Top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world (updated for 2024)

Top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world (updated for 2024)

It is no longer a secret that professional athletes are some of the highest earning individuals in the world. Some earn seven digits with a few hours of playing a day, guaranteed by contracts signed between them and professional sports teams. But, of course, it has taken hours of practice and a lifetime's worth of dedication for the highest paid athletes to be where they are today. Check out this article to see how hard work pays off.

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Here are the top 50 highest-paid athletes. Photo: Megan Briggs, Khalid Alhaj, Brian Lawless, Tom Szczerbowski via Getty Images (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Success in sports translates to huge salaries and endorsements. It is from these, coupled with investments, that athletes can attain large net worths.

Who are the highest-paid athletes in the world?

From football legends to basketball stars and golf greats, these are the highest-paid athletes:

1. Lionel Messi ($130 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Lionel's annual salary is estimated at $41 million. Photo: Aurelien Meunier
Source: Getty Images

Messi is an Argentinian-born professional athlete often regarded as the best soccer player worldwide. He has endorsement deals with several high-profile, including Huawei, Adidas and PepsiCo.

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2. LeBron James ($121.2 million)

Highest-paid female athletes
In 2023, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, and Nike joined James' list of brand endorsements. Photo: Ronald Martinez
Source: Getty Images

Commonly known as King James, LeBron is a professional basketball player playing for Los Angeles Lakers. He is a four-time NBA MVP regarded by some as the greatest basketball player ever.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo ($115 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
With over 800 career goals, Ronaldo is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players ever. Photo: Khalid Alhaj
Source: Getty Images

Ronaldo is a professional Portuguese soccer player currently a centre forward for Saudi Arabia club Al-Nassir FC. He is sponsored by famous brands like Nike, Tag Heuer and Herbalife.

4. Neymar ($95 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
Neymar is a forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team. Photo: DeFodi Images
Source: Getty Images

The Brazilian player earns $70 million on the field and $25 million off the field. With this, he is regarded as one of the highest-paid sports players globally.

5. Stephen Curry ($92.8 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Curry is the son of former NBA player Dell Curry. Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan
Source: Getty Images

Stephen is an American professional basketballer who plays for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. He has won four NBA Finals MVP Awards and an NBA All-Star Game MVP Award.

6. Kevin Durant ($92.1 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Kevin's off-the-field $50 million earnings provided a cushion for him when he was not actively playing. Photo: Glenn James
Source: Getty Images

After suffering an injury that left him on the bench for the 2019 season, the NBA star is back on the pitch in 2023.

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7. Roger Federer ($90.7 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Roger Federer is a former Swiss professional tennis player. Photo: Jun Sato
Source: Getty Images

The tennis star ranks as the highest-paid athlete off the court. He is the brand ambassador for Rolex and Uniqlo.

8. Canelo Alvarez ($90 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
In 2018, the boxer agreed to a deal to the tune of $365 million with DAZN. Photo: Manuel Velasquez
Source: Getty Images

Canelo is a professional boxer who made his career debut at the age of 13. Currently, he stands as the athlete with the highest on-the-field earnings.

9. Tom Brady ($83.9 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Tom spent his first 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. Photo: Axelle
Source: Getty Images

The former American football quarterback played for NFL for 23 seasons. During this time, he accumulated a bulk of wealth and is therefore regarded as one of the wealthiest athletes in the world.

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($80.9 million)

Highest sports salaries
Antetokounmpo's country of origin, size, speed, strength, and ball-handling skills have earned him the nickname Greek Freak. Photo: John Fisher
Source: Getty Images

Giannis is a Greek-Nigerian basketball player best known as one of the most incredible power forwards ever.

11. Russel Westbrook ($79.2 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Russel is a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Photo: Alika Jenner
Source: Getty Images

Russel is an American NBA star who earns $44.2 million on the field and $35 million off the field. He plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.

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12. James Harden ($74.4 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Harden is regarded as one of the greatest scorers and shooting guards in NBA history. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

Professional basketball player James is well known as one the greatest scorers and shooting guards in NBA history. He was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

13. Mathew Stafford ($72.3 million)

Wealthiest athletes in the world
John Matthew Stafford is an American football quarterback. Photo: Steph Chambers
Source: Getty Images

The professional football player is ranked as the fastest NFL star to reach 40,000 passing yards. He currently plays for the Detroit Lions.

14. Aaron Rodgers ($68 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
In 2018, the star quarterback purchased a minority stake in the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. Photo: Tracy Wilcox
Source: Getty Images

With an on-the-field earning of $68 million, Aaron is regarded as one of the highest-paid American football quarterbacks. He has also bagged several brand endorsements, such as Izod, Pizza Hut, Adidas and Sharpie.

