The 10 Richest Pro Athletes In 2022 Include Soccer Players, NBA Stars, A Boxer And Even A Few Golfers…But The List May Surprise You

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Professional Athletes continue to become the ideal profession for young kids across the country — and as each year passes — the earnings become more and more unfathomable.

On Tuesday, Forbes released its list highlighting the richest athletes of 2023 and while there were some familiar faces, there were certainly a few stunners.


On-Field: $46 million | Off-Field: $90 million | Nationality: Portugal | Sport: Soccer | Age: 38

Ronaldo has held the top spot for one of the most famous athletes in the world for quite a long time, but his current value of $136 million makes him the highest paid soccer player in the history of the sport, yet despite his success on the pitch, he’s maximized his brand and generated the big bucks away from soccer. The catalyst for the boost happened when Ronaldo left Manchester United for Saudia Arabia’s Al Nassr, while his $90 million off the field makes up the most of his income over the last year.


On-Field: $65 million | Off-Field: $65 million | Nationality: Argentina | Sport: Soccer | Age: 35

There isn’t a bigger superstar on the pitch — both in Europe and now even the United States — than Lionel Messi. Messi’s future is a matter of much speculation, with rumors flying that he could return to Barcelona, or join Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, or even land in MLS with Inter Miami. His bank account should be safe regardless. His earnings total feels safe loaded with a hefty endorsement lineup. The global sensation has lucrative deals with Adidas, Budweiser and PepsiCo to highlight a few. His deal with Socios, a blockchain-based fan platform, alone pays him an estimated $20 million a year, and the opportunities should keep coming after he led Argentina to a World Cup victory in December.


On-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $20 million | Nationality: France | Sport: Soccer | Age: 24

The hottest rising soccer player closes out the No. 3 spot at just age 24. No. 35 on the earnings list last year, Mbappé makes his top ten debut and is the only member still under 30. He has the highest playing salary in all of soccer, which looks justified after he fell one win shy of a second straight World Cup title with France in 2022 and finished just behind his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi for the Best FIFA Men’s Player Award.

4. LEBRON JAMES: $119 Million

On-Field: $44.5 million | Off-Field: $75 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 38

While James was a phenom coming out of high school as a hoops star and there will be an ongoing debate involving his GOAT status for years to come, the “King” has dove in head first to maximizing his wealth through business, investing and making smart financial choices. It’s worked big time.  James was named the first certified a billionaire by Forbes in June. On top of his impressive endorsement portfolio, the Los Angeles Lakers forward is behind sports nutrition company Ladder and the SpringHill Company, which develops and produces TV and other entertainment content, and he was a producer on its 2023 film House Party, which was set at his mansion. He also has a stake in Fenway Sports Group—owner of the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC and the Pittsburgh Penguins—and he recently invested in a Major League Pickleball team while proclaiming his desire to someday own an NBA expansion team in Las Vegas. James was an early backer of Lobos 1707 tequila and over the last year has invested in Canyon Bicycles, climate-conscious dairy company Neutral Foods and sports apparel brand Mitchell & Ness.

5. CANELO ALVAREZ: $120 Million

On-Field: $100 million | Off-Field: $10 million | Nationality: Mexico | Sport: Boxing | Age: 32

The first boxer to crack the list, Álvarez collects tens of millions of dollars every time he steps in the ring, scoring big with blockbuster fights. Álvarez has a relatively slim list of traditional endorsements for an athlete of his stature, partnering with Hennessy and Michelob Ultra, but he signed with Excel Sports Management in September to build out his marketing deals, and he is active as an entrepreneur. The boxer is behind sports drink maker Yaoca, fitness app I Can and gas station chain Canelo Energy, and he has his own clothing line and branded credit card. In September, he launched VMC, a canned cocktail brand.

US golfer Dustin Johnson speaks during a press conference ahead of the forthcoming LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club in St Albans, north of London, on June 7, 2022.

