Many sports fans believe professional athletes get paid too much. A closer look shows that they earn their salary based on the revenue they bring to their teams and sponsors. Owners of teams and the respective leagues with professional players make money from the sales of jerseys, posters, and, of course, ticket sales. As a result, athletes across various sports rack in a whole lot of dough.
From David Beckham to Aaron Rodgers, these are the richest athletes in the world.
Shaquille O'Neal (Net Worth: $400 Million)
Shaquille O'Neal, or Shaq as he is commonly referred to, is everywhere these days. It is impossible to turn on a television and see commercials without Shaq's likeness. Shaq is worth an estimated $400 million, and how he earned his money is as impressive as his net worth itself. O'Neal was a dominant force on the basketball court during his 19 seasons in the NBA.
The 7' 1" and over 300 pound Shaq was a decent rapper, is an NBA analyst for TNT, and is part of the Papa John's pizza chain's board of directors and spokesperson.
Lionel Messi (Net Worth: $1.22 Billion)
When people refer to an athlete by only one name, it is most likely because of their special talent. Such is the case discussing the career and net worth of Lionel Messi.
The Argentine-born soccer player is widely regarded as the best in the world ever to have played. The only debate is about who is number one internationally, he or Ronaldo of Portugal. Messi played with Barcelona before signing with Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. Adidas, Gatorade, and Mastercard are sponsors of Messi.
Gareth Bale (Net Worth: $430 Million)
Wales national and MLS soccer player Gareth Bale is no slouch when discussing the top-earning athletes in the world. Bale is worth around $430 million, which combines salary and endorsement money earned and continues to earn. Bale is Wales' top scorer of all time and has compiled a nice treasure chest to open upon retirement.
Bale has deals with Adidas, and he is featured in the EA Sports FIFA franchise. The staggering amount of Bale's Instagram following also puts money into his bank account from the over 35 million followers and the $185,000 he earns per post.
Lewis Hamilton. (Net Worth: $540 Million)
F1 Race car driver Lewis Hamilton has had quite a successful run representing his Mercedes team. Hamilton won seven championships and 103 overall wins. Hamilton is worth $540 million. Off the racetrack, he has collaborated with fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger, to launch his clothing line, and he also endorses the watch company IWC.
Hamilton started a vegan restaurant called Neat Burger in 2019. His plant-based burger chain won back-to-back awards for Best Vega Restaurant of the Year in 2020 and 2021. In August of 2022, Hamilton became a part owner of the National Football League's Denver Broncos.
Aaron Rodgers (Net Worth: $530 Million)
Professional NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers is heralded as one of the league's most talented at the position ever. The former Super Bowl champion, who plays with the Green Bay Packers, has an approximate net worth of $530 million. Beyond the NFL, Rodgers has a minority stake ownership of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks, who won the 2021 NBA Finals.
The star QB is a spokesperson for State Farm Insurance, was featured in ads by Pizza Hut, and has made guest appearances on Celebrity Jeopardy and Shark Tank. Rodgers' Jeopardy prize money of $50,000 was donated to a charitable organization.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Net Worth: $1.15 Billion)
During the peak of his storied international soccer career, Cristiano Ronaldo was considered the best in the sport. Before the government can apply taxes to his earnings, Ronaldo is worth $1.15 billion.
The Portuguese football superstar has won five Ballon d'Or awards. The trophy is given to the year's best player by France Football, a French magazine, and FIFA. There has been a debate among fans, media, and players alike about who is the greatest soccer player of all time, Ronaldo or Argentina's Lionel Messi. Ronaldo opened two fashion boutiques in Portugal and has a signature fragrance called "Legacy."
Patrick Mahomes (Net Worth: $480 Million)
It is remarkable for NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes to appear on this list because he is only 27 years old and in his fifth season. The QB is worth $480 million, and that total climbs after every game he plays. In 2019, Mahomes led his Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV and an appearance in Super Bowl LV, a tough loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.
