Who are the highest-paid athletes in the world? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Professional sports are about competition, championships – and cold, hard cash.
Forbes released its list of the 10 highest-paid athletes for 2023. The group made over $1.1 billion combined and includes three soccer stars, three basketball players, two golfers, a boxer and a now-retired tennis player.
Here's a look at the biggest paydays for athletes on and off the field over the last year:
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Cristiano Ronaldo – $136 million
Cristiano Ronaldo’s ugly exit from Manchester United wound up helping his bank account. The Portuguese superstar left Europe to sign with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr and now has an estimated annual salary of $75 million. His appeal to brands off the field is also evident, as he has more combined followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter than any other athlete on Earth.
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Lionel Messi – $130 million
Lionel Messi’s PSG future hangs in the balance, but coming off his first career World Cup title, the Argentinian legend is still raking in dough. About half of his money came from PSG, while endorsements from Adidas, Budweiser, PepsiCo, Socios and more effectively doubled his earnings.
Kylian Mbappé – $120 million
Kylian Mbappé is the youngest player in Forbes’ top 10 at just 24 years old. With one World Cup title under his belt and another World Cup Final appearance in 2022, the PSG phenom has already become one of the world’s most recognizable athletes. A majority of his earnings come from his whopping salary with the French club.
LeBron James – $119.5 million
LeBron James is the top-earning American athlete on Forbes’ list. On top of becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this year, James also became the first active athlete to become a certified billionaire by Forbes last June. On top of his Lakers salary, James has a lifetime deal with Nike and has a stake in Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Canelo Álvarez – $110 million
Canelo Álvarez made big bucks with his fights against Dmitry Bivol and Gennadiy Golovkin. He makes the vast majority of his money in the ring compared to endorsements, and he will add to his total during his bout against John Ryder on May 6.
Dustin Johnson – $107 million
Like Ronaldo, Johnson was one of two golfers who earned nine-figure paydays over the last 12 months after making the move to a Saudi-financed organization. Dustin Johnson joined LIV Golf in 2022 for a staggering signing fee, and wound up making $35.6 million in prize money during play in less than 10 tournaments on the rouge tour.
Phil Mickelson – $106 million
Right behind Johnson is Phil Mickelson, who is relying on on-course results for earnings after losing sponsors with his move to LIV. The new golf league handed Mickelson a contract in the ballpark of $200 million to join last year. The 52-year-old lefty returned to hallowed grounds and earned $1.6 million by tying for second place at the 2023 Masters.
Steph Curry – $100.4 million
Steph Curry is the eighth and final athlete to surpass the $100 million threshold over the last year. He won his fourth NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors last June and had the league’s highest 2022-23 salary at $48.1 million. Off the court, Curry was swept into a lawsuit after FTX collapsed, but he has a lucrative deal with Under Armour and is expanding his media ventures with his company, Unanimous Media, to make up for that loss.
Roger Federer – $95.1 million
Roger Federer called it a career last September, but his sponsors are staying put. The Swiss tennis icon has over a dozen long-term partners that helped him earn $95 million off the court in the last year, per Forbes.
Kevin Durant – $89.1 million
It’s been a hectic 12 months for Kevin Durant, but he’s been getting paid at every stop. The former Brooklyn Net was traded to the Phoenix Suns in February, but his $40-plus million salary came with him. He’s making moves off the court, too, landing a lifetime deal with Nike, growing his media company, Boardroom, and picking up stakes in companies through his investing firm, 35V.