The crown title of Richest Athlete in the World still belongs to Michael Jordan with $2.2 billion in career earnings. With salaries, prize money, and endorsement earnings rising higher and higher each year, elite athletes are making more money than ever before. However, as you’ll notice from the contenders below, to truly break the inside the top 10 richest athletes list requires becoming an internationally recognized phenom with celebrity status.
1. Michael Jordan
Net Worth: $2.2 billion
Michael Jordan is the world’s richest athlete, and is also considered the greatest player of all time in the NBA. He won 6 championships with the Chicago Bulls and earned $90 million in total salary during his career in the NBA. The majority of his wealth ($1.7 billion) was made from sponsorship deals from companies like Nike, Hanes, and Gatorate, and also from corporate partners and investments. Michael Jordan is now retired, and part owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
2. Ion Tiriac
Net Worth: $1.2 billion
Many millennials have never heard of Ion Tiriac, but he’s a billionaire worth $1.2 billion and one of the most successful athletes of all time. Ion is a double threat. While his main sport was tennis, he also played for Romania in the 1964 Winter Olympics. He retired in the 1970’s, coached top players for a while, then began his business and investment ventures. Today he runs Tiriac Group, which does business and invests in various different sectors like real estate and financial services.
3. Tiger Woods
Net Worth: $800 million
Ever since turning pro in 1996, Tiger Woods has been dominating the PGA tour. Today, he is considered the greatest golfer in history with $120 million in career earnings. He is the only golfer ever to crack the $100 million earnings mark. Tiger Woods received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019, was named Sports Illustrated Sports Person of the year in 2000 and 1996, won 82 PGA Tours and made 20 recorded hole in ones. When you total all of his golf related earnings (such as endorsements, appearance fees, course design fees, etc) he’s earned $1.5 billion from the game of golf.
4. Magic Johnson
Net Worth: $600 million
Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. He played 13 years for the Los Angeles Lakers and retired in 1996 after discovering he had HIV. Magic Johnson earned $25 million in salary from his career in the NBA. Most of his wealth came from entrepreneurship and investments after he retired from basketball.
5. Michael Schumacher
Net Worth: $600 million
Michael Schumacher is considered to be the most successful Formula 1 racer in history with 7 world championships, and is one of the highest paid athletes of all time. He’s earned an estimated $1 billion from his career. At the peak of his career, he was estimated to be making $80 to $100 million per year from driving, and $50 million per year from endorsements.
6. Roger Staubach
Net Worth: $600 million
Roger Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. Salaries for NFL players were a lot smaller then, and he only earned $25,000 in pay. He would go on to win 2 Super Bowls from 5 appearances. However, Roger Staubach earned most of his net worth through ventures outside of sports. As a father of 3 at the age of 27, he realized that he needed a backup plan in case he got injured and was unable to provide for his family. He started the Staubach Company in 1977, and went all in on this real estate business when he retired in 1979. By 2008, the Staubach Company had 1,100 employees in 50 offices. He sold his company that year to Jones Lang LaSalle for $613 million.
Net Worth: $505 million
Floyd Mayweather is a world-famous boxing champion with total career winnings of over a billion dollars. During his peak, Floyd was the highest paid athlete in the world, earning up to $300 million per year from boxing, and around $10 million per year in endorsements. He was also infamous for touting his wealth. In 2013, before his fight versus Saul Alvarez, Floyd flashed his bank account balance on live television which showed $123 million in his account. His most noteable (and highest paid) fight was in 2017 versus Conor McGregor. That single fight generated $550 million in revenue, with $275 million of that going to Floyd. However, he had to pay much of that in taxes (plus $22 million in taxes owing from 2015) and he walked away with less than half of that ($160 million).
8. LeBron James
Net Worth: $480 million
LeBron James is an NBA superstar, earning around $40 million per year in salary. He is also the highest paid athlete in the NBA in endorsements, earning around $50 million per year. In this first 10 seasons in the NBA, he earned $126 million in salary and $326 million in endorsements. Over the year’s LeBron has taken his earnings from basketball and invested it in other ventures. He owns his own production company, his own media company, is a partner with Cindy Crawford and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a health and wellness company, and owns 19 Blaze Pizza franchises.
9. Eddie Jordan
Net Worth: $475 million
Eddie Jordan is a former Irish race car driver, but earned most of his net worth in business. After winning the Irish Kart Championship in 1971, he joined Forumla Ford in 1974, joined Formula 3 a year later, then went on to do testing for McLaren. He later founded his own Foruma One team, Jordan Grand Prix, which operated from 1991 to 2005. Although the numbers weren’t publicly released, it’s been rumored that Eddie later sold the team for between $50 million to $90 million to Midland Group. Since the sale, he has been working as a television personality for racing events, but has been making significant money through investments.
Net Worth: $460 million
Cristiano Ronaldo is considered the greatest soccer player of all time. He is the all-time leading goal scorer in the UEFA Champions League, and 5 time FIFA Player of the Year. Cristiano Ronaldo is approaching nearly $1 billion in career earnings (in combined salary and endorsements). No other soccer player has reached the $1 billion milestone in their careers. Ronaldo is one of the true net worth profiles in this list of richest athletes. His net worth comes purely from the game of soccer. He’s also the most followed athlete on social media, with 200 million Instagram followers.
The Top 10 highest PAID athletes of all time
It’s important to note that the above rankings of the richest athletes of all time takes into consideration the NET WORTHS of each athlete. This is different from the salary and career earnings of each athlete.
What’s the difference between? Why the distinction between net worth and career earnings?
If you’ll notice, the total career earnings can be a lot higher than the net worths of athletes. And this is because career earnings are taxed heavily as salary. In other cases, you’ll notice that some athletes didn’t make nearly as much from their sports as they did from their other business ventures. Net worths take all wealth and assets into consideration such as investments, properties, and of course salary.
Here is a list of the highest earning athletes of all time (in salary & endorsements)
|1||Michael Jordan||Basketball||United States||$1.85B|
|2||Tiger Woods||Golf||United States||$1.7B|
|3||Arnold Palmer||Golf||United States||$1.4B|
|4||Jack Nicklaus||Golf||United States||$1.2B|
|5||Michael Schumacher||Auto racing||Germany||$1B|
|6||Phil Mickelson||Golf||United States||$815M|
|7||Kobe Bryant||Basketball||United States||$800M|
|David Beckham||Association football||England|
|9||Floyd Mayweather Jr.||Boxing||United States||$785M|
|10||Shaquille O’Neal||Basketball||United States||$735M|