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Ronaldo, James Top Highest-Paid Athletes List

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Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d'Or for a fourth time after he beat Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann to the title. Photo: AFP

Forbes released today its annual ranking of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes. The top 100 earned a total of $3.11 billion over the last 12 months, a slight decrease from last year’s earnings of $3.15 billion.

Endorsement income also experienced a bit of a decline, down 4% to $887 million this year. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldowith earnings of $93 million, retains the top spot for the second consecutive year. Before Ronaldo, the best-paid sports star was either Tiger Woods or Floyd Mayweather for 15 straight years.  Woods ranks No. 17 this year, while Mayweather did not make the cut, having had no fights over the last 12 months. Cost of admission to the 2017 list is the highest ever at $21.4 million, up $600,000 from the previous year.

Dec 23, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

“Massive TV contracts are fueling bigger salaries across team sports, pushing the entry level to qualify for the top 100 athletes higher than ever, but the retirement of several prolific endorsers like Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant dented sponsorship income this year,” said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor, Forbes Media.

The list of elite athletes consists of players from 11 different sports. Basketball dominates the list with a record 32 NBA players among the top 100, up from 18 in 2016, followed by baseball with 22 players, football with 15 and soccer with 9.

There are 21 countries represented on this year’s World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, with Americans (63) the most prevalent thanks to sky-high salaries in basketball, football and baseball. Six Brits landed in the top 100, led by golfer Rory McIlroy at No. 6 with $50 million. NBA player Al Horford (No. 44 with $28.1 million) heads five athletes from the Dominican Republic, while three Spaniards made the cut with F1’s Fernando Alonso on top at No. 20 with $36 million. No other country had more than two athletes in the 100.

Methodology: Forbes earnings figures include all salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017.  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, nor do we include investment income.  Our list includes only athletes active in the last 12 months.

The World’s Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2017:

Rank Athlete Sport Salary ($mil) Endorsements ($mil) Total Earnings ($mil)
1 Cristiano Ronaldo Soccer 58.0 35 93.0
2 LeBron James Basketball 31.2 55 86.2
3 Lionel  Messi Soccer 53.0 27 80.0
4 Roger Federer Tennis 6.0 58 64.0
5 Kevin Durant Basketball 26.6 34 60.6
6 Rory McIlroy Golf 16.0 34 50.0
6 Andrew Luck Football 47.0 3 50.0
8 Stephen Curry Basketball 12.3 35 47.3
9 James Harden Basketball 26.6 20 46.6
10 Lewis Hamilton Racing 38.0 8 46.0

 

For the full list and more, click here.

By Crystal Kwok, Forbes Media Corporate Communications

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