The Top 10 Highest-Earning Athletes of 2023 Globally

Middle Eastern investments in golf and soccer are causing a surge in athlete earnings, with the ten raking in a whopping $1.1 billion in a single year, surpassing the previous record set in 2018. Discover about highest-earning athletes below!

Contents
#1 • $136 millionCristiano RonaldoOn-Field: $46 million | Off-Field: $90 million | Nationality: Portugal | Sport: Soccer | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes#2 • $130 millionLionel MessiOn-Field: $65 million | Off-Field: $65 million | Nationality: Argentina | Sport: Soccer | Age: 35 | highest-earning athletes#3 • $120 millionKylian MbappéOn-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $20 million | Nationality: France | Sport: Soccer | Age: 24 | highest-earning athletes#4 • $119.5 millionLeBron JamesOn-Field: $44.5 million | Off-Field: $75 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes#5 • $110 millionCanelo ÁlvarezOn-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $10 million | Nationality: Mexico | Sport: Boxing | Age: 32 | highest-earning athletes#6 • $107 millionDustin JohnsonOn-Field: $102 million | Off-Field: $5 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes#7 • $106 millionPhil MickelsonOn-Field: $104 million | Off-Field: $2 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 52 | highest-earning athletes#8 • $100.4 millionStephen CurryOn-Field: $48.4 million | Off-Field: $52 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 35 | highest-earning athletes#9 • $95.1 millionRoger FedererOn-Field: $0.1 million | Off-Field: $95 million | Nationality: Switzerland | Sport: Tennis | Age: 41 | highest-earning athletes#10 • $89.1 millionKevin DurantOn-Field: $44.1 million | Off-Field: $45 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 34 | highest-earning athletes

THE TOP TEN


#1 • $136 million

Cristiano Ronaldo

On-Field: $46 million | Off-Field: $90 million | Nationality: Portugal | Sport: Soccer | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 JOAO RICO/DEFODI IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Ronaldo left Manchester United in November and signed with Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr in January, boosting his annual playing salary to around $75 million and creating new marketing opportunities in his new location. Speculation is swirling about a potential return to Europe this summer, but for now, the salary increase has placed him at the top of the highest-earning athletes list for the first since 2017 and the third time overall, while also setting a record high for a soccer player with his total earnings reaching $136 million. Ronaldo's massive fan base of 850 million followers across Facebook, , and Twitter has made him irresistible to brands, with Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange, being one of the latest sponsors to join his team, contributing to his estimated off-field earnings of $90 million over the past year. Only three athletes in the history of Forbes' tracking have surpassed that figure in a single year: Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, and Conor McGregor.


#2 • $130 million

Lionel Messi

On-Field: $65 million | Off-Field: $65 million | Nationality: Argentina | Sport: Soccer | Age: 35 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 CATHERINE STEENKESTE/GETTY IMAGES

Messi's future has become a topic of speculation, with numerous rumors swirling around. Some suggest that he might make a sensational return to Barcelona, while others speculate that he could join forces with Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia. There are even whispers of him potentially landing in the MLS with Inter Miami. Regardless of where he ends up, one thing is for certain – his bank account will remain secure. His earnings are on par with the impressive numbers he has achieved in the last two editions of the list. Moreover, he boasts an extensive list of lucrative endorsements, including renowned brands like Adidas, Budweiser, and PepsiCo. One endorsement alone, his deal with Socios, a blockchain-based fan platform, pays him a staggering $20 million annually. With his recent triumph in leading Argentina to a World Cup victory in December, the opportunities are bound to keep pouring in. Not only that, but Messi has also ventured into the world of investments, launching his own firm called Play Time in October.



#3 • $120 million

Kylian Mbappé

On-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $20 million | Nationality: France | Sport: Soccer | Age: 24 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 MANU FERNANDEZ/AP

Mbappé, who ranked 35th on the earnings list last year, has now made an impressive debut in the top ten. What sets him apart is that he is the only member under 30 to achieve this feat. It's no surprise considering he holds the highest playing salary in the entire soccer world. His exceptional skills were evident as he narrowly missed out on a second consecutive World Cup title with France in 2022, falling just short. Additionally, he was a close runner-up to his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi for the prestigious Best FIFA Men's Player Award.

Adding to his accomplishments, Mbappé became the first player ambassador for Sorare, a cryptocurrency-based fantasy game, in June. This further solidified his status as a rising in the world of soccer. Later that summer, he showcased his growing influence by engaging in a dispute with the French Football Federation. Refusing to participate in a photo shoot with the French national team, Mbappé reportedly objected to endorsing certain brands that were under contract with the squad. In response, the federation swiftly announced its intention to revise its agreement on players' image rights, highlighting the impact Mbappé has on shaping the sport both on and off the field.


#4 • $119.5 million

LeBron James

On-Field: $44.5 million | Off-Field: $75 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 MICHAEL CONROY/AP

Today's top athletes are not just excelling in their sports, but also making waves as successful entrepreneurs and investors. James, a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, is a prime example of this entrepreneurial spirit. He made history by being the first active athlete to reach billionaire status according to Forbes. In addition to his endorsement deals, James is involved in various ventures such as the sports nutrition Ladder and the entertainment content company SpringHill. He even produced a film set at his own mansion. Furthermore, he holds a stake in Fenway Sports Group and has invested in a Major League Pickleball team. James has also shown in owning an NBA expansion team in Las Vegas. His investments range from tequila to bicycles to climate-conscious dairy products and sports apparel.


