The Highest-Paid Athletes In The World In 2020, Ranked
While 2020 has spawned financial uncertainty for many, these unbelievably talented athletes don’t seem to have been affected in the slightest. From NBA megastars like LeBron James, to soccer icons like Lionel Messi, their yearly salaries are the stuff dreams are made of. With endorsements alone paying for their mansions, these stars don’t ever have to worry about money. So which athlete has the highest income in 2020?
25. Phil Mickelson ($40.8 million)
Professional golfers make a pretty penny — particularly the great ones. Phil “Lefty” Mickelson, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012, earns upwards of $40.8 million these days, even though he’s past his prime. Some may wonder how golfers are able to make such large quantities of cash, but special perks come with the territory.
Unlike basketball and baseball stars, the bulk of a golfer’s income doesn’t come from their salary. In fact, most of Mickelson’s fortune comes from lucrative endorsements from companies such as Rolex, ExxonMobil, and countless others. To give you an ever bigger picture of his success, he was 2011’s second highest-paid athlete in the entire world.
24. Kyrie Irving ($41.9 million)
Kyrie Irving has been one of the NBA’s biggest assets since getting drafted first by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011. Considered by many to be the most technically skilled ball handler in the world today, Irving has also proven that he can knock down the important shots when the stakes are raised in crunch time.
With a Rookie Of The Year award and an NBA championship underneath his belt, Irving’s accomplishments have allowed him to land big ticket contracts, and various endorsement deals as well. One of those deals was a Nike contract worth around $11 million, made even better when his shoes became bestsellers.
23. Novak Djokovic ($44.6 million)
To give you the scope of Novak Djokovic’s reputation in the realm of tennis, the esteemed Association of Tennis Professionals currently ranks him as the number one player in the world. They’ve also had him ranked as number one for 280 weeks straight.
While you let the weight of that sink in, it should come as no surprise that Djokovic has managed to earn as much money as he has. With a $12.6 million salary and $32 million worth of endorsements, this is one athlete who probably won’t have to worry about money for the rest of his life.
22. Drew Brees ($44.8 million)
The proud New Orleans football fans were thanking their lucky stars the day Drew Brees became their quarterback. After an impressive college football stint at Purdue University, Brees was a major prospect coming into the NFL. A 13-time Pro-Bowler, Brees led the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl, and won it for them too, nabbing the coveted Super Bowl MVP award in the process.
Since joining New Orleans, he’s led all other quarterbacks in touchdowns and passing yards — which undoubtedly helped him snag an NFL contract currently worth about $29.8 million a year. Add his endorsements to the mix, and Brees is making a whopping $44.8 million per year these days, placing him as one of the highest-paid athletes out there.
21. Tom Brady ($45 million)
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to talk about the man who some would argue is the greatest quarterback of all time. In fact, there are some who might even argue that Tom Brady is the greatest ever football player, period! The list of NFL legends is long, but Brady’s accolades in the new millennium sure make a strong case for him, setting him apart from other athletes.
After winning three MVPs and leading the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl victories (four of which he was Super Bowl MVP), the world realized this guy was the real deal. Now on the tail end of his career, his yearly income of roughly $45 million is the residual result of decades of success.
20. Deontay Wilder ($46.5 million)
It took a handful of years, but Deontay Wilder has finally made this list. After years of solidifying himself as one of the top-tier heavyweight boxers in the world, those paychecks are really starting to rack themselves up. But with everything he’s done up until now, surprisingly the majority of this yearly sum was actually attributed to one matchup!
From his highly anticipated rematch against fellow fighter Tyson Fury, Wilder was able to make somewhere between $25-$30 million. Do you think that’s an absurd amount of money for someone to make from a simple two-hour fight? Yeah, many people would probably agree.
19. Anthony Joshua ($47 million)
While so many Americans are obsessed with the NBA and NFL, the top boxers of the world are making some serious bank. British boxer Anthony Joshua is one of these privileged athletes, currently holding the 19th spot on this list with a yearly income of $47 million.
Indeed, his fame is at an all-time high these days in boxing circles, especially after his recent victory against Andy Ruiz Jr. in December of 2019. But while this victory earned him respect and adoration from many fans, it also earned him the substantial sum of $36 million. With additional endorsements from companies such as EA Sports and Beats Electronics, Joshua isn’t likely going to be worried about money any time soon.
18. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($47.6 million)
When Giannis Antetokounmpo, or the “Greek Freak”, entered the NBA in 2013, he was a lottery pick who showed some promise. But no one could’ve predicted how much of a viscerally dominant force of nature he’d ultimately grow to be. Thanks to him, the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the major juggernauts in basketball this year, and a strong candidate to win the NBA finals.
The reigning MVP of the league is also only 25 years old, which makes his mere placement in this list a little scary. Will Giannis be making double the amount of money in ten years from now? Given his current trajectory, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if that becomes a reality.
