The COVID-19 pandemic did not slow the earnings of the elite sports stars over the past 12 months.
According to an annual list released by Forbes, the top-10 highest paid athletes across all sports grossed $1.05 billion in the past year, a 28% increase from the previous year’s top 10.
Many of the athletes earned huge portions of their income outside of the salaries from their sport in the forms of investments, endorsements and media production deals. The dollar figures below are a calculations from Forbes.
Here is a list of the 10 highest-paid athletes and how they made their money:
10. Kevin Durant, $75 million
Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant has become an active investor in the past few years.
Durant’s investment firm Thirty Five Ventures invested in Coinbase
whose April IPO saw his 2017 investment grow 53 times what it was worth then. Durant’s firm also invested in food delivery company Postmates before its sale to Uber
Durant has big earnings from his Nike
contract and his over NBA salary — he is the second-highest earning basketball player on this list.
Durant’s 2020 earnings were $31 million on the court, and $44 million off the court.
9. Tom Brady, $76 million
In his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Tom Brady won the Super Bowl. His new contract with the team brought him $45 million in on-field earnings.
The rest of Brady’s earnings came from endorsements deals with companies including Under Armour
Fanatics and eyewear maker Christopher Cloos.
Brady’s 2020 earnings were $45 million on the field, and $31 million off the field.
8. Lewis Hamilton, $82 million
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton made most of his money on the track in 2020 after winning his sixth championship in the last seven years.
Hamilton, who drives for Daimler-owned
Mercedes on the F1 circuit, has endorsements deals that include Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy and Puma.
Hamilton’s 2020 earnings were $70 million on the track, and $12 million off the track.
7. Roger Federer, $90 million
Tennis star Roger Federer had a rough 2020 from a tennis perspective. Federer had multiple injuries that precluded him from winning any tournaments.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner still had a strong year financially, as his sponsorships with companies including Rolex, Credit Suisse
and Uniqlo made him $90 million.
Federer’s $90 million in 2020 earnings were exclusively made off the tennis court.
6. Neymar, $95 million
Soccer star Neymar is the third soccer player in the top-10 highest earners of 2020. The Brazilian forward plays for French football club Paris Saint-Germain, a team who paid him $76 million in the last year.
Neymar benefits from endorsements deals with Puma and Epic Games, and has 282 million followers on Facebook
Instagram and Twitter
where athletes can earn money for sponsored posts.
Neymar’s 2020 earnings were $76 million on the field, and $19 million off the field.
5. LeBron James, $96.5 million
NBA star LeBron James had a busy 2020. He led the Los Angeles Lakers to a world championship in the NBA bubble at Disney
World and was involved in several off-court social justices causes.
In the last year, James became the highest career earner in NBA history at $346 million over his 18 seasons.
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James’s off-court endorsements include deals with Nike, Apple’s
Beats by Dre, fast-food pizza chain Blaze Pizza, and a small stake in Fenway Sports Group (FSG), which owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC.
James’s 2020 earnings were $31.5 million on the court, and $65 million off the court.
4. Dak Prescott, $107.5 million
It pays to be the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Star quarterback Dak Prescott was already making over $30 million last season from the Dallas Cowboys, but the team decided to give Prescott a contract extension in the offseason with huge lump sum payment, according to sports contract site Spotrac.
Prescott’s 2020 earnings were $97.5 million on the field, and $10 million off the field.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo, $120 million
Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the second footballer on this list, and has become a mainstay on Forbes top-10 highest earners lists over the years.
He benefits from a lifetime contract with Nike and sells his CR7 branding to many accessories, hotels and gyms.
Ronaldo’s 2020 earnings were $70 million on the field, and $50 million off the field.
2. Lionel Messi, $130 million
FC Barcelona star forward Lionel Messi is another mainstay on the top earners list from Forbes. The 33-year-old footballer is widely considered one of the greatest players ever and was the top soccer earner in the world for 2020.
Messi’s 2020 earnings were $97 million on the field, and $33 million off the field.
- Conor McGregor, $180 million
The top athlete earner of 2020 was MMA fighter Conor McGregor.
McGregor fought just one time in 2020, at UFC 257. He earned $22 million in a fight where he lost by knockout to Dustin Poirier.
The Irish fighter’s endorsement portfolio includes deals with DraftKings
the videogame Dystopia, and the lifestyle brand Roots of Fight. His biggest deal by far came when he sold his majority stake in his whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve. The deal netted the fighter well over $100 million, according to Forbes.
McGregor’s 2020 earnings were $22 million in the octagon, and $158 million out of the octagon.
All of the top-10 highest paid athletes of 2020 were men, and a majority of them (six) are not from the United States.
Forbes’ data on athlete earnings were calculated for the 12-month period between May 1, 2020, and May 1, 2021.