Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes In 2022 Revealed

Lionel Messi is the new king.

Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes In 2022 Revealed

Despite the global pandemic wreaking havoc on sport worldwide, some of the biggest names in football, basketball, tennis and boxing had some incredibly handsome paydays to finish 2021 and head into 2022.

The majority of the names on Forbes’ annual list of highest-paid athletes won’t come as a surprise (although, the notable absence of Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor could be a surprise to some) and the majority of the top 10 spots are claimed by soccer players and basketball players.

Argentinian striker Lionel Messi topped the list of highest-paid athletes with $130 million in pre-tax earnings in the calendar year prior to Forbes publishing its list. This is despite his annual salary reportedly dropping down by $22 million, to ‘just’ $75 million for his first year playing for Paris-Saint Germain. A vast chunk of Messi’s yearly earnings came from lucrative off-field sponsorships and endorsements. Forbes estimated Messi’s off-field earnings to be $55 million.

The top 10 highest earning athletes in 2022 earned a collective $992 million in pre-tax earnings, which Forbes notes is a 6% drop from the year before. Figures are calculated between 1 May 2021 and 1 May 2022.

The $992 million total is the third highest ever, and is only beaten by the $1.05 billion earned in 2021 and $1.06 billion in 2018. Both of these astronomical figures were influenced by Conor McGregor, who took home a massive payday in 2018 when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr.

So, which 10 athletes made Forbes’ list? Read on to find out.

1. Lionel Messi – US$130 million

Lionel Messi topped the list as the world’s highest paid athlete in 2022 with a huge income of $130 million. $75 million of this came from his annual salary with French football club Paris-Saint Germain, while the remaining $55 million came from off-field sponsorship and endorsement deals. Messi currently has a lifetime partnership with sportswear giant Adidas, along with other longterm deals with Budweiser and PepsiCo.

He also became the face of Hard Rock International and signed a $20 million deal with Socios, a “fan engagement” app built on a blockchain.

Age: 35
Sport: Soccer
Nationality: Argentinian
2021 earnings: $130 million

2. LeBron James – US$121.2 million

Image: Fox5 Vegas

Basketball superstar LeBron James has always been an athlete with enviable paydays, but 2021 saw his earnings and net worth skyrocket. His $41.2 million salary from the Los Angeles Lakers was just one third of his total 2021 income, with the other $80 million coming from off-field endeavours.

His appearance in the 2021 movie Space Jam: A New Legacy contributed to his immense payday, along with an endorsement deal he signed with

Age: 37
Sport: Basketball
Nationality: American
2021 earnings: $121.2 million

3. Cristiano Ronaldo – US$115 million

Cristiano Ronaldo has been a regular fixture on Forbes’ annual highest-paid athletes lists. Not only does he command a high salary – an estimated $60 million in 2021 – but his global popularity means he can command high fees for endorsement deals.

Ronaldo has a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike, but also makes his money through other investments, including Tate restaurants and ZujuGP.

Age: 37
Sport: Soccer
Nationality: Portuguese
2021 earnings: $115 million

4. Neymar – US$95 million

Brazilian soccer player Neymar is another to feature regularly on the list of highest-earners and with $95 million in pre-tax earnings for the 2021-22 tax year, we reckon he’s feeling pretty happy.

The majority of Neymar’s earnings came from his Paris Saint-German contract, worth a reported $70 million. He added $25 million in off-field earnings to this, thanks to sponsorship deals with the likes of Red Bull, Puma and NFT platform NFTSTAR.

Age: 30
Sport: Soccer
Nationality: Brazilian
2021 earnings: $95 million

5. Stephen Curry – US$92.8 million

Image: Sky Sports

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry was the highest-earning NBA player in 2021 just in terms of annual salary. Taking home $45.8 million in annual earnings, Curry earned just under $5 million more from his contract than LeBron James. He’ll earn just under $60 million in the 2025-26 season.

Curry earned pretty much the same amount off money away from the court, with Forbes estimating his off-court earnings to be $47 million, which came from various endorsement deals with the likes of Under Armour, Comcast NBCUniversal and FTX metaverse.

Age: 34
Sport: Basketball
Nationality: American

6. Kevin Durant – US$92.1 million

Kevin Durant, power forward for the Brooklyn Nets earned a huge $50 million in off-court earnings in 2022, which he added to his $42.1 million salary.

$28 million of his off-court earnings comes from his sneaker deal with Nike, and the remainder comes from deals with CoinBase, NBA Top Shot and Weedmaps. Durant has also invested in various companies, including the NFT platform OpenSea and Future, a digital fitness startup.

Age: 34
Sport: Basketball
Nationality: American

7. Roger Federer – US$90.7 million

One of the greatest tennis players to have ever lived, Roger Federer continued to show just how much of a global presence he has in 2022, with off-field earnings of $90 million. His on-field earnings were reasonably low, at just $700,000, but this was mainly due a string of injuries that limited his playing time.

Federer officially retired from tennis following the conclusion of The Laver Cup, but given his insane popularity, we can be pretty sure his off-field earnings will continue to be huge. Some of Federer’s most lucrative deals are with Uniqlo and Rolex, and he also earns a pretty penny from his investment in shoe company, On.

Age: 41
Sport: Tennis
Nationality: Swiss

8. Canelo Alvarez – US$90 million

Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez was his sport’s highest earner in 2022, bringing home some $85 million. Outside of the ring, Alvarez has sponsorship deals with brandy producer Hennessy, and he also owns a taco restaurant in Mexico.

Age: 32
Sport: Boxing
Nationality: Mexican

9. Tom Brady – US$83.9 million

Tom Brady continues to dominate the list of highest-paid NFL stars, bringing in $31.9 million from his contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady made a U-turn on his decision to retire, just six weeks after he made the initial announcement.

Forbes estimates Brady’s off-field earnings in 2022 to be $52 million, which comes the NFT platform he co-founded, called Autograph; his TB12 sports supplement and clothing line; his 199 Productions production company and a second clothing line, called BRADY.

Tom has already agreed a deal with Fox Sports to join the team in a commentator role, which will earn him $375 million over 10 years.

Age: 45
Sport: American Football
Nationality: American

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo – US$80.9 million

The youngest entrant on the list of top 10 highest-paid athletes is the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannia Antetokounmpo. In December 2020, the now 27-year-old signed a five-year contract with the Bucks, worth a reported $228 million. This contract put $39.9 million into Giannis’ bank account, which he topped up with $41 million in off-court earnings.

Giannis has endorsement deals with WhatsApp and Google, for the company’s Pixel 6 phone, and he also signed a deal with NFT platform, NFTSTAR.

Age: 27
Sport: Basketball
Nationality: Greek