17. James Harden ($47.8 million)
James Harden, or “The Beard” as so many fans know him, is considered by most to be a top-five player in the NBA currently. However, some maintain that the Houston Rockets guard, who holds the scoring crown after averaging a career high 36 points a game in the 2018-2019 season, is actually the number one best player in the league.
But until The Beard snags a championship for himself, he’ll have a hard time convincing fans he’s better than the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and some of the other league’s biggest superstars. Nevertheless, the step-back-three master has garnered enough respect to land a four-year contract worth $171 million. And when you add endorsements to the mix, he’s earning $47.8 million overall in 2020.
16. Conor McGregor ($48 million)
Although we’ve only seen Irishman Conor McGregor enter the ring a couple times in the last few years, he’s still considered to be one of the most dominant MMA fighters in the world today. He affirmed that sentiment in January 2020, when he knocked out his opponent Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a shocking 40-second battle, and earned $30 million in the process.
Paydays of this magnitude are common for world-class fighters, but that doesn’t take away from the surrealness of it all. With a $16 million Reebok endorsement deal on his books, among other business ventures, the amount McGregor makes in 2020 is head and shoulders above most athletes.
15. Jared Goff ($49 million)
It’s pretty crazy to think that Jared Goff has already found a way to snake himself onto this list. While the young Los Angeles Rams quarterback has certainly impressed us all in his few years in the league, he still has quite a lot to prove. Although he helped bring the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2019, he wasn’t able to lead them to victory over Tom Brady and the ruthless New England Patriots.
However, this didn’t stop him from receiving a four-year deal worth $134 million — proving that the Rams’ front office clearly has a lot of faith in his potential. One of the highest-paid rising stars in the world, Goff hopes to justify his paycheck to football fans by winning a long-awaited Super Bowl for Los Angeles.
14. Rory McIlroy ($52 million)
Anyone following the golf scene today knows that Rory McIlroy is arguably the biggest golfer in the world. In 2019, he made a boatload of cash — $15 million to be exact — for winning both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Seeing as he achieved these victories against golf legend Tiger Woods, no one is questioning the Irish golfer’s credentials at this point.
With endorsement deals worth approximately $30 million, the 31-year-old star looks to improve his ranking on this list in the coming years. But even if he stays where he is, we highly doubt much of anything could affect this man’s bank account very heavily.
13. Lewis Hamilton ($54 million)
Racing remains a popular niche sport, but the racers who are at the top of the field have certainly benefited handsomely from their craft. Lewis Hamilton, considered to be one the greatest racers of all time, had an extremely successful year in 2019 — which led to his astounding overall income of $54 million in 2020.
Coming off his sixth Formula 1 Championship, Hamilton looks to retain his place on the throne this year. But make no mistake, he’ll make millions regardless of what happens. This is because he recently signed a two-year deal with Mercedes worth just over $50 million. The only racer on this list, Hamilton reigns supreme above all his peers.
12. Russell Westbrook ($56 million)
A guard with arguably the biggest motor in the entire NBA, Russell Westbrook is a widely recognized powerhouse on wheels. By averaging a triple-double for three years straight while still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, he made the legendary Oscar Robertson’s similar feat half a century ago seem like child’s play.
That being said, Westbrook knows he still has a lot to prove, and he currently seeks his first title after joining former teammate James Harden on the Houston Rockets. But title or no title, Westbrook is a world-class athlete who’s also extremely marketable. This has helped him score major contracts and endorsements, which in 2020 adds up to around $56 million a year.
11. Tyson Fury ($57 million)
Major sports conglomerate ESPN recently dubbed Tyson Fury as the world’s best heavyweight boxer. Known as the “Gypsy King”, his 2020 income of $57 million is extremely high, even among athletes; but then again, fighters tend to make impressive sums of money once they reach a certain pinnacle of their career.
In addition to his recent $26 million payday for fighting Deontay Wilder, Fury made an insane amount of money from sales that came in from his autobiography, released in November of 2019. Add to that his substantial endorsements, and this guy looks to be raking in an eight-figure income for years to come.
10. Carson Wentz ($59.1 million)
The second selection of the 2016 NFL Draft, quarterback Carson Wentz was held up to some high expectations. But he turned out to be quite worth the risk, emerging as the salvation for a Philadelphia Eagles fanbase desperate for some glory.
Wentz ultimately led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2018, cementing his place in their legacy forever. In 2019, the Eagles front office rewarded Wentz by giving him a four-year deal worth $128 million, making him one of the highest-paid athletes today. Only 27 years old, Wentz will likely earn another massive contract before his career is up.
9. Kirk Cousins ($60.5 million)
When Kirk Cousins left the Washington Redskins to sign with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, it wasn’t so hard to see why. The Vikings offered him an amazing contract, a three-year deal worth $84 million, and Cousins happily accepted the promotion.