His deals with sponsors such as his most popular ads with State Farm Insurance, Direct TV, Adidas, and Head & Shoulders shampoo because of his wild hairstyle.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Net Worth: $450 Million)
Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. and his numerous exploits outside of the ring should place him closer to the top of this list, but some will be left out to keep things fair. If you only factor in the combination of Mayweather Jr.'s salary from boxing and direct endorsements, which he still has, he is worth approximately $450 million.
What separates him from other rich athletes is that he is a boxing promoter and currently owns a NASCAR Cup Series team called The Money Team Racing. Mayweather Jr. is arguably the greatest boxer of all time according to experts.
David Beckham (Net Worth: $450 Million)
If one were to ignore the total of his financial earnings, former soccer star David Beckham would still be on this list for his popularity and celebrity status (based on rugged good looks.). We will start with his financial particulars first. Beckham is currently worth an estimated $450 million from salary and deals.
Droves of millions of Beckham fans all over the globe only need to see his face to recognize it immediately, whether they follow soccer or not. Beckham has been featured alone and with his wife, Victoria, of Spice Girls fame, on numerous magazine covers.
Kylian Mbappe (Net Worth: +$480 Million)
Barring any career-threatening injuries or a significant drop off in his play, 23-year-old soccer player Kylian Mbappe may become the sport's richest ever. He signed with Paris Saint-Germain of Ligue 1, the top division in French football, temporarily in 2017 before his permanent acquisition by the club for an estimated $217 million.
Almost simultaneous with his soccer contract, Mbappe signed an endorsement deal with the sportswear and sports equipment giant Nike. He also has a signature soccer shoe called the Nike Hypervenom 3 and signed a large global ambassador deal for the Swiss watchmaker Hublot.
Conor McGregor (Net Worth: $520 Million)
Iconic and troubled UFC fighter Conor McGregor is an undisputed champion at endorsing himself and whatever products he chooses. McGregor is a former mixed martial arts champion in UFC who has walked a fine line between pushing the envelope and crossing the line completely. A lot of his early financial worth came from headlining five of the highest-selling UFC pay-per-view events ever.
In addition to owning a pub in Ireland, his place of birth, and sponsorship deals with Monster Energy drinks and Burger King, McGregor also launched his own whiskey, Proper No. Twelve, named after his childhood neighborhood.
Naomi Osaka. (Net Worth: $532 Million)
Tennis star and champion Naomi Osaka has quietly climbed up the ladder of top net worths of athletes. Osaka is worth around $532 million, with $21 million coming from total prize money earned to date. The former overall number-one-ranked women's tennis player has seven career Grand Slam titles, which include two wins each at the Australian Open and the US Open tournaments.
She is currently sponsored by Nike, and Yonex, the Japanese sporting equipment manufacturer since 2008. Her deals with Sony Playstation, Nissan, GoDaddy, and others continue to earn Osaka up to $60 million per day.
Tom Brady (Net Worth: $584 Million)
Tom Brady is a winner, plain and simply put. The mega-star NFL quarterback has won a league-record 7 Super Bowl championships. Brady is the only one in the QB position to win a Super Bowl in three separate decades. "T-12," as he is sometimes referred to, is worth approximately $584 million when his game salary and endorsement deals are merged.
Brady has endorsed companies such as Stetson cologne, Uggs, Under Armour, and the Aston Martin automobile manufacturer. Brady will join the Fox Sports network as a lead NFL commentator for ten years and $375 million when he retires.
Max Verstappen (Net Worth: $430 Million)
With 35 victories and 20 pole positions, Max Verstappen's salary alone from racing makes him one of the world's top-earning athletes. Verstappen is currently worth, combining salary and endorsements, $430 million. The Belgian-Dutch auto racer signed with Red Bull until the year 2028. Verstappen is the son of Jos, a former Formula One race car driver. He competed for over a season before receiving his road driver's license.
