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Soccer Superstars Headline 50 Highest-Paid Athletes List

  • Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappé each rake in $120 million+.
  • LeBron James headlines NBA stars making the list.
Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to shoot at World Cup
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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September 21, 2023 | Podcast
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The richest athletes in the world are still getting richer. 

Forbes’ 50 highest-paid athletes collectively made $3.4 billion on and off the field over the last 12 months, representing a 16% increase from their record haul a year ago.

Unsurprisingly, soccer’s attacking trident leads the top-10 list: Cristiano Ronaldo ($136 million), Lionel Messi ($130 million), and Kylian Mbappé ($120 million).

LeBron James ($119 million) is the richest American athlete in the top 10, while his fellow NBA superstars Steph Curry ($104 million) and Kevin Durant ($89.1 million) hover near the bottom. The Saudi-backed LIV Golf snagged two spots in the top 10 via Dustin Johnson ($107 million) and Phil Mickelson ($106 million).

Eight sports and 15 nationalities are represented among the 50 individuals who make a minimum of $45.2 million each. Surprisingly, Tom Brady only narrowly made the cut at No. 50.

The earnings of those at the top of the list should skyrocket even more in the next 12 months.

Ronaldo is just beginning to cash in on a $75 million-per-year contract with the Saudi Pro League’s Al Nassr, and Saudi club Al-Hilal was reported to have offered Messi an even larger pact to face off against his longtime rival.

Meanwhile, Curry and Durant recently signed respective lifetime deals with Under Armour and Nike that should keep their bank accounts full long after they take their final steps on an NBA court.

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