In March 2020, he signed a new deal with his team, which enabled him to earn $66 million over two seasons. But with added endorsements, Cousins actually earns just over $60 million in one year, making him the world’s highest-paid football player in 2020. He might not be Tom Brady, but he’s sure making more money than him this year.
8. Tiger Woods ($62.3 million)
Is there any golfer with a name as iconic as Tiger Woods? He’s practically the Michael Jordan of the sport, from his accolades to his unnaturally large bank account. But perhaps what makes Woods so impressive is his shocking consistency. After disappearing from the spotlight for nearly a decade, Woods shocked the sports world in 2019 when he won the Masters.
For those who thought he was done slaying competition, he proved to everyone that he still had it. Currently tied at number one for all-time PGA Tour wins, Woods has never had a problem snagging major endorsement deals; and even after all these years, he makes $60 million a year in endorsements.
7. Kevin Durant ($63.9 million)
Considering the fact that Kevin Durant hasn’t played a shred of basketball in 2020, it’s pretty eye-opening that he’s still one of the league’s highest earners. After suffering an injury in the 2019 NBA Finals versus the Toronto Raptors that ended up derailing not just his season, but the Golden State Warriors’ title hopes, Durant used the off season to join forces with fellow star Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets.
But although we are yet to see Durant actually take the NBA court in a practical sense this year, many still consider him to be the number one best basketball player on the planet — and he’s certainly one of the highest earners.
6. Stephen Curry ($74.4 million)
Steph Curry unleashed a monsoon of hype that was completely called for. With his liberal attitude towards three-point shooting — letting the rock fly like a hot potato and actually making a shockingly high percentage of his threes — Curry ushered in the future of the NBA. A world of small-ball lineups, spacing, and stretch-fives became the new norm, and it was all because of this man.
In addition to leading the Golden State Warriors to three titles, the two-time MVP has also been incredibly entertaining to watch. It was a no-brainer for the Warriors to offer him the contract they did, a deal that was the first ever to be worth more than $200 million. A resident of the Bay Area, Curry also has his foot dipped into various other investment opportunities, leaving him with a 2020 income most can’t even dream about.
5. LeBron James ($88.2 million)
LeBron James crowned himself as the “King” when he was selected first by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA Draft. But what was originally perceived as a cocky attitude ended up appearing prophetic — because James truly did become the King of the NBA over the next two decades. With four MVPs, eight straight trips to the Finals (three of which he won), and a career stat-line that seems impossibly efficient, it’s amazing that he’s still going strong.
Hungry for another title, the Los Angeles Laker forward is still writing history — and the cash is following with a vengeance. From his hefty contracts, to his shoe deals, to his affiliation with Klutch Sports, to his acting in the upcoming Space Jam sequel, James is emerging as one of the leading athlete entrepreneurs of 2020.
4. Neymar Jr. ($95.5 million)
It’s amazing that Neymar Jr. is the first soccer player we’ve seen so far on this list. Even more startling is how high his yearly salary is, with a figure as staggering as $95.5 million. But just how does this Brazilian superstar manage to make so much money? It’s not only from what he does on the field itself.
The unstoppable athlete, essentially in his prime today, currently has a five-year deal with Ligue 1 that’s worth a ridiculous $350 million. He was also the first-ever soccer star to effectively represent the Nike Jordan brand — and managed the difficult feat of promoting soccer to the American public in the process.
3. Lionel Messi ($104 million)
The first player on this list to crack the $100 million-per-year mark, Lionel Messi is one of the richest athletes in the world today. It’s not unwarranted, considering the fact that many believe him to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
From an accolades standpoint, Messi was the first-ever player to win six Ballon d’Or awards, and he also led FC Barcelona to ten La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles. With $32 million coming in from endorsements, and even more money coming from FC Barcelona, Messi makes the top three with a 2020 income of roughly $104 million.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo ($105 million)
Soccer fans are divided as to whether Ronaldo or Messi are the best players in their game. But regardless, Ronaldo can at least say that he wins in the income department. The Juventus star actually agreed to a small pay cut when the news of COVID-19 hit, but he still managed to scrape together an exorbitant income of $105 million in 2020.
With $45 million in endorsements coming his way, it would be quite hard for Ronaldo to struggle financially, even during these uncertain economic times. In fact, he’s currently on track to becoming the third athlete to ever earn more than $1 billion throughout his career.
1. Roger Federer ($106.3 million)
Rounding out the list of the top-earning athletes of any sport for 2020 is Swiss tennis demigod Roger Federer. Federer has been a household name in the industry for decades now, and he’s now enjoying the fruits of his labors.
Although the 2020 pandemic actually took money out of Federer’s pocket, preventing him from competing in some high-stakes matches, he still has a 2020 income of $106.3 million. Much of that money can be attributed to a $300 million, ten-year deal he signed with the Japanese brand Uniqlo in 2010. It’s always nice to have that in one’s back pocket, eh?