His success on the racetrack was never in doubt, but his name and popularity exploded after he appeared in the Netflix documentary Formula 1: Drive to Survive.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Net Worth: $400 Million)
As hard as it is to fathom, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is not near the top of the wealthiest athletes in the world. Johnson is known for his professional wrestling and acting careers. As of 2022, The Rock has accumulated approximately $400 million from his days in the ring, the blockbuster movies he has been in, philanthropic ventures, and the numerous products he endorses.
Johnson's rockstar smile and smooth persona have earned him worldwide popularity and recognition. His autobiography, The Rock Says, debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2000.
Tyson Fury (Net Worth: $690 Million)
Professional boxer Tyson Fury knows how to get the job done in the ring and out of it. Fury is a two-time heavyweight boxing champion and has held the title since 2020. His net worth is an estimated $690 million, with endorsements and prize money he won inside the ring.
In 2019, an autobiography about Fury was released, and the book reached Amazon's number one bestseller position within 24 hours. Fury has an energy drink company that is supposed to compete against Red Bull and Monster. The boxer is known to love singing in the ring after matches.
Russell Westbrook (Net Worth: $698 Million)
Russell Westbrook has been criticized for his poor performances on the court, but nobody can argue his worth off it. Westbrook is worth $698 million when his salary and endorsement money are combined.
Even though he has never won an NBA championship, Westbrook carries himself as if he has won it all. At times, his attitude is salty, and the relationship between himself, the fans, and the media have not endeared him to everyone. Westbrook signed with the Jordan Brand in 2012 and signed a 10-year extension, which gave him the highest-paid endorsement deal by the company.
Michael Jordan (Net Worth: $2.2 Billion)
Michael Jordan is at the top of the sports world. Jordan has a net worth of $2.2 billion, making him the wealthiest athlete on Earth as of 2022. Despite not playing a basketball game in the NBA since retiring in 2003, Jordan continues to feed his bank account with endorsement deals.
Nike created Jordan's first signature shoe, Air Jordan, in 1984. Interestingly enough, every shoe after the original features the Jordan symbol rather than the familiar swoosh of the company. Jordan earns $40 million in endorsements per year. He has also been sponsored by Gatorade, appearing in over 20 commercials.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Net Worth: $719 Million)
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks is a rare blend of speed, size, agility, and strength on the basketball court. That combination of skills earned him the nickname "Greek Freak." Antetokounmpo is worth $719 million. Antetokounmpo helped his Bucks team to win the 2021 NBA Finals,
The seven-footer signed with Nike and released his signature shoes, Immortality, and a series of Zoom Freak shoes. He also extended his contract with the Bucks in 2020. The deal was for five years and $228 million. Antetokounmpo became a part owner of MLB's Milwaukee Brewers in 2021.
Matthew Stafford (Net Worth: $733 Million)
Matthew Stafford was a highly-paid NFL quarterback for the Detroit Lions but did not become a winner until he joined the Los Angeles Rams. Stafford, who is worth $733 million, was traded to the Rams in 2021 and guided them to win Super Bowl LVI that same season.
The next season Stafford resigned with the Rams for four years and $160 million. Stafford is currently sponsored or a spokesperson for Nike, AT&T, PepsiCo, and the Ford Motor Company. Stafford was the 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and held the record for fourth-quarter comebacks with 8.
Tiger Woods (Net Worth: $735 Million)
Tiger Woods is not only one of the most famous athletes in the world, but he also is one of the highest-paid ones. The golf legend and superstar is worth approximately $735 million and probably would be worth a great deal more had it not been for serious injuries that have hampered his career lately.
Woods has been sponsored by Nike his entire career. He has a signature clothing line, hat, and golf cleats that bear his symbol. In 2000, he inked a 5-year, $105 million deal with the company. He also endorsed American Express and Accenture.
Phil Mickelson (Net Worth: $400 Million)
Professional golfer Phil Mickelson has become a polarizing figure in the sports world along the way to being among the wealthiest athletes. Mickelson has over 40 wins in PGA Tour events, including five major championships.
After he parted ways with the PGA after a successful 30-year-long career to join the LIV Golf tour, the golfer lost endorsements that made him rich, like Titleist, Rolex, and Ford. Still, Mickelson's $100 million net worth is impressive!