#5 • $110 million

Canelo Álvarez

On-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $10 million | Nationality: Mexico | Sport: Boxing | Age: 32 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 STEVE MARCUS/AP

Alvarez rakes in millions every time he steps into the ring, hitting it big with major fights against Dmitry Bivol and Gennadiy Golovkin in the past year. He may not have a long list of traditional endorsements, but he's partnered with Hennessy and Michelob Ultra. Recently, he joined forces with Excel Sports Management to expand his marketing deals and has ventured into entrepreneurship. Alvarez is the mastermind behind Yaoca sports drink, I Can fitness app, Canelo Energy gas station chain, his own clothing line, branded credit card, and even launched VMC canned cocktail in September.



#6 • $107 million

Dustin Johnson

On-Field: $102 million | Off-Field: $5 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 38 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES

Johnson made a bold move last May when he became the first star to join LIV Golf. His decision paid off handsomely, as he ended 2022 with an impressive $35.6 million in prize money, the highest among all players on the tour. Winning the season-long championship earned him a staggering $18 million. However, this move did come at a cost, as he lost some sponsors, including the Royal Bank of Canada. Despite this setback, Johnson emerged as the biggest earner of the year, even though he didn't make the list of 2022's top 50 highest-paid athletes.

Now, Johnson is fully focused on building the brand of 4Aces GC, the LIV team that he captains and co-owns. In recent tournaments, he proudly sported the team's logo on his shirt, replacing the Adidas logo. The financial security provided by LIV's no-cut format is also a significant advantage for Johnson. He has already accumulated an impressive $3.3 million from five LIV events in 2023. With his talent, determination, and the support of his team, Johnson is poised for continued success in the world of golf.


#7 • $106 million

Phil Mickelson

On-Field: $104 million | Off-Field: $2 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 52 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES

Mickelson, the golfer who reached the remarkable milestone of earning over $1 billion in his career before taxes last year, has experienced a decrease in sponsors since joining LIV Golf. However, he has managed to keep himself occupied off the course. Not only is he a co-founder of For Wellness, a company that produces coffee supplements, but he has also recently invested in a substantial piece of land near Phoenix. Mickelson's performance at the Masters tournament last month was truly impressive, as he finished in a tie for second place alongside his LIV Golf partner Brooks Koepka, after posting a remarkable final-round score of 65. This outstanding achievement earned him a well-deserved $1.6 million prize.


#8 • $100.4 million

Stephen Curry

On-Field: $48.4 million | Off-Field: $52 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 35 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

Version 1: After securing his fourth NBA championship last June, Curry's success continues to soar as he enters the realm of earning over $100 million in a single year. With a staggering salary of $48.1 million, he claimed the title of the NBA's highest earner this season. However, his financial triumph doesn't stop there. In 2023-24, Curry is set to become the league's first-ever $50 million , with a projected income of $51.9 million. Despite facing a setback when FTX collapsed, resulting in the loss of a major sponsor, Curry has managed to bounce back impressively. He recently signed a lucrative long-term extension with Under Armour, ensuring his partnership extends beyond his retirement from basketball. Additionally, he has forged a new alliance with Chase Bank. Not only is Curry excelling on the court, but he is also making waves off the court. His multimedia company, Unanimous Media, is involved in producing a captivating documentary about his life, scheduled to premiere on Apple TV+ in July. Furthermore, he has exciting plans for the future, as he gears up to launch a captivating graphic novel series next year. Expanding his horizons, Curry has made strategic investments in the VR platform Golf+ and TMRW Sports, a startup co-founded by golf legends Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, which aims to revolutionize the world of golf with cutting-edge technology. Curry's journey is a testament to his unwavering determination and entrepreneurial spirit.



#9 • $95.1 million

Roger Federer

On-Field: $0.1 million | Off-Field: $95 million | Nationality: Switzerland | Sport: Tennis | Age: 41 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY IMAGES FOR LAVER CUP

Federer made the decision to retire from professional tennis in September and bid farewell to the sport after participating in a final match alongside Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup, the prestigious team tournament he played a pivotal role in establishing back in 2017. As he embarks on his new journey, it's worth noting that his extensive list of loyal partners remains unchanged. Just recently, he delighted his fans by revealing a licensing agreement for his RF brand with the renowned eyewear manufacturer, Oliver Peoples. Additionally, he holds a substantial stake in the rapidly expanding Swiss shoe company, On.


#10 • $89.1 million

Kevin Durant

On-Field: $44.1 million | Off-Field: $45 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 34 | highest-earning athletes

highest-earning athletes
 HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES

Durant made a move from the Brooklyn Nets to the Phoenix Suns back in February, but his business ventures have been just as impressive as his on-court skills. His investment firm, 35V, has acquired interests in various sports entities such as the Premier Lacrosse League, Happy Viking nutrition brand, League One Volleyball, Athletes Unlimited women's sports league network, a Major League Pickleball team, Mitchell & Ness label by Fanatics, Goldenset Collective digital creator business, ScorePlay sports software startup, and Tiger Woods' TMRW Sports – all within the past ten months. Additionally, he has a flourishing media presence with Boardroom and holds one of the NBA's most lucrative sneaker deals with Nike, which was recently upgraded to a lifetime contract. Notably, only Michael Jordan and LeBron James have also secured lifetime deals with the renowned shoemaker.



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