The problem with comparing athletes’ salaries is the same as arguing sports with your dad: It’s difficult to compare players from different time periods. Previously unimaginable paydays now drench the pockets of the top dogs in every mainstream sport, while two or three generations ago, you could catch your favorite shortstop working in a hardware store during the off-season. Inflation and lucrative endorsements cloud the numbers, but some big-time players stand out even among the athletic aristocracy.
Here are the Top 15 Highest Paid Athletes of All Time
15.) Danica Patrick (Car Racing)
Comedian George Carlin once said people watch auto racing for the crashes. I say you watch it because you’re secretly in love with Danica Patrick.
In a world dominated by macho boys, one beautiful—and very rich—woman stands out. Between her $12 million salary and lucrative endorsements like GoDaddy.com, most estimates put Danica over the $20 million mark, which would make her among the highest-paid female athletes in history.
Net Worth: $60 million
14.) Joe Sakic (Hockey)
Of the four big-money sports, only one asks its players to fight each other with razor blades attached to their feet. It’s only fair, then, that the highest-paid athlete in history is a hockey player. But Joe Sakic? Fair or not, the career Quebec Nordiques-Colorado Avalanche center earned $17 million in 1998.
While that might not sound like a lot, if you go by a single player’s salary versus the league average, Sakic earned 14.56 percent more than the average player’s $1.17 million. No athlete has ever stood so far ahead of the mean.
Net Worth: $60 million
13.) Greg Norman (Golf)
A businessman to the core after his playing career. Greg went into designing golf courses, clothing, golf apparels. He is the only man other than tiger woods to be ranked Number 1 for more than 100 weeks.
Net Worth: $300 million
12.) Alex Rodriguez (Baseball)
He is one of the highest paid athletes of all time in baseball.
When it comes to pure salary, there’s A-Rod and there’s everyone else. In 2008, he signed a 10-year contract that awarded him a quarter-billion dollars—plus $25 million. His $275 million deal broke down to $27.5 million a year or about $175,000 per game. Who did A-Rod steal the previous title from?
Well, A-Rod, of course. Prior to being snatched up by the investment bank with a stadium that is the New York Yankees, Rodriguez fetched a paltry $252 million for a decade with the Texas Rangers.
Net Worth: $350 Million
11.) Phil Mickelson(GOLF)
With an endorsement deal with multiple cooperations like ExxonMobil, Rolex KPMG, Amgen, Phil is considered one of the greats in Modern Golf. His total career prize money is reportedly to be the second highest in golf after Woods.
Net Worth: $375 million
10.) Shaquille O’Neal (Basketball)
The 7 foot 1-inch giant is another basketballer on the list, with a gentle but dominant personality, Shaq has earned himself a lot of money through playing contracts, endorsement.
Post-retirement investments have also added to his fortune, Shaq has ventured into stocks investing in Apple, PepsiCo, and General Electric. He has also ventured into real estate.
Net Worth: $400 Million
9.) LeBron James (Basketball)
Unarguably the best player in the NBA. His present income a $640 million is set to move up a notch as he recently signed a 153.3 million deal with Los Angeles Lakers and a $1 billion dollar deal with Nike which is still very active.
Net Worth: $440 million
8.) Roger Federer (Tennis)
The Swiss star is the highest earning tennis star ever, apart from earning through major tournaments, he has sponsorship deals from Mercedes, Rolex, and Nike increasing his earnings a little over $600 million.
Net Worth: $450 million
7.) Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer)
One of the most followed on Instagram, Ronaldo’s influence outside the football pitch is enormous securing him numerous deals with big brands like CocaCola, Nike, Emirates Airline.
He also owns a clothing line, Just like LeBron he is expected to move higher up on this list in the coming years.
Net Worth: $450 million
6.) David Beckham (Soccer)
Retired English footballer who plied his trade in various countries namely: England, Spain, France Italy, and the United States. He is the current owner of Inter Miami FC and Co-owner of Salford City.
He also deals with Diageo to produce a new whiskey called Haig Club, and merchandise deal with Global Brands group to sell Beckham branded products.
Net Worth: $450 Million
5.) Kobe Bryant (Basketball)
Nicknamed the black mamba, Kobe is probably the second most popular basketballer of the 21st century just after Micheal Jordan. During his last six seasons in the NBA, he was the highest paid player with paycheck nearing $800 million.
Net Worth: $500 million
4.) Floyd Mayweather (Boxing)
Since at least the 1920s, aficionados of the sport have referred to boxing as the “sweet science.” The science is simple: Two men in an enclosed square beat each other in the head and body with their fists until one of their brains shuts off for 10 seconds. One man, however, stands out as having mastered the science of making money from boxing. In fewer than 10 fights, Floyd Mayweather earned $283 million, with his most recent fight packing a $50 million punch.
With his last bouts against Manny Pacquiao and Mcgregor raking in millions, it is safe to say that Floyd Mayweather deserves to be on the list of the highest paid athletes of all time.
Net Worth: $560 million – $1billion
3.) Micheal Schumacher (Formula 1)
He was regarded as one of the greats of the sport, the first formula one driver to win 5 consecutive titles and the only driver to win 7 titles.
His success on the race track saw him net $1 billion dollars through prize money and endorsement. He suffered a brain injury during a skiing accident in 2013, which he is yet to recover.
Net Worth: $800 million
2.) Tiger Woods (Golf)
When you factor in endorsements, one man’s salary dominates history. Between earnings on and off the golf course, Tiger Woods is reported to have earned a combined $78.1 million last year. That’s more than $200,000 dollars a day.
No matter how you work the arithmetic, no matter how you try to adjust for inflation, no one who has ever made so much for hitting a ball. It went that way for most of the last decade, no matter how badly he behaved with his putter off the course.
Net Worth: $800 million
1.) Micheal Jordan (Basketball)
It’s very likely you own a pair of Nike Jordans or worn one of his numerous merchandise. Having a career that many pro players are trying to surpass, Micheal had a highly successful career which saw him land over $93.8 million dollars in salary during his playing career, which is small considering the fortune he has made from his endorsements from numerous companies like Gatorade, Hanes, Wheaties and much more.
He was obviously one of the highest paid athletes of all time.
While his partnership with Nike raking in over $141 million along with his purchase of the Hornets which he owns a 90% controlling stake sees him topping this list.
Net Worth: $1.9 Billion