World’s top 50 highest-paid athletes break numerous records

World’s top 50 highest-paid athletes break numerous records

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Forbes put together the world’s top 50 highest-paid athletes, and they have broken multiple records with their earnings on and off their respective playing fields. 

To start, Cristiano Ronaldo’s massive contract to play with Saudi Arabia, as well as his endorsements off the pitch, brought his 12-month total for last year to $136 million, putting him first overall among the 50 highest-paid athletes. 

Of that, $90 million came from off-the-field earnings. 


LeBron James during warmups

LeBron James, #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers, looks on prior to game six of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Arena on May 12, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Harry How/Getty Images / Getty Images)

That total surpassed his counterpart, Lionel Messi, who posted $130 million over the past two years, which is a new record for a soccer player. 

Speaking of Saudi Arabian money making a mark on some of the best athletes in the world, LIV Golf’s massive contracts to pull golfers from the PGA Tour landed 12 golfers on the list this year, which is up from three last year. That includes the likes of Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and others. 


As a group, the $2.36 billion made by the top 50 on the field was a big jump – 24% from the $1.91 billion set last year, which is also a record. 

Off the field, $1.08 billion was made total in endorsements and other business ventures by the athletes. A miraculous finding was that Ronaldo, Messi, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and Stephen Curry would have made the top 50 list by their off-the-field earnings alone. 

Rory McIlroy admires shot

Rory McIlroy chips to the 11th green during a practice round prior to the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on May 16, 2023 in Rochester, New York. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images / Getty Images)

To break into the top 50, athletes needed to make $45.2 million total, which was set by NFL legend Tom Brady, who is now retired from the league and likely to fall off the list next year. It is yet another record on Forbes’ list. 

In all, eight different sports were represented on the list, with basketball owning the most athletes with 15. Golf came in second with 12 followed by 10 in football, six in soccer, two in boxing, two in Formula 1, two in tennis and just one in baseball. 

Cristiano Ronaldo runs

Cristiano Ronaldo running during the UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Group J match between Luxembourg and Portugal at Stade de Luxembourg on March 26, 2023 in Luxembourg. (Will Palmer/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images / Getty Images)


Serena Williams’ $45.3 million in total earnings makes her the only woman on the list as well. 

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