These Six Athletes Have All Earned More Than $1 Billion During Their Career

By on April 21, 2021 in ArticlesEntertainment

Tiger Woods is one of only six athletes who have earned at least $1 billion during their careers. The others include former Formula One race-car driver Michael Schumacher, former professional golfers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, former NBA superstar Michael Jordan, and pro boxer Floyd Mayweather. From high salaries to lucrative endorsement deals, these six athletes have all amassed earnings of more than $1 billion:

#6. Michael Schumacher Net Worth: $600 million

Total Earnings from Formula One racing: $50 million

Total Career Earnings: $1 billion

Michael Schumacher is a former German Formula One race car driver who has a net worth of $600 million. He began racing at a very early age and is today considered to be the most successful Formula One driver of all time. His career spanned from 1991 to 2006. He hit his stride in 1994 when he won six out of seven major races. In 1996 he joined the Scuderia Ferrari S.P.A racing team. Michael began winning races for the struggling team practically overnight.

Beginning roughly in 2000, Schumacher would go on to win more championships than any other driver in the history of racing. He won the Formula One world driver's championship seven times (1994, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004). He won the World Championship in 2000 (his third one), Italian Grand Pix, and the Japanese Grand pix. His success would dwindle down around 2005, and in 2006 he announced his retirement. In 2010 he announced a comeback with Mercedes GP. He produced the fastest qualifying time at the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix and finished third at the 2012 European Grand Prix. With this, became the only oldest driver to ever achieve a podium since Jack Brabham's second-place finish in 1970 at the British Grand Prix.

Even in years when he was not racing, Schumacher earned $50 million from endorsements alone. At the peak of his career, he was paid $10 million per year by Shell to wear a hat with the company's logo at nearly all public appearances. At his peak, he earned $80-100 million per year which was frequently enough to make him the highest-paid athlete in the world.

Tragically, Michael's career was cut short after a skiing accident in December 2013. The accident left him with a traumatic brain injury. Schumacher was placed in a medically induced coma for six months and has not been seen in public since. He regained consciousness in June 2014. In November 2014, it was reported that Michael was paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He was unable to speak and suffered memory loss.

#5. Floyd Mayweather Net Worth: $400 million

Total Career Earnings: $1.1 billion

Floyd Mayweather earned $500 million from just two fights. He made $250 million for fighting Manny Pacquiao in 2015 and $300 million taking on MMA superstar Conor McGregor in 2017. Mayweather has been dominating the sport of boxing for more than two decades. Floyd's first professional fight occurred on October 11, 1996. He knocked out his opponent, Roberto Apodaca, in the second round. During his career, Floyd went on to win an unprecedented six boxing championships in five different weight classes: Super Featherweight, Lightweight, Junior Welterweight, Welterweight twice, and Super Welterweight.

During his peak boxing years, Floyd was consistently (and by far) the highest-paid athlete in the world. Floyd could easily earn $150 – $300 million a year when he was fighting. Between June 2014 and June 2015, Floyd earned a mind-boggling $300 million. Between June 2017 and June 2018, Floyd earned a total of $300 million, mostly thanks to his fight against McGregor. He is the wealthiest boxer in history.

#4. Jack Nicklaus Net Worth: $400 million

Total Golf Earnings: $5.6 million

Total Career Earnings: $1.15 billion

Jack Nicklaus a/k/a The Golden Bear, is widely considered to be the greatest golfer of all time. He won 18 major championships over 25 years. During his pro career, Nicklaus focused on the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship while also playing a selective schedule of PGA Tour events. He finished his PGA career with 73 victories. Nicklaus formally retired from pro golf in 1996 even though he continued to play occasionally for another decade.

Even though it has been a long time since Nicklaus made the bulk of his income from playing golf, don't call the Golden Bear retired. In fact, he is far from retirement. He founded Nicklaus Design nearly 50 years ago and has designed more than 380 golf courses in 36 countries. But course design is just one part of Nicklaus's empire. He has a line of golf balls and, like his former rival Arnold Palmer, has licensed his name to the AriZona Beverage company for a branded lemonade. He's also got endorsement and marketing deals with a number of companies including Perry Ellis and Rolex.

Speaking of his AriZona beverage deal, Nicklaus made sure he had his old rival Arnold Palmer's blessing before entering into the licensing deal. Palmer signed with the company first and Nicklaus didn't want to step on his toes, so to speak.

