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LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo top highest earning athletes in 2022


American professional basketball player, LeBron James is ranked the highest-earning athlete worldwide in 2022.

This is according to research by Sportico, a sports business publication with estimates based on earnings from June 2021 to May 2022 as well as combined salary and prize money from off-court empire.

As the highest earner, the basketballer made $126.9 million in the last year and is followed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with $122 million and $115 million respectively on the second and third positions while Tigerwood featured on the 10th position with estimated earnings of $73.5 million.

Further analysis shows that the top 10 athletes earn N1 billion while the top 100 athletes play 10 different sports and collectively earned an estimated $4.5 billion in salary, prize money and endorsements over the last 12 months. The amount however represents a 6% increase from the amount recorded last year.

Key highlight of the list

  • Osaka ranks as the highest-paid female athlete at $53.2 million on the No. 20th overall. However, while injury and a break from tennis limited her on-court earnings to $1.2 million, she is said to rake in $52 million from more than 20 endorsement partners.
  • Just like the list in the 2021 record, Osaka and Serena Williams ($35.3 million, No. 52nd ) are the only female athletes listed on the top 100.
  • The new list comprises 41 newcomers and nearly half were from the NFL. This is believed to be driven by huge signing bonuses.
  • The largest earning slice of the top 100 constituted the NBA players with 36 players making the cut while NFL saw 25 players, soccer saw 13 athletes and baseball saw 12 athletes.
  • Athletes from 24 different countries made the list, Americans dominated with 69 entries majorly from NFL and NBA while the U.K. had five athletes and France had four.

Top 10 athlete earners according to Sportico

  • LeBron James — $126.9
  • Lionel Messi — $122
  • Cristiano Ronaldo — $115
  • Neymar — $103
  • Canelo Álvarez — $89
  • Stephen Curry — $86.2
  • Kevin Durant — $85.9
  • Roger Federer — $85.7
  • James Harden — $76
  • Tiger Woods — $73.5



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