Sports stars are among the most public famous people in the world, and with that recognition, many have managed to convert that popularity into hundreds of millions from endorsements, professional contracts, bonuses, and business deals over the concluding decade.
According to Forbes Magazine, the ten highest-paid athletes over the period cumulatively earned US$6.1 billion during the period. Notably, all ten are male athletes as tennis legend Serena Williams was the only woman to break into the top 40 with US$215 million earned. However, that was approximately US$185 million less than it would have taken to break into the upper echelon of the list where it took race car driver Lewis Hamilton US$400 million to take tenth spot.
To top the list, one would have had to pull in US$915 million, or more, as boxer Floyd Mayweather did. Mayweather took home US$500 million for two fights in 2015 and 2017 when he defeated Manny Pacquiao and Connor McGregor. Much of Mayweather’s success came from becoming manager and promoter of his fights after opted out of his contract with Top Rank for US$750,000. The decision paid off as Mayweather’s fights drew record-breaking eyeballs for of 10 million paid viewers combined for the fights.
The two runners-up are a pair of footballers who have had an ongoing rivalry for more than a decade. Cristiano Ronaldo scored US$800 million including major endorsements supported by his social media followings, the largest of anyone in the world on Instagram and Facebook, Forbes said.
Lionel Messi raked in US$750 million over the review period, much of it from his impressive deal with football club Barcelona, which is the highest of any athlete in a team sport.
The top five was completed by basketballer LeBron James whose endorsements double his actual salary. James made US$680 million during the review period while tennis great Roger Federer made $640 million to rank fifth.
Rounding out the top ten are golfers Tiger Woods (US$615 million) and Phil Mickelson (US$480 million), Pacquiao (US$435 million), basketball player Kevin Durant (US$425 million) and Hamilton.
Earnings by athletes during retirement, including Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, over the period were not considered for the list.