The world’s ten highest-paid athletes, including NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, raked in a staggering $992 million over the last 12 months.
According to Forbes’ estimates, that represents a 6% drop from 2021, but the decline is directly related to to MMA fighter Conor McGregor’s massive $180 million total last year, after he pocketed an estimated $150 million from the sale of his Irish whiskey brand.
Although McGregor fell out of the top ten , will appear in the full ranking of the 50 highest-paid athletes for 2022, which will be published later this month.
None-the-less, where did Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo rank in the Top 10 highest-paid athletes, and who else joined him on the list?
Giannis Antetokounmpo (On-Field: $39.9 Million | Off-Field: $41 Million) is the only member of this year’s top ten still in his 20s. The Milwaukee Bucks’ two-time MVP signed a five-year, $228 million contract in December 2020, the NBA’s largest contract by total value to date.
He was among the investors in timepiece resale platform WatchBox’s $165 million funding round announced in November, and he has also signed a licensing deal with NFT platform NFTSTAR and added WhatsApp and Google’s Pixel 6 phone to his endorsement stable.
And Antetokounmpo will soon be able to watch his life story in the biopic Rise, set to be released on Disney+ in June. This puts him tenth on the list.
On top spot is Lionel Messi. On-Field: $75 Million | Off-Field: $55 Million
Messi’s $20 million-a-year partnership with Socios adds to an endorsement portfolio that includes Adidas, Budweiser and PepsiCo.
He also became Hard Rock International’s first athlete brand ambassador in a deal announced last June, helping Messi draw level with Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo with his off-field earnings for the first time since 2013.
Messi won the Ballon d’Or in 2021 as the world’s best men’s soccer player, but he has had a tougher time on the pitch more recently, scoring just nine goals in 32 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain after notching 38 in 47 games in his final season for Barcelona.
But while PSG flamed out in the Champions League’s Round of 16, the club captured the French Ligue 1 title in Messi’s first season.
In second spot is Lebron James. On-Field: $41.2 Million | Off-Field: $80 Million.
LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs this season, but he’s never been so dominant off the court. He starred in last year’s Space Jam: A New Legacy and recently moved his talk show, The Shop, from HBO to YouTube.
In October, he sold a significant minority stake in SpringHill—the production company behind both projects—at a valuation of about $725 million, pushing his net worth to $850 million, according to Forbes’ estimates.
After announcing an endorsement deal with Crypto.com in January, James appeared in a Super Bowl commercial next to a computer-generated version of his younger self.
He also recently invested in home gym company Tonal and StatusPRO, a sports tech startup that creates virtual reality training products.
Cristiano Ronaldo came in third spot. On-Field: $60 Million | Off-Field: $55 Million
Like his rival Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo has had a disappointing first season with his new team, with Manchester United stuck in sixth place in the Premier League standings with one game remaining.
Rumours are now swirling that Ronaldo, who previously played for Man U from 2003 to 2009, could be on the move once more in this summer’s transfer window. Much of Ronaldo’s earning power comes from his massive social media presence: He has 690 million followers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, giving him leverage to demand sky-high rates from sponsors such as Nike, Herbalife and Clear shampoo.
He is also an investor in Tatel restaurants—including a new location in Beverly Hills—and is the face of ZujuGP, a forthcoming app aiming to be a digital soccer community.
Forbes’ on-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between May 1, 2021, and May 1, 2022. In cases where players continue to be paid beyond May for a regular season that is concluded by then—as in the NBA and European soccer—we assign the full season of salary. Playoff bonuses are included for the 2021 NFL season and the 2020-21 NBA season.
Off-field earnings figures are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and memorabilia and licensing income for the 12 months leading to May 1, 2022, plus cash returns from any businesses operated by the athlete, based on conversations with industry insiders.
Forbes does not include investment income such as interest payments or dividends but does account for payouts from equity stakes athletes have sold. Forbes does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees.
The list includes athletes active at any point during the 12-month time period.