David Beckham
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The Highest-Paid Sports Stars of All Time

View Slideshow
David Beckham
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Biggest Paychecks in Sports

From basketball and football to soccer and tennis, professional athletes receive pretty hefty contracts when they sign on with their respective teams. Adding in extra endorsements and business ventures can make all the difference, too, with many of sports’ biggest names earning hundreds of millions of dollars (or more). Check out some of the highest-paid sports stars below — including tennis legend Roger Federer who just announced his plan to retire from the sport — and let us know in the comments if we left anyone out.


Related: Sports Collectibles That Scored Big at Auction

Michael Jordan
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Michael Jordan

Without even knowing the breakdown of his career earnings and additional revenue, most people would probably say “Michael Jordan” when asked who they think the highest-paid sports star of all-time is, and they would be right. Between being a slam dunking legend for the Chicago Bulls, an expansive and coveted line of sneakers, “Space Jam,” and a laundry list of other endeavors, Jordan’s career earnings surpass $2 billion.


Related: The Most Lopsided Victories in Sports History

Tiger Woods
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tiger Woods

As arguably the biggest name in golf, it’s no surprise that Tiger Woods is the highest earner the sport has ever seen. Woods has played in 22 PGA Championship tournaments, with four wins, amounting to $126 million worth of prize money. Of course, Woods has had his fair share of endorsements, too, from big-name companies like Nike and Bridgestone. With overall earnings tipping $1.7 billion, Woods is the second-richest athlete in the world.


Related:17 Biggest American Sports Scandals

Arnold Palmer
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Arnold Palmer

During his 50-year golf career, Arnold Palmer earned around $3.6 million, which is chump change in the sport today. But what Palmer didn’t earn on the course, he made up for (and then some) with endorsements, golf apparel, and — of course — the famous Arizona Arnold Palmer drink (a mixture of iced tea and lemonade), amounting to earnings around $1.35 billion according to Men’s Journal.

Floyd Mayweather
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Floyd Mayweather

Legendary boxer Flloyd Mayweather has been on the winning side of some of the most notorious matches the sport has ever seen — with the most expensive purses. Between his 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao and his 2017 brawl with Conor McGregor, Mayweather raked in around $500 million. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — the boxer has made more than $1 billion throughout his career.

Jack Nicklaus
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jack Nicklaus

“The Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus won nearly 120 tournaments during his golf career, making a pretty good living. But the real loot came in thanks to his golf course design company (which is responsible for more than 400 courses around the world) and a lucrative business empire. The former golfer’s earnings linger around $1 billion.

Kobe Bryant
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant

On the court, basketball legend Kobe Bryant racked up $323 million, but like most of the richest athletes of all-time, most of Bryant’s fortune came from his business moves. From sneakers to apparel, Bryant didn’t shy away from opportunities to feed his bank account. Notably, in 2014, the basketball player invested $6 million in the sports drink company BodyArmour, with big plans to become the next Gatorade. The deal might have been his smartest investment ever because when Coca-Cola purchased BodyArmour in 2021, Bryant’s estate earned around $400 million.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo

In addition to being the most-followed person on Instagram (455 million followers, to be exact), Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is the current third-highest paid athlete in the world earning $115 million per year, according to Forbes. In 2020, Ronaldo became the first active team-sport athlete to earn more than $1 billion.

LeBron James
Cassy Athena/Getty

LeBron James

Widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, LeBron James recently became the NBA’s highest paid player, too — he just signed a $97.1 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, guaranteeing him $528.9 million for his career. Plus, James has lucrative endorsements with brands like Coca-Cola and Beats by Dre, contributing to his fortune, which is in excess of $1 million.

Lionel Messi
Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Lionel Messi

According to Forbes’ annual report, Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi is currently the highest paid athlete in the world, earning about $130 million per year. While many athletes bring most of their money in from their endorsements and business ventures, Messi actually earns more on the field than he does off, with $75 million of his earnings coming directly from soccer.

Michael Schumacher
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Michael Schumacher

After a 2013 skiing accident in the French Alps left Michael Schumacher in a coma for six months, the former Formula 1 race car driver continued to live a low-profile life outside of the public eye, with his current medical condition almost entirely unknown. What we do know about the racing legend is that he has been considered one of the highest-earning athletes for more than three decades.

Roger Federer
Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

Roger Federer

Tennis star Roger Federer might not quite crack $1 million for his on-the-court earnings thanks to injuries that have left him unable to compete as much as he used to, leading to his retirement announcement after a 24-year career, but that hasn’t stopped him from sinking his teeth into some lucrative brand partnerships with companies like Rolex and Uniqlo, rocketing his earnings to $90.7 million.

Phil Mickelson
Charles Laberge/LIV Golf/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson

Throughout his 30-year (and counting) golf career, Phil Mickelson has earned an estimated $925 million. When he won the PGA Championship in 2021, he became the oldest golfer to ever do so and as if that was the only accomplishment left for him to grab onto within the PGA Tour, “Lefty” joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series — basically the PGA Tour’s arch nemesis — and the talk around town has been that the player is poised to earn around $200 million from the switch, making him the second golfer to secure a billion-dollar fortune.

Shaquille O'Neal
Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images

Shaquille O'Neal

What haven’t we seen Shaq’s face on? From IcyHot to Oreos, the larger-than-life basketball star’s list of endorsements is probably the most extensive in sports — so much so that the NBA legend turned down a $40 million Reebok deal after a woman scolded him for selling shoes that were too expensive for kids to afford. On the Full Send podcast, O’Neal said that the encounter inspired him to start the Shaq sneaker brand, selling shoes between the $19-$29 price range at his self-proclaimed favorite store: Walmart. The move ended up being quite lucrative with around 400 million sneakers sold, contributing to O’Neal’s career earnings of about $735 million.

Mike Tyson
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Mike Tyson

As the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing, Mike Tyson is one of the most notorious athletes the sport has ever seen, and one of the most well-compensated, to boot. Tyson amassed around $500 million throughout his career and all but blew every cent of it on frivolous purchases, including three tigers, which cost $1,500 a day to feed.

David Beckham
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

David Beckham

Victoria Beckham isn’t the only posh aspect of David Beckham’s life — the soccer player is one of the highest paid men in the sport. Beckham was certainly successful on the field, but has continued to secure his fortune during retirement through alcohol endorsements, fashion expenditures, and a cologne line, amounting to career earnings teetering around $800 million.

Alex Rodriguez
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez

With career earnings reaching nearly $400 million, Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid baseball player of all time. The former Yankee shortstop and third baseman was notoriously engaged to Jennifer Lopez, who he proposed to with a $5 million dollar ring. The nearly-billionaire couple even planned to buy the New York Mets before their split.

Jeff Gordon
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Jeff Gordon

Between his race winnings and endorsements, Jeff Gordon is one of the highest paid and most well-known NASCAR drivers. Gordon — who won an astounding 93 races during his career — has had deals with big-name companies like Frito-Lay, Ray-Ban, and Pepsico, landing his overall earnings around $515 million.

Tom Brady
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Tom Brady

Widely regarded as the ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time), Tom Brady has a Super Bowl ring for nearly every finger, and more than $300 million for his total career earnings. Currently, the quarterback — who is starting his 23rd season in the NFL — is the highest paid football player with on-field earnings just below $32 million and an additional $52 million in outside endeavors, including a slew of endorsements with brands including Under Armour and Hertz. Although his retirement has been put on hold, Brady does have a post-retirement gig waiting for him as a commentator for Fox Sports — a gig that will pay him more in ten years than he earned during every season he played combined.