2023 Highest-Paid Athletes List Revealed
Athletes are also brands. The money for them is only getting bigger and more widespread, and this year’s Forbes list of the highest-paid athletes reflects the global thirst for sports stardom.
No. 1 – Cristiano Ronaldo, $136 million
For the third time in his career, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo tops the list of highest-paid world athletes. This year’s rise to No. 1 was fueled by his move from Manchester United to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
His on the field salary has been reported to be as high as $200 million a year. However, Forbes lists it at a mere $46 million, with the rest of his worth coming from off-field endorsements. He has 850 million followers on social media, so even when the 38-year-old stops playing, his brand will likely live on.
No. 2 – Lionel Messi, $130 million
We’re not sure where Lionel Messi will play next season. But as far as worth is concerned, it doesn’t matter. Last year, he led Argentina to a World Cup win, and his deals with Adidas, Budweiser, and PepsiCo aren’t going anywhere.
He could return to Barcelona, where he last played in 2021. He’s even been rumored to move to the United States and play in the MLS. Which, considering that it is a cohost of the 2026 World Cup, would only serve to grow his marketability.
No. 3 – Kylian Mbappé, $120 million
Mbappé is the youngest member of the Top 10 at only age 24. Last year, he nearly won his second World Cup, finishing as a runner-up to Messi and Argentina, and he was the runner-up to Messi as The Best FIFA Men’s Player.
At 18-years-old, he already had his own personalized boots made by Nike, and been on the cover of the best-selling soccer video game in the world, EA Sports’ FIFA series. Last month, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
He was born and raised in France, but his father is from Cameroon and his mother is Algerian. Mbappé has made the development of sports in Africa one of his top priorities.
No. 4 – LeBron James, $119.5 million
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is the top American on the list, and he is the first active athlete to be certified as a billionaire by Forbes. He’s also a film and television producer, part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Liverpool FC, and he says that someday he wants to own an NBA franchise.
Like all great athletes/celebrities turned billionaires, he also has his own brand of tequila, Lobos 1707.
He is also the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
No. 5 – Canelo Alvarez, $110 million
Boxing isn’t the same global draw it once was, with the rise of MMA taking much of the fighting spotlight. But a great boxer like Canelo Alvarez can still make nine-figures in a year.
He is 58-2-2 in his boxing career, and this Saturday he defends his super-middleweight belt against John Ryder in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. He is reportedly going to make a guaranteed $15 million for this fight, and could earn as high as $40 million, depending on pay-per-view sales. Plus, he has deals with Hennessy and Michelob Ultra, and he owns his own chain of gas stations.
No. 6 – Dustin Johnson, $107 million
Dustin Johnson is not who we would naturally pick as the next athlete on this list, or as the top-earning golfer in 2023. That’s until you remember that he was the first top golfer to sign with LIV Golf. He wasn’t even in the top-50 highest-paid athletes in 2022, and now he is sixth overall.
That is the power of the money that the Saudi Arabian-backed competing golf tour has had on the landscape of golf and sports.
No. 7 – Phil Mickelson, $106 million
Phil Mickelson has won more than $1 billion in his golfing career. But never has his career been more lucrative than during his brief time with LIV.
He lost a lot of sponsors when he joined the new tour. But his on-course earnings alone this year are $104 million, putting him comfortably into the Top 10.
No. 8 – Stephen Curry, $100.4 million
Currently locked in an on-court battle in the NBA Playoffs with LeBron James, Stephen Curry is the second-highest earning NBA player on the list, topping $100 million. Curry is the highest-paid player in the NBA at $48.1 million. He also has endorsement deals with Under Armour and Chase Bank, and he is launching a graphic novel series later this year.
No. 9 – Roger Federer, $95.1 million
The 20-time grand slam champion is retired from competitive tennis. But the money keeps flowing, thanks to endorsement deals with Credit Suisse, Rolex, Lindt, and the Japanese clothing company, Uniqlo.
No. 10 – Kevin Durant, $89.1 million
Finishing the Top 10 is the fifth American on the list, Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns. He’s making $44.1 million playing basketball, and another $45 million from his media company, Boardroom, and his lifetime contract with Nike.