When we are kids we play our favorite sport because it's fun and we want to play with our friends. As we get older, for many it remains fun, but the reason behind playing changes. Maybe we need an after school activity to help keep us out of trouble. Maybe it is the only way we can get into college and get it paid for. Maybe it is the only way we can escape a life of poverty.
Whatever the reason for playing most hope that the game is still fun, however long they play it. Many talk about walking away when it no longer is, but it is not unusual for some to keep going because they like the paycheck. When you consider the size of the paycheck, it is not hard to understand why they keep playing.
Here are the top 25 earners in the wide world of sports for 2014-15:
- Floyd Mayweather $300 million (boxing)
- Manny Pacquiao $160 million (boxing)
- Cristiano Ronaldo $80 million (soccer)
- Lionel Messi $74 million (soccer)
- Roger Federer $67m (tennis)
- Lebron James $65m (nba)
- Kevin Durant $52m (nba)
- Phil Mickelson $52m (golf)
- Tiger Woods $50 mi (golf)
- Kobe Bryant $50 m (nba)
- Ben Roethlisberger $49m (football)
- Rory McIlroy $48m (golf)
- Novak Djokovik $48m (tennis)
- Lewis Hamilton $39m
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic $39m (soccer)
- Ndamukong Suh $38.5m (football)
- Fernando Alonso $35m (F1)
- Gareth Bale – $35million (soccer)
- Jon Lester $34m (baseball)
- Derrick Rose $34 (nba)
- Sebastian Vettel $33m (F1)
- Rafael Nadal $32m (tennis)
- Mahendra Singh Dhoni – $31m (cricket)
- Neymar $31m (soccer)
- Carmelo Anthony $30m (nba)
With the kind of paydays he is getting nowadays you would think Floyd Mayweather would fight till he can't fight anymore. He says it isn't fun anymore and his next fight will be his last. So if he sticks to his word we will actually have a new number one next year.
Americans may find the list a little surprising. In the United States the sports world starts and stops on the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and college sports. With the money that is made in the four major professional sports you would think that more of the top 25 in the world would have been from either the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.
There actually isn't a single representative from the NHL in the top 25; top 100 either. Baseball has just one in the top 25 (Cubs pitcher Jon Lester; $34.1 million), but it has 27 total in the top 100. The NBA could have a few more entries in the years to come when the salary cap explodes, but for now basketball has five in the top 25 (18 total in the top 100); the most of the four major North American sports. No one in the NFL cracked the top 10, but Ben Roethlisberger sits at No. 11 ($48.9 million); the biggest earner of the 16 football players that made the top 100.
There isn't much in the way of women's sports which is why it is not surprising that not a single woman cracked the top 25. There were two in the top 100; both tennis players—Maria Sharapova ($29.7 million; No. 26) and Serena Williams ($24.6 million; No. 47).
What about Endorsements?
If you only look at what athletes bring in via endorsements the top 10 lists does not change a lot, but who is on it may be surprising. You would think that a star in one of the major North American sports would be on top, but that is not the case. The No. 1 endorsement earner is tennis star Roger Federer (No. 5 overall) with $58 million. Tiger Woods (No. 9 overall) comes in second with $50 million in endorsement money proving you don't have to win. The rest of the top ten goes as follows:
- Phil Mickelson (golf; No. 8 overall)–$48 million
- LeBron James (basketball; No. 6 overall)–$44 million
- Kevin Durant (basketball; No. 7 overall)–$35 million
- Rory McIlroy (golf; No. 12 overall)–$32 million
- Novak Djookovic (tennis; No. 13 overall)–$31 million
- Rafael Nadal (tennis; No. 22 overall)–$28 million
- Mahendra Singh Dhoni (cricket; No. 23 overall)–$27 million
- Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer; No. 3 overall)–$27 million
So – what can we take away from the list of the top paid athletes in the world? It pays to box since the two spots are boxers. NBA players make more than other North American athletes, but if you want to make sure you are paid well (not necessarily the most) baseball is your game. When it comes to endorsements small ball athletes (golf, tennis, cricket) are the way to go.