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The best paid sports stars in the world

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Sport plays such an influential part in our lives. It gives so many people around the world a hobby – whether it’s spectating, playing or both – and there’s no surprise that it influences large parts of our lives, including the clothes that we wear.

So, given that the planet’s top sports performers command big crowds and a huge following – and encourage big sponsorship deals and spending on online betting sites – it’s probably no surprise to find that they’re paid a lot for their talents.

In this post, we look at just how well paid the top stars are in the globe’s most well-loved sports.


This year marked a changing of the guard at the top table of basketball, with Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors leaping above Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James to be the sport’s best-paid performer. This financial success has been reflected in a sporting sense too. This year’s NBA Finals is the first since 2010 not to include LeBron, whereas the Golden State Warriors made it through as Western Conference champions. Check out the latest odds from William Hill to see who is favorite to take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. In total, 27 NBA stars earn at least $23 million, with Curry taking home $34.7 million, James netting $33.3 million and Paul Millsap of the Denver Nuggets the third highest earner on $30.8 million.


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has returned to the top of the NFL salary tree – after previously being the sport’s top paid performer for three years from 2013. As Forbes notes, football players are benefitting from a 44% increase in the NFL salary cap in the past five years. Rodgers’ average salary is $33.5 million but his total for 2018, including bonuses, was a record $66.9 million. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the sport’s second highest earner in 2018 (salary plus bonuses equalling $52.5 million), while San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo was third ($42.6 million).


Left-handed LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has posted some seriously impressive numbers – and not just in his bank account. As The Bleacher Report noted, from 2011-17, he compiled a 118-41 record with a 2.10 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, 10.06 K/9 and 5.73 K/BB. That’s led to him earning a $35.57 million pay packet in 2018. Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout earned $34.08 million, while the third highest earning baseball star this year was Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke ($34 million).

Ice hockey

Jonathan Toews has been a legend in Chicago ever since he helped the Blackhawks win the 2010 Stanley Cup and start a new era of success for the Windy City side. He tops the NHL salary chart, earning $13.8 million in 2017/18. Fellow Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is only just behind his team mate, while Slovenian Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles Kings and Jamie Benn of Dallas Stars are tied on $13 million each.


The world of soccer has been dominated by the leading stars of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for about a decade now, and it’s no surprise to see that reflected in the salary stakes. According to Investopedia, Barcelona’s Argentine star tops the chart, earning $111 million thanks to $84 million in salary and winnings and $27 million in endorsements. Ronaldo, who recent moved from Spanish giants Real Madrid to Italian champions Juventus, earned $108 million once salary, bonuses and endorsements were taken into account. Brazilian star Neymar Jr, who left Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 in what was partly seen as a bid to break out of Messi’s shadow, earned $90 million.


He may no longer be ranked as one of the world’s top golfers, but Tiger Woods still earns more than his sporting rivals. It’s perhaps no surprise that golf, a sport known for its distinctive style, provides a huge potential for commercial deals and sponsorships. Of the reported $43.3 million earned by Woods last year, only $1.3 million came in salary. With earnings of $41.3 and $41.2 million respectively, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth were the second and third highest earners.


Cricket’s popularity on the sub continent should not be underestimated – and the fanatical following in India in particular has helped to cement Virat Kohli’s position as a global sporting superstar. The Indian captain was said to have earned $24 million in the last year, with the vast bulk of that coming from sponsorship and endorsements on top of his $4 million salary. Estimates vary, but it’s thought that former Indian captain MS Dhoni, now 37, is still the sport’s second top earner, while hard-hitting West Indian veteran Chris Gayle earns lucrative amounts for his prowess in the 20-over format of the game.


Swiss superstar Roger Federer had already earned his legacy as a legend of the game long before he won his 20th Grand Slam in Australia this year and sits right at the top of the tennis earnings tree, banking $77.2 million in prize money and endorsements from a lucrative set of sponsorship deals. He’s followed by long-time rival Rafael Nadal ($41.4 million) in second and Japan’s Kei Nishikori ($34.6 million) in third.

Formula One

2018 has been a good year for Lewis Hamilton. Not only did the British Formula One star become a five-time world champion, but he also put pen to paper on a $52 million new contract with Mercedes to propel to the top of the earnings charts. German rival Sebastian Vettel earns about $50 million, while Fernando Alonso is thought to be earning about $30 million from a one-year deal in 2018.

Of course, on top of all these high-earning athletes there are many more top earning sports stars. Boxing, for example, is difficult to compare since it depends on the pay days of big par-per-view events and when these are scheduled. In the 12 months to June 2018, Floyd Mayweather is said to have earned a massive $285 million – with $275 million coming from his clash with Conor McGregor alone.

Does your favorite sports star feature in our list – or do you think there’s an up and coming performer who deserves to rub shoulders with the big names above?

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