15. Tiger Woods ($68 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Tiger Woods is an American professional golfer. Photo: Harry How
Source: Getty Images

The talented golfer made his career debut at 20 and since then has won numerous golf records. He is also an inductee of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

16. Josh Allen ($67 million)

Highest-paid female athletes
In 2024, Allen will earn an annual salary of $108 million. Photo: Timothy T Ludwig
Source: Getty Images

As an American football quarterback, Josh was selected seventh overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 Draft. He earns $63 million on the field and $4 million on the pitch.

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17. Lewis Hamilton ($65 million)

Highest-paid female athletes
Lewis competes in Formula One, driving for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Photo: Dan Istitene
Source: Getty Images

In 2018, the British race driver became the first Black driver to win the F1 world drivers' championship. He has been endorsed by brands such as Monster Energy and Sony, thanks to his professional success.

18. Tyson Fury ($62 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
Fury is ranked as the world's best active heavyweight by ESPN. Photo: Alex Livesey
Source: Getty Images

Fury is an English professional boxer who currently stands as the WBC heavyweight champion, having held the title in 2020.

19. Naomi Osaka ($59.2 million)

Highest-paid female athletes
Osaka is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles. Photo: Robert Prange
Source: Getty Images

Although Osaka ranks as one of the highest-paid female athletes, her career has been through ups and downs. For a long time, Naomi has struggled with anxiety and depression.

20. Damian Lillard ($57.4 million)

Highest-paid female athletes
Damian earns $39.4 million on the pitch and $18 million off the pitch. Photo: Alika Jenner
Source: Getty Images

The American basketballer plays for the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA.

21. Deshaun Watson ($55.6 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Deshaun Watson played college football at Clemson, where he led the team to a national championship in 2016. Photo: Scott Taetsch
Source: Getty Images

The NFL star inked a $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, making him the highest-paid NFL player ever. An $8.21 million signing bonus accompanied the contract.

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22. Klay Thompson ($55 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Klay was the 11th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan
Source: Getty Images

The American basketballer is a four-time NBA champion with the Warriors. In addition, he is a two-time All-NBA Third Team honoree and was once named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

23. Mike Trout ($49.5 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Mike's on-the-field earnings are estimated at 35.5 million. Photo: Megan Briggs
Source: Getty Images

The baseball centre fielder currently plays for the Los Angeles Angels of MLB. In 2022, he was diagnosed with costovertebral dysfunction, a rare back disorder.

24. Patrick Mahomes ($49.1 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Mahomes initially played college football and baseball at Texas Tech University. Photo: Carmen Mandato
Source: Getty Images

At 24, the American football quarterback became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP. In 2020, he signed a contract with Kansas City Chiefs, which ties him to the team through the 2031 season.

25. Kirk Cousins ($48.5 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Kirk was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Photo: Stephen Maturen
Source: Getty Images

Kirk is an American football quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. He inked the three-year deal with the team in 2018.

26. Jimmy Butler ($48 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
The Miami Heat are Butler's fourth team since the Chicago Bulls selected him in the 2011 NBA Draft. Photo: Nic Antaya
Source: Getty Images

Jimmy's off-the-field earnings are estimated at $12 million. He currently plays for the Miami Heat of the NBA.

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27. Max Verstappen ($48 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Max competes under the Dutch flag in Formula One with Red Bull Racing. Photo: Dan Istitene
Source: Getty Images

Surprisingly, the Dutch racing driver has one of the lowest off-the-field earnings. However, he has been endorsed by brands such as Red Bull.

28. Paul George ($47.9 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
George played high school basketball for Knight High School. Photo: Sam Forencich
Source: Getty Images

The talented basketballer plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.

29. Anthony Davis ($45.4 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
Anthony Marshon Davis Jr. is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo: Adam Pantozzi
Source: Getty Images

The NBA star pockets a handsome amount from various world-renowned brands. He is the ambassador of companies such as Ruffles and Beats Electronic.

30. Kawhi Leonard ($45.4 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
A two-time NBA champion, he is a five-time All-Star with three All-NBA First Team selections. Photo: Alika Jenner
Source: Getty Images

Leonard earns $39.4 million on the court and $6 million off the court. Currently, he plays for the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA.

31. Phil Mickelson ($46.3 million)

Wealthiest athletes in the world
Phil has won 45 events on the PGA Tour. Photo: Luke Walker
Source: Getty Images

Phil is an American golfer who plays for LIV Golf. He has won six major championships, three Masters titles and one Open Championship.

32. Serena Williams ($45.3 million)

Highest sports salaries
Williams is considered among the greatest tennis players of all time. Photo: Jean Catuffe
Source: Getty Images

On the field, the renowned tennis player earns $300k. Interestingly, she makes $45 million off the court.

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33. Mohammed Salah ($45 million)

Highest-paid sports player
In 2023, Mohammed became Liverpool's Premier League top goalscorer. Photo: Jonathan Moscrop
Source: Getty Images

Salah is an Egyptian soccer player who plays as a forward for Liverpool and captains the Egypt national team. He is well known for his speed, dribbling and finishing.

