highest paid athletes

It’s no secret that being an athlete can be incredibly lucrative. Negotiating top contracts, securing lucrative brand partnerships, and engaging in public appearances all contribute to a continuous stream of income for these professionals.

Forbes magazine has recently unveiled its roster of the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world. This list sheds light on their earnings not just from their respective sports teams, but also from ventures beyond the playing field.

This year’s compilation is notably shaped by the significant influence of Saudi Arabia, which introduced the LIV Golf tour and successfully enticed star players away from the PGA with impressive financial incentives.

Furthermore, Saudi soccer team Al Nassr replicated this approach by signing Cristiano Ronaldo to a substantial contract. Without further ado, here is the current lineup of the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world.

Below is the list of Top 10 highest paid athletes in the world:

Sr. No.Athlete NameEarning (USD) NationalitySport
1Cristiano Ronaldo$136 millionPortugalSoccer
2Lionel Messi$130 millionArgentinaSoccer
3Kylian Mbappé$120 millionFranceSoccer
4LeBron James$119.5 millionU.S.Basketball
5Canelo Álvarez$110 millionMexicoBoxing
6Dustin Johnson$107 millionU.S.Golf
7Phil Mickelson$106 millionU.S.Golf
8Stephen Curry$100.4 millionU.S.Basketball
9Roger Federer$95.1 millionSwitzerlandTennis
10Kevin Durant$89.1 millionU.S.Basketball

Below is the detail of the Top 10 highest paid athletes in the world: 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo ($136 million)   

The transfer of Ronaldo from Manchester United to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in January marked a pivotal moment that catapulted his annual playing salary to an astonishing estimated $75 million. This meteoric rise propelled him to the pinnacle of the athlete earnings list, a position he hadn’t held since 2017.

This achievement, his third overall, shattered records in the football world, setting an unprecedented all-time high of $136 million in total earnings. This makes him one of the highest paid athletes in the world.

At 28 years old, Ronaldo’s influence extends beyond the pitch, boasting an immense fan base of 850 million followers across major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This vast and fervent following has made him a sought-after figure for top brands, solidifying his position as an iconic figure that transcends sports.

2. Lionel Messi ($130 million)

Similarly, Lionel Messi’s standing as one of the highest paid football players remains unshaken, with earnings of $65 million both on and off the field. His remarkable stature translates into a staggering total of $130 million. Notably, his recent triumph with Argentina at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar has further propelled his appeal, presenting a plethora of opportunities for lucrative endorsements.

3. Kylian Mbappé ($120 million)

Kylian Mbappe, on the other hand, has stormed onto the top earners list, debuting among the elite with a grand total of $120 million. Remarkably, he stands as the sole member under 30 in this distinguished group. With on-field earnings surpassing even the likes of Ronaldo and Messi, amounting to $100 million, Mbappe’s ascent is nothing short of remarkable.

4. LeBron James ($119.5 million)

LeBron James, in June, etched his name in history by becoming the first active athlete to secure Forbes’ billionaire certification. Beyond his prowess on the basketball court, the Los Angeles Lakers forward has seized the mantle of entrepreneur, spearheading ventures such as the sports nutrition company Ladder and the SpringHill company.

His remarkable investments extend to a notable stake in the Fenway Sports Group, along with a recent foray into the ownership of a Major League Pickleball team, adding layers to his already impressive portfolio.

5. Canelo Álvarez ($110 million)

Meanwhile, Canelo Álvarez, the 32-year-old boxer, stands as an active and enterprising figure. His ventures include being the driving force behind Yaoca, a sports drink maker, and the fitness app I Can. Further expanding his business horizons, Canelo possesses a chain of gas stations under the moniker Canelo Energy.

Additionally, he has ventured into the realms of fashion with his own clothing line and even boasts a branded credit card. These achievements spotlight his diverse entrepreneurial endeavours, alongside his prowess in the boxing arena.

6. Dustin Johnson ($107 million) 

While Johnson’s shift to Saudi-backed LIV Golf might have led to the loss of certain sponsors, his earnings in prize money emerged as a silver lining, securing his status as the most significant gainer of the year among the highest paid athletes. 

7. Phil Mickelson ($106 million)

As one of the most distinguished golfers in history, Mickelson’s legacy shines bright with five major championship victories, accompanied by his roles as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. His performance at the 2023 Masters Tournament showcased his enduring prowess, adding yet another feather to his illustrious cap.

8. Stephen Curry ($100.4 million)

Stephen Curry, in a groundbreaking achievement, entered the realm of athletes earning over $100 million in a single year. His on-court success was mirrored in his NBA-high salary of $48.1 million for the season.

Beyond the court, Curry solidified his financial prowess by sealing a substantial extension with Under Armour and forming a strategic partnership with Chase Bank. His entrepreneurial spirit shone through investments in the VR platform Golf+ and TMRW Sports, reflecting a multifaceted approach to success.

9. Roger Federer ($95.1 million)

With his retirement from professional tennis, Federer embarked on a new chapter, marked by a licensing agreement for his RF brand with the esteemed eyewear maker Oliver Peoples. This strategic move underlines his transition from a player to an entrepreneur, leveraging his iconic brand to explore novel avenues.

10. Kevin Durant ($89.1 million)

Kevin Durant, affectionately known as KD, has not only earned recognition on the basketball court with the Phoenix Suns but has also demonstrated an astute investing acumen.

Through his investing entity 35V, he has secured stakes in diverse sports labels. His association with Nike has reached new heights with a lifetime contract, a privilege shared by luminaries like Michael Jordan and LeBron James.


In a world where athletic excellence intersects with business acumen, these highest paid athletes redefine the boundaries of success, demonstrating that their influence extends well beyond their respective fields.

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