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

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