The Winter Olympic Games remind us that not every athlete makes money as a champion. An Olympic Medal is worth about $750. Some medal winners go on to be paid athletes. Others make money from endorsements. However, the Olympics have rarely been the best path to a massive athlete payday.
Professional athletes, on the other hand, can be paid huge sums for their time on the field. Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who many consider the best quarterback in the NFL, recently signed a contract that pays him $45 million a year. NBA player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors makes about the same.
Even athletes who are paid these towering sums make more money via endorsements than they do on the field. Shoe company Nike pays out endorsements that, when combined, run into hundreds of millions of dollars. The theory is that if players use Nike gear, people everywhere will want to do the same. That may work. Air Jordan shoes, named after basketball great Michael Jordan, were introduced in 1985. Jordon retired in 2003. The Air Jordan line of products still brings Nike over $1 billion a year.
OLBG recently released a study titled “Off-Field Earners”.
The study does have a weakness. Its overreliance on Forbes data on athlete pay and endorsements.
An athlete whose career appears to be over tops the list. This is not unusual. Several athletes who do well by these measures will never return to the field. Conor McGregor, a UFC fighter, has had a history of wins. However, he is barely listed in the top 10 in his sport and was badly beaten in his last outing in July 2021. He has been a mainstay of the pay per view part of the league’s success. His total earnings come to $180 million last year, of which only $22 million was earned in the ring.
McGregor is followed by one of the greatest players in tennis. Roger Federer’s total income was $90 million last year, almost all of which came from endorsements. He is followed by basketball great Labron James, whose total is $96.5 million, of which $31.5 million was earned on the court.
Next, Tiger Woods, who is almost certainly retired made $60 million, virtually all of which was from endorsements.
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