25 Highest-Paid Athletes in the World in 2016
In the world of professional sports, everyone knows that the over-the-top riches belong to the team owners. The fact is, it takes a lot of money to foot the bill. However, that doesn’t mean the athletes themselves are suffering from a financial standpoint — not even close.
According to Forbes, over the last year, the 100 highest-earning athletes pulled in a combined $3.15 billion — that’s billion with a “B.” To determine this, the good folks at Forbes used a fairly detailed methodology; however, the simpler explanation is as follows:
Our earnings figures include salaries, prize money and bonuses paid out between June 1, 2015, and June 1, 2016. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12 month period based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees and we don’t include investment income.
It’s not surprising that athletes make a lot of money — this is something we all know. Yet, when it comes to determining which athletes make the most money, that order may throw some for a loop. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 25 highest-paid athletes in the world in 2016.
25. Gareth Bale
Total Earnings: $35.9 million
Gareth Bale has been instrumental in Real Madrid’s success ever since the club acquired him for a world-record transfer fee back in 2013. As a result, the Welshman is handsomely rewarded both on and off the pitch. In 2016, Bale earned $24.9 million in salary and bonuses and another $11 million from endorsements. If he maintains his high level of play, companies like Adidas will be more than happy to continue throwing money at him.
24. Fernando Alonso
Total Earnings: $36.5 million
Fernando Alonso is one of the most successful Formula One drivers on the planet and he has the bank account to prove it. Although he’s only pulling in $1.5 million in endorsement money this year, the McLaren-Honda driver is living large thanks to his $35 million salary. As you can see, Alonso clearly believes the reward is well worth the risk
23. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Total Earnings: $37.4 million
Soccer fans know that Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets paid to put the ball in the back of the net; as evidenced by the $30.4 million he’s earning this year as a member of Manchester United. Still, it’s important not to overlook just how popular the Swedish striker actually is. With a Nike deal, his own line of sportswear (A-Z), and relationships with other brands, Ibrahimovic is also collecting $7 million in endorsement money in 2016. There is no shortage of opportunities for soccer players.
21. (tie) Rafael Nadal
Total Earnings: $37.5 million
Over the past year, Rafael Nadal earned $5.5 million for his efforts on the tennis court. While that figure is hardly chump change, it pales in comparison to the money he makes away from the sport. Thanks to relationships with companies like Kia, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nike among others, Nadal’s earned himself $32 million in sponsorship money. Even if Nadal never goes back to his winning ways, something tells us he’ll continue to be just fine.
21. (tie) Neymar
Total Earnings: $37.5 million
With Barcelona, Neymar is making $14.5 million in salary this season. However, like many of the athletes on this list, his real earnings stem from endorsements. The Brazilian superstar has sponsorships deals with companies such as Red Bull, Gillette, Nike, Panasonic, and Konami, and is taking home $23 million this year because of those relationships. Oddly enough, even at $37.5 million in total earnings, Neymar fails to crack the top 20
20. Philip Rivers
Total Earnings: $38 million
Despite being a starting quarterback in the NFL, Philip Rivers isn’t exactly rolling in endorsement money, having earned just $450,000 in the last year. Of course, thanks to $37.5 million in salary and bonuses, it’s not as if the Chargers signal caller is exactly strapped for cash. The joys of the San Diego weather doesn’t hurt, either.
19. Sebastian Vettel
Total Earnings: $41 million
Only $1 million of Sebastian Vettel’s total earnings in 2016 came from endorsements. But when you’re getting paid $40 million in salary and bonuses from Ferrari, you tend to not sweat the small things. If only we could all be Formula One driver.
18. Russell Wilson
Total Earnings: $41.8 million
As one of the brightest young talents in the National Football League, it only makes sense that Russell Wilson would be paid as such. In past year, Seattle’s quarterback has collected $31.8 million in salary and bonus money while pulling in $10 million in endorsements from companies like Nike, Microsoft, Bose, Braun, and others. If Wilson can help the Seahawks overcome their latest setback, there’s no telling how high his stock will climb.
17. Rory McIlroy
Total Earnings: $42.6 million
Even when Rory McIlroy isn’t dominating on the golf course (by his standards, anyway), his marketability remains at an all-time high. McIlroy has relationships with Upper Deck, Bose, Electronic Arts, and Nike among others, and as a result, managed to bank $35 million in sponsorship money this past year. Imagine what that number would look like if he was winning on a regular basis. Scary, we know.
16. Floyd Mayweather
Total Earnings: $44 million
In the last year, endorsements, appearances, and merchandise sales netted Floyd Mayweather $12 million. But that’s nothing compared to the $32 million he earned from just one fight. As you can plainly see, there’s a reason people call him “Money.”
15. Tom Brady
Total Earnings: $44.1 million
Like a fine wine, Tom Brady appears to only be getting better with age. Last year, he earned $8 million from endorsements and collected another $36.1 million from salary and bonus money. At this rate, as is the case with their quarterback’s bank account, the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl odds should continue to grow.
14. Joe Flacco
Total Earnings: $44.5 million
To the surprise of pretty much everyone, Joe Flacco makes more money than Tom Brady. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback isn’t “wowing” folks with his portfolio of endorsements, but with $44 million in salary and bonus money over the past 12 months, he doesn’t have to. Oh, the perks of winning a Super Bowl.
13. Eli Manning
Total Earnings: $45 million
Speaking of which, enter New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. In the past 12 months, Peyton’s little brother has earned $8 million from endorsements and pulled in a whopping $37 million in salary and bonuses. Oh, the perks of winning two Super Bowls.