6. DUSTIN JOHNSON: $107 Million

On-Field: $102 million | Off-Field: $5 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 38

Liv Golf was surrounded by controversy, but the earnings in such a short period provide more insight into the decisions from players who bolted from the PGA for the new Saudi-based startup.

Johnson was the first star to jump to LIV Golf, last May, and he finished 2022 with a tour-best $35.6 million in prize money, including $18 million for winning the season-long individual championship. The move may have cost him sponsors, including Royal Bank of Canada, but it also made him the biggest gainer of the year: He didn’t even make the list of 2022’s 50 highest-paid athletes. Now he is focusing on building the brand of 4Aces GC, the LIV team he captains and co-owns, whose logo has adorned his shirt at recent tournaments in place of Adidas’. The guaranteed cash from LIV’s no-cut format helps, too—he has racked up $3.3 million across five LIV events in 2023.

Oh, and Dustin’s wifey is loving the ride (and boost to the bank account).

7. PHIL MICKELSON: $106 Million

On-Field: $104 million | Off-Field: $2 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Golf | Age: 52

Mickelson, who surpassed $1 billion in career pre-tax earnings last year, has shed sponsors since joining LIV Golf, but he is staying busy off the course. He is a cofounder of For Wellness, which makes coffee supplements, and he was among the investors who recently bought a large plot of land outside Phoenix. Mickelson gave his new tour a performance to be proud of at the Masters last month, posting a final-round 65 to finish in a tie for second with his LIV Golf mate Brooks Koepka. The result came with a $1.6 million check.

Who said golfers aren’t athletes?

8. STEPHEN CURRY: $114 Million

On-Field: $48.4 million | Off-Field: $52 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 35

Fresh off his fourth NBA championship last June, Curry has his first year topping $100 million. His $48.1 million salary was the NBA’s highest this season, and he’ll become the league’s first $50 million man in 2023-24, when he is set to make $51.9 million. Despite a major loss due to the FTX collapse, Curry is bouncing back quickly with investments and endorsements. In March, he signed a long-term extension with Under Armour that will extend into his retirement from basketball, and he has a new partnership with Chase Bank. His multimedia company Unanimous Media is among the producers of a documentary about him that is slated to hit Apple TV+ in July, and he is set to launch a graphic novel series next year. He also recently invested in VR platform Golf+ and TMRW Sports, the startup founded by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy that is aiming to create a tech-infused golf league.

9. ROGER FEDERER: $95.1 Million

On-Field: $0.1 million | Off-Field: $95 million | Nationality: Switzerland | Sport: Tennis | Age: 41

With his tennis career behind him, the former superstar is raking in his profits away from the court.

His list of more than a dozen long-term partners remains intact as he begins his second act, and last week he announced a licensing agreement for his RF brand with eyewear maker Oliver Peoples. He also has a significant stake in the fast-growing Swiss shoe company On.


On-Field: $44.1 million | Off-Field: $45 million | Nationality: U.S. | Sport: Basketball | Age: 34

While Durant was traded across coast to the Suns back in February, the savvy business mind. has continued to maximize opportunities off the court –from the sports sector and beyond.

Through his investing firm, 35V, he has picked up stakes in the Premier Lacrosse League, nutrition brand Happy Viking, League One Volleyball, women’s sports league network Athletes Unlimited, a Major League Pickleball team, Fanatics’ Mitchell & Ness label, digital creator business Goldenset Collective, sports software startup ScorePlay and Tiger Woods’ TMRW Sports just in the last ten months. He also has a growing media empire in Boardroom and one of the NBA’s most valuable sneaker deals with Nike, which was recently upgraded to a lifetime contract. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only other two NBA players who have received lifetime deals from the shoemaker.

Notice not a single NFL player cracked the list. Athletes are getting more and more diverse and the profits are rolling in big time. Who’s next?

Written by Sean Labar

Lifelong die-hard DC fan (all four teams). College football and the NFL are my biggest passions but I love writing & discussing all sports. Live in Virginia with my two rescue pups Wally & Reagan. Follow me on Twitter @SeanLabarPR

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