10 Highest Paid Athletes And How They Made Their Money

The Forbes Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes list had a record four $100 million earners for the period of May 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The previous three years contained three $100 million earners. The $1.05 billion earned by this year's top 10 was up 28% from last year's and came close to the $1.06 record in 2018.

Here is a look at the top 10 highest-paid athletes in the last 12 months and how they made their money.

1. Conor McGregor: UFC fighter McGregor made $180 million in the last year, led by $158 million earnings outside his salary from Endeavor Group Holdings EDR, the parent of the UFC that recently went public. McGregor sold a majority stake in whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve for $150 million. McGregor has endorsement deals with DraftKings DKNG and other companies. He tops the list with only one fight taking place in the last 12 months, a loss to Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23, 2021.

2. Lionel Messi: The soccer player earned $130 million in the last year, led by $97 million from soccer and $33 million in off-field activities. Messi has a large endorsement deal with Adidas ADDYY. The superstar’s contract expires in June but reports have said a record-breaking $674 million contract renewal with Barcelona could be coming.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo: The most followed athlete on social media with over 500 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juventus Football Club JVTSF star had earnings of $120 million last year, with $70 million from soccer and $50 million in off-field activities. He has a lifetime deal with Nike Inc NKE. Ronaldo’s contract expires in 2022, which could lead to him climbing up further the list with a new deal.

4. Dak Prescott: The quarterback for the world’s most valuable sports team, the Dallas Cowboys, breaks the record for this list for an NFL player with $107.5 million in earnings. Prescott had a signing bonus of $66 million that helped his on-field earnings of $97.5 million. Prescott had $10 million in off-field earnings with endorsements from companies like Sleep Number Corp SNBR, DirecTV and 7/11.

Related Link: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Tom Brady 

5. LeBron James: The NBA superstar had earnings of $96.5 million in the past year, setting the record for an NBA player on the list. James earned $31.5 million on the court and $65 million off. He  left Coca-Cola KO for rival PepsiCo PEP in a new endorsement deal. James purchased a stake in Fenway Sports Group, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool and other sports assets. James is set to star in “Space Jam: A New Legacy” from AT&T Inc T.

6. Neymar: Soccer star Neymar earned $95 million last year with $76 million coming from on-field earnings. Neymar left Nike to join Puma in a large endorsement deal and a new signature shoe launch. A Neymar skin was also featured in popular game Fortnite, a unit of Tencent Holdings TCEHY company Epic Games.

7. Roger Federer: Tennis legend Federer earned $90 million in the last year, all from off-field activities due to a knee injury. Federer has endorsements from Rolex, Credit Suisse Group CS and Uniqlo. Federer could be in for a big payday in the next year with Swiss apparel company On, which Federer has equity in, nearing an IPO.

8. Lewis Hamilton: Formula One Group FWONA driver Lewis Hamilton collected his sixth championship in seven seasons in 2020. The driver had earnings of $82 million with the majority coming from the sport and win bonuses. Hamilton has endorsements with Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Beverage Corp MNST and Puma.

9. Tom Brady: The NFL legend collected another Super Bowl win after moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady earned $76 million last year. The quarterback has endorsements with eyewear brand Christopher Cloos and Fanatics.

10. Kevin Durant: Durant had earnings of $75 million last year. He has been growing his involvement in investing in companies through his Thirty Five Venture. Durant also saw a gain from the buyout of Postmates by Uber Technologies UBER. Durant took a $1 million stake in Postmates in 2016.

Image Credit: By Andrius Petrucenia (UFC 189 World Tour Aldo vs. McGregor London 2015), via Wikimedia Commons

Posted In: Conor McGregorCristiano RonaldoDak PrescottForbesFormula OneKevin DurantLeBron JamesLewis HamiltonLionel MessiNBANeymarnflRoger FedererTom BradyufcNewsPenny StocksSmall CapSportsGeneral

Ad Disclosure: The rate information is obtained by Bankrate from the listed institutions. Bankrate cannot guaranty the accuracy or availability of any rates shown above. Institutions may have different rates on their own websites than those posted on Bankrate.com. The listings that appear on this page are from companies from which this website receives compensation, which may impact how, where, and in what order products appear. This table does not include all companies or all available products.

All rates are subject to change without notice and may vary depending on location. These quotes are from banks, thrifts, and credit unions, some of whom have paid for a link to their own Web site where you can find additional information. Those with a paid link are our Advertisers. Those without a paid link are listings we obtain to improve the consumer shopping experience and are not Advertisers. To receive the Bankrate.com rate from an Advertiser, please identify yourself as a Bankrate customer. Bank and thrift deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Credit union deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Consumer Satisfaction: Bankrate attempts to verify the accuracy and availability of its Advertisers' terms through its quality assurance process and requires Advertisers to agree to our Terms and Conditions and to adhere to our Quality Control Program. If you believe that you have received an inaccurate quote or are otherwise not satisfied with the services provided to you by the institution you choose, please click here.

Rate collection and criteria: Click here for more information on rate collection and criteria.