12. Tiger Woods
Total Earnings: $45.3 million
Tiger Woods doesn’t need to top the competition in tournaments to remain one of the highest-paid athletes on the planet. While he’s only earned $274,000 in prize money over the last year, Woods still made $45 million from endorsements. The moral of the story: Winning isn’t everything.
11. Lewis Hamilton
Total Earnings: $46 million
The top Formula One drivers in the world make serious bank, and Lewis Hamilton is no exception. Thanks to partnerships with brands like Monster Energy, IWC, and L’Oreal, Hamilton took home $4 million in endorsement money over the last 12 months. He also earned $42 million in salary and bonuses from Mercedes. Unfortunately for him, $46 million in total earnings isn’t enough to crack the top 10 of this particular list.
10. Kobe Bryant
Total Earnings: $50 million
In case you slept on it, 2016 marked the close of Kobe Bryant’s NBA career — and while the Lakers may have seen something of an ignoble finish, Kobe’s bank account was hardly worse for the wear: the Lakers’ icon banked a cool $25 million to close out the season, making him the highest paid player in the league over last year, at least in terms of the size of his deal. The rest of it comes from endoresments: Kobe’s been signed to Nike ever since his bailing on his deal with Adidas, inked when Kobe was fresh out of high school, after Bryant reportedly disliked the Kobe Two, and it’s safe to say that his other deals, with companies like Coca-Cola, haven’t left him hurting for cash.
9. Jordan Spieth
Total Earnings: $52.8 Million
choked about as hard as you could imagine on the last day of the tournament — he’s still one of two professional golfers to make this list.despite a disappointing finish at the 2016 Masters — where Spieth, the defending champion,
8. Phil Mickelson
Total Earnings: $52.9 million
7. Cam Newton
Total Earnings: $53.1 million
Cam Newton may be the most magnetic personality in the NFL today — whether you’re attracted or repelled, by him, there’s no denying that you’re pulled one way or the other — and with that sort of star quality comes big money (and his very own laptop, we presume). The best player in Super Bowl 50, Newton’s athletic ability has earned him a $100 million dollar from the league ($60 of that is guaranteed), and as one of the most marketable players in the league, he can more or less take the pick of the litter when it comes to endorsements.
6. Novak Djokovic
Total Earnings: $55.8 million
After Novak Djokovic claimed victory over Andy Murray in the 2016 French Open, he became the first player to hold all four Major titles since Rod Laver — not bad for a guy that’s somewhat lagged in popularity behind his immediate contemporaries (contemporaries he’s now eclipsed, somewhat unequivocally). In fact, while Djokovic now has something that, say, Roger Federer does not, he’s still only pulling in $34 million in endorsements. If he can challenge for the sport’s first Grand Slam in nearly 50 years, that will almost certainly change.
5. Kevin Durant
Total Earnings: $56.2 million
In the last year, Kevin Durant took home $20.2 million in salary and bonuses, earned another $36 million in endorsement deals, and found himself at No. 5 on the list of the world’s highest-paid athletes with $56.2 million in total earnings. Hopefully this impressive haul will take some of the sting out of OKC’s inability to finish off the Dubs in the Western Conference Finals. Although, we highly doubt it.
4. Roger Federer
Total Earnings: $67.8 million
Roger Federer may not be the same tennis player who competes for Grand Slams on a regular basis, but that hasn’t stopped him from holding serve as the sport’s top-earning player. Thanks to his sponsorship deals with companies like Rolex, Nike, and Mercedes-Benz, Federer managed to take home an insane $60 million dollars in endorsement money over the last 12 months.
When you combine that with the $7.8 million he earned in prize money, you’re looking at a whopping $67.8 million in total earnings for the 17-time Grand Slam champion. It’s safe to say that even when King Roger’s not winning, he’s winning.
3. LeBron James
Total Earnings: $77.2 million
Although LeBron James is on the brink of another Finals loss, he can take solace in knowing that his bank account is far from suffering the same sort of defeat — and likely never will. Aside from making $23.2 million in salary money, LBJ reaffirmed his unrivaled marketability courtesy of $54 million from endorsements.
On top of that, thanks to the unprecedented lifetime deal he signed with Nike, the $77.2 million in total earnings that James made over the past year is going to look like peanuts compared to his future earnings. As always, it’s good to be the King.
2. Lionel Messi
Total Earnings: $81.4 million
Not only has Lionel Messi’s creativity and magic on the pitch made him one of the top-two soccer players in the world, it’s always made him one of the top-two highest-earning athletes on the planet. And that’s a fact.
Despite making $28 million from endorsements over the past year (thanks, Adidas), the majority of Messi’s $81.4 million in total earnings came from his salary and bonuses — $53.4 million to be exact. It’s no wonder they call soccer “the beautiful game.”
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Total Earnings: $88 million
Like Real Madrid after winning the Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo is on top of the world (of highest-paid athletes). To this, we have just one word: shocker. Thanks to his sponsorship deals with brands such Nike, Tag Heuer, and Herbalife, as well as his own line of products, Ronaldo brought home $32 million in endorsement money over the last 12 months.
Of course, this figure pales in comparison to the $56 million he earned in salary and bonuses. Either way, the dollar signs have spoken, and with $88 million in total earnings, Ronaldo secured his place as the highest-earning athlete in 2016.
To see Forbes’ complete list of “The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2016,” check out the gallery here.