Roger Federer (Net Worth: $857 Million)
There is no question that Roger Federer is among the best to play professional tennis ever. Federer is worth $857 million because of his championship prize money and endorsement deals over his nearly 25-year career. Since turning professional in 1998, Federer has won 103 titles, which include 6 Australian Opens, a French Open, 8 Wimbledon championships, and 5 US Open tournament victories.
Federer was the first tennis player to make it to Forbes' highest-paid athletes in the world list when he did it back in 2020. He has been endorsed by Mercedes-Benz and was named Nike's global ambassador.
Kevin Durant (Net Worth: $859 Million)
If one were to base the value of NBA star Kevin Durant solely on what he does on the court, he is worth every penny. Durant has a net worth of $859 million but has been a part of turmoil on the three teams he has played for in his career.
Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder and joined the Golden State Warriors, winning back-to-back championships with them in 2017 and 2018. He also won the NBA Finals MVP Award for his play in those championships. Durant endorses Nike, Gatorade, and partially owns the Philadelphia Union of the MLS.
Stephen Curry (Net Worth: $862 Million)
Stephen Curry is currently one of the world's most recognizable athletes. Curry is worth $862 million, which is comprised of his salary, many endorsement deals, and his numerous business ventures. Besides his sponsorship deal with Under Armour, Curry signed an autograph deal exclusive to Steiner Sports Memorabilia.
Curry has helped with the relaunch of products by companies like Palm, who manufacture mobile companion devices that pair with smartphones. Super Travel, formerly Snap Travel, received investment from Curry in 2019. The company's focus is on travel and ticket search. Curry has many charities he owns or donates to.
Canelo Alvarez (Net Worth: $890 Million)
Boxing star Canelo Alvarez has quietly piled up $890 million of net worth throughout his illustrious career. Alvarez's accomplishments in the ring make it easy to see why he is one of the world's wealthiest athletes. Alvarez has won multiple titles in four different weight classes. With his training partners, Alvarez started and now owns a boxing promotion company for Mexican fighters.
He reportedly signed a deal with the sports streaming company DAZN, worth an estimated $365 million, for 11 fights over five years. Alvarez has early retirement plans for his businesses so he can golf.
James Harden (Net Worth: $760 Million)
NBA guard James Harden gained as much attention for things off the hardwood as he has off it. Harden is worth $760 million.
Harden left two teams before signing with the Philadelphia 76ers in February 2022. Although the 76ers barely have seen him on the court due to a rash of injuries for the point guard, they resigned him to a two-year, $68.6 million deal. While playing for the Houston Rockets, Harden signed an endorsement deal with Adidas for $200 million.
Neymar (Net Worth: $1.03 Billion)
International soccer mega-star Neymar only goes by one name and is the first on our list to top the billion-dollar mark. The Brazilian football talent has an estimated net worth of $1.03 billion.
Neymar signed an extension for five years and $31 million to remain with the football club through 2027 and has had deals with companies like Nike, Puma, Panasonic, and Volkswagen. He is featured on numerous magazine, and video game covers, including the FIFA series of games, helping secure his crazy net worth of 1.03 billion.
Lebron James (Net Worth: $1.27 Billion)
The sport of basketball and the NBA owe their progress, evolution, and success to Lebron James, who is worth a cool $1.27 billion. The face of the league for the better part of two decades entered his 20th season in 2022 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
James helped guide the team to an NBA championship in 2020, which was won in a shortened season played entirely in a "bubble" location. Along with his signature shoes, James signed a $100 million deal before playing an NBA game, and he has represented Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and State Farm Insurance.
Deshaun Watson (Net Worth: $560 Million)
Including NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson in a list of the wealthiest athletes might seem complicated at first glance. Watson was suspended for his misconduct off the playing field after signing a multi-year $230 million contract, the largest deal ever and most guaranteed money in NFL history.
The Browns' quarterback was first drafted in 2017 by the Houston Texans but was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2022. As of his trade year, Watson's net worth is around $560 million.