34. John Wall ($44.8 million)

Highest-paid sports player
John is an American professional basketball player. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein
Source: Getty Images

In 2017, the NBA star signed a four-year, $170 million contract with the Wizards. He is Adidas' brand ambassador.

35. Kylian Mbappe ($43 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Kylian is renowned for his dribbling abilities, exceptional speed, and finishing. Photo: Eurasia Sport Images
Source: Getty Images

The French professional footballer plays for the Ligue I club, Paris Saint-Germain and captains the France national team.

36. Conor McGregor ($43 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Conor is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight double-champion. Photo: Brian Lawless
Source: Getty Images

Conor is a famous Irish boxer who is the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold UFC championships in two weight classes. He earns $10 million.

37. Rory McIlroy ($41.5 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
McIlroy has represented Europe, Great Britain & Ireland, and Ireland as both an amateur and a professional. Photo: Harry How
Source: Getty Images

The professional golfer is a member of the PGA Tours. His prowess on the pitch has earned him the number-one spot in the official world golf rankings.

38. Marshon Lattimore ($40.9 million)

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Highest-paid sports player
Lattimore attended Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Vincent Mignott
Source: Getty Images

Marshon played college football at Ohio State and was drafted by the Saints 11th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He plays as the team's cornerback.

39. Devin Booker ($39.9 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Devin was selected in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft as the 13th overall pick. Photo: Chris Coduto
Source: Getty Images

The basketball player signed a four-year, $224 million deal with The Phoenix Suns in 2022.

40. Joel Embiid ($39.7 million)

Wealthiest athletes in the world
Joel Hans Embiid is a Cameroonian professional basketball player. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

The NBA star earns $31.7 million on the court and $8 million off the field. He was drafted third overall by the 76ers in the 2014 NBA Draft.

41. Amari Cooper ($39.4 million)

Wealthiest athletes in the world
Amari played college football at Alabama. Photo: Kevin Sabitus
Source: Getty Images

Cooper is an American football wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. While playing college football, he received a Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver and a unanimous All-American in 2014.

42. Dak Prescott ($39.4 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Prescott is an American football quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Photo: Cooper Neill
Source: Getty Images

With his $27.4 million on-the-field earnings, the football sensation ranks as one of the athletes receiving the highest sports salaries. In addition, he earns $12 million off the court.

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43. Chris Paul ($39.1 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Paul was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets. Photo: Chris Coduto
Source: Getty Images

The professional basketballer plays for the Phoenix Suns. He earned the nickname The Point God due to his abilities on the pitch.

44. Ryan Ramczyk ($38.8 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Ryan plays for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League. Photo: Tom Szczerbowski
Source: Getty Images

The Saints drafted the American football offensive tackle in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He signed a five-year $96 million extension contract with the team in 2021.

45. Stefon Diggs ($38.7 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Stefon Marsean Diggs is an American football wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. Photo: Michael Owens
Source: Getty Images

Thanks to his natural talent as a player, the sportsman was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

46. Jake Paul ($38 million)

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?
Jake Joseph Paul is an American social media personality and professional boxer. Photo: Francois Nel
Source: Getty Images

The famous YouTuber and professional martial artist earns $30 million on the field and $8 million off the field.

47. Kemba Walker ($38 million)

Who are the top 10 highest-paid athletes?
Kemba played college basketball for the Connecticut Huskies. Photo: David Berding
Source: Getty Images

The basketball star played for the Dallas Mavericks after being selected ninth overall in the 2011 Draft. He played college basketball for Connecticut.

48. Russel Wilson ($38 million)

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Highest-paid athletes in the world
Russell Carrington Wilson is an American football quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. Photo: Steve Granitz
Source: Getty Images

The talented football sensation bags $24 million on the pitch and $14 million off the field.

49. Bradley Beal ($37.7 million)

Highest-paid athletes in the world
Beal is an American professional basketball player for the Washington Wizards. Photo: G Fiume
Source: Getty Images

The famous basketball player promotes well-known companies, including Panini, Verizon, Tissot and PepsiCo, in addition to Nike's line of clothing and footwear.

50. T.J. Watt ($37.6 million)

Highest-paid sports player
Watt's older brothers are J. J. Watt and Derek Watt. Photo: Michael Owens
Source: Getty Images

Watt is an American football outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played at Wisconsin and was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Who is the most-paid athlete in the world?

With earnings of $75 million on the field and $55 million off the field, Lionel Messi is the highest-paid athlete in the world.

This article has everything you need to know about the highest-paid athletes. It is no surprise these athletes are paid millions, as they are talented and put in the work to create a name for themselves in the lucrative sports industry.

Highest-paid athletes in the world
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: Original

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Authors:
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Ruth Gitonga (Lifestyle writer) Ruth Gitonga has a background experience in Mass Communication for over six years. She graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Mass Communication in December 2014. In 2023, Ruth finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. She has worked for Briefly.co.za for five years now. She specializes in topics like lifestyle, entertainment, travel, technology, and sports. Email: gitongaruth14@gmail.com.

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