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The highest paid athletes in the world, in one chart

Two of the three highest-paid athletes in the world last year played soccer, and combined they made $173 million.
That’s according to a chart from, based on figures from Forbes. As you can see, the highest-paid athlete last year was Cristiano Ronaldo, a 32-year-old soccer player from Portugal who has been named the best player in the world by FIFA, the international governing body for football, for the past four years. He made $93 million — $58 million in salary and winnings and $35 million from endorsements. The second-highest paid athlete was LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who made $86.2 million last year — $55 million from endorsements. No. 3 was soccer player Lionel Messi, who made $80 million; $27 million of that was from endorsements — and half of that was from Adidas alone. All of the dollar amounts in the chart are from

The chart illustrates salary/winnings and endorsement income. Athletes from tennis and golf “tend to group up on the left side of the graph because they receive little pay from salary and winnings, but large endorsement deals,” according to, which created the chart.
An extreme example of someone who made all his money ($37 million) from endorsements last year is golfer Tiger Woods. He hasn’t competed on the PGA Tour much over the past few years as he has battled injuries and personal issues. Another athlete who made most of his money from endorsements last year is the fourth highest-paid athlete: tennis player Roger Federer. He made $64 million, mostly from endorsements. That’s because he sat out about half of last year because of injuries. His endorsements include Nike, Mercedes, Rolex, Moet & Chandon, among others.
Also see: There’s only 1 woman among the 100 highest-paid athletes
The fifth highest-paid athlete is Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who made $61 million — almost half from salary and half from endorsements. Rounding out the top 10 are NFL quarterback Andrew Luck ($50 million), golfer Rory McIlroy ($50 million), Durant’s NBA teammate Steph Curry ($47 million), Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton ($46 million), and NFL quarterback Drew Brees ($45 million).
Also see: MLS says no to promotion-and-relegation regime — and $4 billion, to boot
Though there aren’t any baseball players at the top of the graphic, many are there in the $30 million range — almost all from salary. “Some sports, like football and baseball, tend to pay more salary and winnings rather than endorsements. Football athletes frequent the top list the most,” points out.
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