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Highest paid athletes in 2023 and all-time: From Shohei Ohtani to Jon Rahm

With salaries increasing all the time, fans are often curious about who are the highest paid athletes in their favorite sports. Professional athletics has become a global business and leagues are making their greatest profits ever. So the question that sports connoisseurs should really be wondering is who is the richest athlete in the world, and what sports do they come from?

We hope to answer that and much more in this rundown of many of the highest-paid athletes today, and the sports dealing out their massive multi-million dollar paychecks each year.

Related: The Most Expensive Rookie Cards, Including A $4.3-Million Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card And More

Who are the highest paid athletes in the world?

To really get down to the brass tacks to find the highest paid athletes in the world, you have to cut out all the excess. The average Joe doesn’t know what net worth is and doesn’t care about the endorsement deals that get their favorite players extra income. Sports fans want to know what football, baseball, and basketball players make to compete in the sports they consider their full-time jobs.

highest paid athletes
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However, while there are athletes who make huge sums of money in combat sports, tennis, golf, and auto racing, their wealth is mostly predicated on wins and how often they compete, so set amounts aren’t guaranteed each year no matter how they perform. In this list, we focused on the sports stars who are guaranteed astronomical amounts of average income for their current or upcoming seasons. And some of the names may shock you.

  • 20. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers – $45.6 million
  • 19. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – $45.6 million
  • 18. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers – $45.6 million
  • 17. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs – $45 million
  • 16. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns – $46 million
  • 15. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals – $46.1 million
  • 14. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards – $46.7 million
  • 13. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets – $46.9 million
  • 12. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers – $46.9 million
  • 11. Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers – $46.9 million
  • 10. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos – $48.5 million
  • 9. Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets – $50.3 million
  • 8. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles – $51 million
  • 7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors – $51.9 million
  • 6. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens – $52 million
  • 5. Lionel Messi, Inter Miami – $54 million
  • 4. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers – $70 million
  • 3. Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-German – $100 million
  • 2. Jon Rahm, LIV Golf – $166 million (rumored)
  • 1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Al-Nassar – $200 million

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Paris have some of the highest-paid athletes on the planet. However, the Crypto.com Arena alone is home to three of the players in the top 20. Lebron James, Paul George, and Kawi Leonard are making some of the most money in the NBA currently.

However, NFL quarterbacks are consistently the highest-paid position in the world with four of them in the top 10.

What sport pays the highest?

highest paid athletes
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While many of the top-10 richest athletes are from similar leagues, the sports that offer up the biggest payouts actually have a wider variety when you factor in the number of athletes, the amount of time the competitors are in action, and the prize totals for various events. Here are the top 10 highest-paying sports on average.

  • 10. Cycling
  • 8. NHL
  • 7. Tennis
  • 9. Baseball
  • 6. Soccer
  • 5. NFL
  • 4. Golf
  • 3. Auto Racing
  • 2. Combat Sports
  • 1. Basketball

Related: 12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL

In reality, many of the top-paying athletic endeavors are individual sports, and that makes a lot of sense. When taking teammates — good or bad — out of the equation and cash prizes go to fewer competitors, it is no wonder that sports like MMA, boxing, auto racing, and golf have some of the wealthiest athletes on average.

What is the biggest sports contract of all time?

highest paid athletes
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When it comes to pro athletes, the competition doesn’t necessarily stop on the pitch, ice, or court. There are some bragging rights in having the biggest contract in a particular sport. However, one athlete has the largest sports contract of all time.

In 2017, soccer legend Lionel Messi signed the biggest deal any athletic figure ever has, when he agreed to a four-year, $674 million contract with FC Barcelona. The unique deal included him getting a fixed income and variables that could reach nearly $167 million each season.

Who has the highest net worth? Michael Jordan and it’s not even close

highest paid athletes
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When it comes to the athletes — past and present — who have accumulated the greatest net worth from their success on and off the field, there is one person who stands far and away above the rest. And that is the one and only Michael Jordan.

The Chicago Bulls legend and six-time NBA champion’s net worth is reported to be $3 billion. He was the first athlete to generate massive wealth outside his sport with his Nike and Gatorade endorsement deals. Plus, MJ created the Jordan brand of apparel which is a massive force in the sportswear industry. Currently, he is also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets and the richest athlete in the world.

Who has the most money in the world?

highest paid athletes
Credit: USA Today Network

Since we are talking about the wealthiest athletes in the world, your interest may now be piqued by who is the most filthy rich individual on the planet in general. Like Jordan, there is one person who is far and away much wealthier than the pack. The man who could literally swim in a pool of money if he so chose, and is the person who has the most money in the world is Space X and Tesla founder Elon Musk. At this moment, the man who purchased Twitter is worth $240 billion.

Shohei Ohtani contract details

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani, the most coveted free agent in MLB history, signed the largest contract in the history of American sports in 2023. The two-time AL MVP signed a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a deal that includes no opt-outs.

Incredibly, Ohtani structured the deal in an unprecedented manner. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the 10-year contract includes heavily deferred money. This means that a majority of the $700 million contract will be paid out to Ohtani after the contract expires, likely in his 40s when he’s retired. For context on the $70 million average annual value, Ohtani’s salary matches the combined salaries of Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge.

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