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Who are the highest-paid athletes? Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo,Tom Brady…

This week, both Forbes and Sportico released their annual list of the top 100 highest-paid sportsmen and women during the past year.

Ni Messi ni Lebron James pueden compararse a Cristiano.
Reuters / AFP

This week, digital business content platform Sportico and Forbes both released their annual list of the top 100 highest-paid sportsmen and women - the sports world’s top earners between May 2021 and May 2022.

The NBA dominated Sportico’s list with over a third - 36 players featuring in the top 100. American Football is the second best-paid occupation with 25 players, followed by soccer with 13 and baseball with 12.

Sportsmen and women from 24 different countries made Sportico’s list this year with 60 American athletes in the top 100, with strong representation from the NBA, NFL and MLB. There were five athletes from the United Kingdom, including Tyson Fury, Lewis Hamilton, Gareth Bale, Raheem Sterling and Conor McGregor.

Sponsorship and royalty-based endorsements

A large chunk of income comes from sponsorship and endorsement deals as well other royalty-based deals. Lebron James for example, has a portfolio of endorsement partners such as Nike, Rimowa, Walmart, GMC, AT&T, PepsiCo and most recently

James tops Sportico’s list with $36.9 million from his salary earnings plus $90 million from sponsorship and endorsement - a lucrative year for the Lakers star, who pocketed a grand total of $126.9 million in 12 months and moves up four places from his position on last year’s list.

Second on the list is Lionel Messi, who swapped Barcelona for Paris last year. His wage packet with PSG was $72 million, to which he almost doubled with a further $50M in off-the-field revenue including an ambassadorial deal worth $20 million to promote digital fan token business

Also unchanged, in third place, is Cristiano Ronaldo. Like Messi, he switched clubs last summer, moving from Juventus back to his old club Manchester United. It was another profitable year for the Portuguese ace, at least off the field - he earned $60 million with United and just a little less in endorsements, for a total of $115 million.

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Alex PantlingGetty Images

Messi’s club team mate Neymar is the last soccer player in Sportico’s top 10. He comes in at No.4 with a total of $103 million, including $38 million in sponsorship and other business pacts. Completing the top 10 are three NBA stars - Stephen Curry ($86.2 million), Kevin Durant ($85.9 million) and James Harden ($76 million); Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez moves into the top 10 and occupies fifth place on $89 million. Roger Federer moves down a place to eighth on $85.7 million and in 10th place, Tiger Woods, who recovered from a car crash in February 2021 to earn a total of $73.5 million.

Tom Brady slipped down from eighth to 16th, with his earnings for the past year totalling $58.4 million.

Sportico 2022 Richest athletes list

  1. Lebron James - $126.9M ($36.9M + $90M)
  2. Lionel Messi - $122M ($72M + $50M)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo - $115M ($60M + $55M)
  4. Neymar - $103M ($65M + $38M)
  5. Canelo Álvarez - $89M ($84M + $5M)
  6. Stephen Curry - $86.2M ($41.2M + $45M)
  7. Kevin Durant - $85.9M ($37.9M + $48M)
  8. Roger Federer - $85.7M ($724K + $85M)
  9. James Harden - $76M ($40M + $36M)
  10. Tiger Woods - $73.3M ($8.5M + $65M)

Forbes’ calculations are similar but slightly different to Sportico’s. They have Messi as the top earner from May 2021 to May 2022 with a higher total revenue of $130 million. Lebron meanwhile comes second with a combined total of $121 million. And there are two entries which don’t appear in Sportico’s top 10 - Tom Brady is ninth with $83.9 million and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo completes the top 10 on $80.9 million - they appear instead of James Harden and Tiger Woods.

Messi. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo
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Forbes’ world’s 10 highest-paid athletes

  1. Lionel Messi - $130M ($75M + $55M)
  2. Lebron James - $121M ($41.2M + $80M)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo - $115M ($60M + $55M)
  4. Neymar - $95M ($70M + $25M)
  5. Stephen Curry - $92.8M ($45.8M + $47M)
  6. Kevin Durant - $92.1M ($42.1M + $50M)
  7. Roger Federer - $90.7M ($700K + $90M)
  8. Canelo Álvarez - $90M ($85M + $5M)
  9. Tom Brady - $83.9M ($31.9M + $52M)
  10. Giannis Antetokounmpo - $80.9M ($39.9M + $41M)

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