NEW YORK – Forbes has released its annual ranking of the World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes. The top 100 athletes earned a total of $3.15 billion over the last 12 months, a slight decrease from last year’s earnings of $3.2 billion, which received a boost from the historic $460 million earned by boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Overall earnings for the top 100 athletes were down, but endorsement income rose 11% to $924 million.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, with earnings of $88 million, takes the top spot for the first time. This is the first time since 2000 that someone besides Mayweather or Tiger Woods has held the top spot. Cost of admission to the 2016 list is the highest ever at $20.8 million, $2 million more than it was a year ago. The list of elite athletes consists of players from ten different sports. Baseball with 26 players, basketball with 18, football with 21 and soccer with 12 dominate the list. There are no hockey players on the list for a fifth straight year.
There are 23 countries represented on the Highest-Paid Athletes list, with Americans (65) the most prevalent thanks to soaring salaries in baseball, basketball and football. Five Brits landed in the top 100, led by F1 driver Lewis Hamilton at No. 11 with $46 million. Three athletes each made the cut from Argentina, Germany and the Dominican Republic.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who ranked No. 11 in 2015, is the biggest drop-off in 2016. Big Ben was listed at $48.9 million last year, thanks to his March 2015 contract extension that included a $31 million signing bonus. The biggest gainer this year is PGA professional golfer Jordan Spieth, who moved up from No. 85 to No. 9, thanks to his $10 million FedEx Cup payday, new endorsements, rich appearance fees and sponsor bonuses from winning two major tournaments.
Methodology: Forbes earnings figures include all salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016. Winnings for golfers and tennis players represent their prize money over that period. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income for the 12 months through June 1 based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. The golfers’ income includes course design work. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees, and we do not include investment income. The list only includes athletes active during the last 12 months.
The World’s Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes: