Top 10 Highest-Earning Athletes 2009-10
1. Tiger Woods, Golf – $105 million.
2. Floyd Mayweather , Boxing – $65 million.
3. Kobe Bryant, Basketball – $48 million.
4. Phil Mickleson, Golf – $46 million.
5. David Beckham, Soccer – $43.7 million.
6. Roger Federer, Tennis – $43 million.
7. LeBron James, Basketball – $42.8 million.
8. Manny Pacquiao – Boxing, $42 million.
9. Eli Manning, Football – $39.9 million.
10. Terrell Suggs, Football – $38.3 million.
It Pays to Be an American Male
Although this ranking considers professional athletes in all sports around the world and does not limit consideration by nationality or gender, all 10 athletes on the list are men, nine of whom primarily live and/or compete in the US. Even the lone soccer player, UK native David Beckham, earns most of his income from a sport vastly more popular globally than in the US by playing on an American franchise.
Swiss tennis player Roger Federer competes in tennis tournaments around the globe, making him the only member of the list who is not primarily reliant on performing in front of a US audience. Although Filipino native (and recently elected member of the Congress of the Philippines) Manny Pacquiao competes in the global sport of boxing, the bulk of his 2009-10 earnings came from two bouts held in the US.
The male domination of the top 10 ranking reflects that men’s sports are much more popular than women’s sports in the US, which leads to higher salaries and greater opportunities for endorsements. For example, top-paid athlete Tiger Woods receives $30 million annually for exclusively using and promoting Nike golf products.
Individual Sports Pay Well
Three of the top four-earning athletes compete in individual sports. The one team sport representative, basketball player Kobe Bryant, competes in what is generally considered a highly individualistic team sport which allows players to develop unique public personas.
Bryant, Woods Tie as Favorite Sports Star
Unsurprisingly, there is some overlap between the Forbes list of the top 10-paid athletes and a recent list of the 10 favorite US athletes compiled by Harris Interactive. Bryant and Woods tied at number one, and LeBron James was ranked number six. The largest difference between the lists was the higher number of football players (four) on the favorites list, as well as two baseball players on the favorites list compared to none on the top-earning list.