bonus of $28 million and an additional $12 million bonus paid to him this last March. He makes only $1.8 million through endorsements. Professionally, Ryan himself was fine, but the Falcons fell apart last season, winning only four games.
9th – Rafael Nadal (Tennis): $44.5 Million
Over the last 12 months, Rafael Nadal has won three Grand Slam titles (although the winnings from the 2014 French Open weren’t included in this count), making an impressive comeback from knee injuries that still limit him to this day. He makes around $30 million from endorsements, the most of it coming from Nike, but he also earned $14.5 million in winnings from June 2013 to June 2014.
8th – Phil Mickelson (Golf): $53.2 Million
Mickelson did win the British Open for the first time in his career over the last 12 months, but around 80% of his earnings come from his sponsors: Callaway, Barclay’s, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex and Amgen/Pfizer. He has yet to win a tournament since his triumph at Gullane, Scotland last year.
7th – Roger Federer (Tennis): $56.2 Million
No Grand Slam, no Masters tournament for Federer this past year. He won twice: At Halle and Dubai, while reaching finals in Switzerland, Brisbane, Indian Wells and Monte Carlo. However, he is still the most popular tennis player on the planet, making $52 million in endorsements from Nike, Rolex and Credit Suisse among others.
6th – Tiger Woods (Golf): $61.2 Million
Only one title for Tiger Woods over the past 12 months: The Bridgestone Invitational back in August 2013. That doesn’t stop him from remaining the most recognizable face on the PGA tour, and still one of the biggest earners despite his relationship with EA ending. Nike pays him most of his $55 million in endorsement money, as he helps them generate around $790 million from their golf division.
5th – Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers, NBA): $61.5 Million
Thanks to a contract that paid him over $30 million for a season he played only six games in, Bryant ranks so high among global athletes despite being far from world class this year. He also makes $30 million in endorsements which include Turkish Airlines, Lenovo, Nike and Hublot. He also signed a two year, $48 million extension with the Lakers who continue to overpay him.
4th – Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Soccer): $64.7 Million
The best footballer in the world didn’t have the best of seasons in 2013-2014, winning only the Super Coppa with Barcelona. He makes most of his endorsement money from Adidas and Turkish Airlines but has broadened his portofolio in recent years while continously upgrading his contract with Barcelona, signing his 7th in 11 years with the club recently.
3rd – LeBron James (Miami Heat, NBA): $72.3 Million
The best basketball player in the world doesn’t have the highest of salaries in the league ($19.3 million), but he makes $53 million through sponsors, which include Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Upper Deck and Apple. He also made a small fortune for his stake in Beats which was sold to Apple for $3 billion. He is currently playing in his fourth consecutive NBA finals series since joining the Heat.
2nd – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Soccer): $80 Million
Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or this year for his achievements in 2013 which were pretty much nothing, but he did help Real Madrid win the Champions League despite playing awfully in the final, setting a new record for goals in a season in the competition. His sponsors pay him about $28 million each year, while his latest contract with Real Madrid which includes earning from his image rights can reach up to $50 million a year or even more.
1st – Floyd Mayweather (Boxing): $105 Million
Not a single sponsor for a man who went to prison after getting some sort of plea in a case of him being accused for beating a woman. But Floyd Mayweather is in a different sphere when it comes to making money from a sport everyone says is dying. He fought over the last 12 months, beating Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana to claim his huge earnings, coming from his mega deal with Showtime, with three fights on his contract with them remaining.