#3. Arnold Palmer Net Worth: $700 million

Total Golf Earnings: $3.6 million

Total Career Earnings: $1.35 billion

Arnold Palmer earned a scant $3.6 million in prize money during his 52 years playing golf on the PGA Tour and the Senior Tour. While $3.6 million is a decent amount of money, it's not really enough to sustain Palmer and his family for the 43 years between his last win and his September 2016 death at 87. Fortunately, Palmer was a savvy guy. At his peak he made more than $40 million a year thanks to endorsements, licensing agreements, and 500 retail stores selling Arnold Palmer branded clothing and footwear in Asia. After his career in golf ended, Palmer turned himself into the ultimate pitchman. He had dozens of endorsements with companies that included Cadillac, Hertz, Pennzoil, and others. In 2014, Rolex extended its deal with Palmer for another 10 years. At the time the legendary golfer was 85-years-old and had been in a partnership with the watchmaker for half a century.

Golfers are an attractive option for businesses and brands looking for a spokesperson. Golf traditionally reaches a demographic with high levels of disposable income. Golfers also have a much longer career than say, your typical NFL player. Golf is also internationally popular.

In addition to endorsements, Palmer in the 1970s founded a golf course design firm. He was also instrumental in founding the Golf Channel and owned the Bay Hill Golf Course in Orlando, Florida for more than 40 years.

As Palmer got into his 80s, Palmer's team focused on licensing deals such as lending his name to a line of drinks with the AriZona Beverage Co. that generates $200 million a year for the company—which is one-fourth of the company's revenues – and several million annually for Palmer himself. Palmer created the model that every athlete wants to follow. He had a long, successful, lucrative career in his sport, and then he went out and made about 240 times more money in the 43 years between his last professional golf game and his death.

Arnold Palmer died in September 2016 at the age of 87.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

#2. Tiger Woods Net Worth: $800 million

Total Winnings from Golf: $120 million

Total Career Earnings: $1.5 billion

It's unclear if Tiger Woods will ever recover and play golf again professionally after his horrific February car crash. Over the course of his professional golf career to date, Woods has earned more than $1.5 billion. He is the highest earning golfer of all time. He was also the highest-earning celebrity year in and year out for many years.

Woods turned pro in August 1996 and was named "Sports Illustrated's" 1996 Sportsman of the Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. On April 13, 1997, he won his first major, the Masters, and became the tournament's youngest winner, at age 21. Two months later, he set the record for the fastest ascent to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Woods was the dominant force in golf from 2000 to 2010. He was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 weeks). During this time, he won 13 of golf's major championships. The next decade of Woods' career was marked by comebacks from personal problems and injuries. Woods fell to number 58 in the world rankings in November 2011 before ascending again to the No.1 ranking between March 2013 and May 2014. Woods competed in only one tournament between August 2015 and January 2018, and he dropped off the list of the world's top 1,000 golfers due to the four back surgeries he had between 2014 and 2017.  On his return to regular competition, Woods made steady progress to the top of the game, winning his first tournament in five years at the Tour Championship in September 2018 and his first major in 11 years at the 2019 Masters.

We wish Tiger the best as he continues to recover from the injuries sustained in his car accident.

#1. Michael Jordan Net Worth: $2.2 billion

Total NBA Salary: $93.7 million

Average Annual Income Today: $100 million

As of this writing, Michael Jordan is worth an impressive $2.2 billion. Obviously that's not from his many years as the dominant player in the NBA. During his 15 years in the NBA, Jordan made just $93.7 million in salary. He was the first athlete in history to earn more than $30 million a year, which happened way back in the 1996-1997 season when he made a base salary of $30.14 million. For the 1997-1998 season, he made $33.14 million, which adjusted for inflation is equal to more than $53 million. Jordan continues to earn at least $100 million a year from endorsements and other business ventures.

The bulk of Jordan's $2.2 billion net worth is due to his ownership of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.  He was a minority investor in the team starting in 2006 and took control of the team in 2010. Jordan's timing in buying majority control of the Hornets could not have been better. When he was approved for the deal in March 2010, the franchise was valued at $175 million. Since that time, NBA values have skyrocketed. He owns about 90% of the franchise, which was most recently valued at a minimum of $1.5 billion.

Did we make a mistake?
Submit a correction suggestion and help us fix it!
Submit a Correction