Most people become professional athletes because they enjoy the sport. It only takes a brief flurry of good performances to get a contract or the right sponsorship deal
Many athletes can earn good money and retire young, without ever being considered the best in their sport.
However, if you’re the best you’re in a whole other world. It’s possible to combine extended career success with sponsorship deals and enough business knowledge to launch their own product to maintain and even build on their earnings.
The right combination turns you from one of the highest earning athletes playing today, into one of the highest paid sports players ever.
It’s hard to think of another athlete who would ever be able to top Michael Jordan. He’s worth an estimated $2.62 billion. He played 15 seasons and won six championships. Jordan is also attributed with making the NBA popular around the globe. He is arguably the greatest sportsman of the 20th century.
Jordan made a lot of money from Basketball and the associated sponsorships. But, it’s his partnership with Nike, producing the Air Jordan, and even his involvement in films that boosted his income. He also part-owns the Hornets.
In fact, Jordan is a testimony to sponsorship deals and business acumen. He may top the list of the highest paid sports players, but if you just consider his wage for basketball, there are plenty of people that would be considered the highest earning athletes instead of him!
Tiger Woods is estimated to be worth $2.1 billion. He turned professional in 1996 when he was aged 20 and has since won numerous championships, becoming recognized as one of the greatest golfers of all time.
Despite some rough periods Woods has proved his talent over and over again, helping to earn him a fortune in sponsorship deals.
With an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, Palmer is the closest golfer to Woods on the list. He was considered the highest paid athlete during his early career, which started in 1954 and lasted until 2006.
Of course, he also has a refreshing drink named after him, that’s appropriate for a man that was seen as the first superstar of televised sport. He was also accredited with changing the perception of the sport, allowing middle and working classes to start playing.
Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the most famous soccer stars in the world, and apparently the richest. He’s worth $1.24 billion. At his peak, it is fair to say most football-based conversations revolved around who was better, Ronaldo or Messi.
Regardless of his impressive ball skills, Ronaldo has also scored impressively off the pitch. He’s overseen his own mobile game, created a social networking app, and entered into an array of deals with other businesses, specifically perfume and clothing.
Floyd Mayweather remains unbeaten in and out of the ring. He’s worth $1.2 billion and has fought in the ring 50 times between 1996 and 2015. He won all fifty fights and 27 of them were knockouts. It’s enough to ensure he ranks as the greatest boxer of all time.
Of course, this means he attracts a large following and that gives him access to a huge number of sponsorship deals. He also comes out of retirement periodically to box, if the price is right. It’s rumored his fight against Conor McGregor in 2017 gave him a $300 million payday.
There are plenty of other names that appear on the list of highest-paid athletes, including Michael Schumacher, the legend who made Formula 1 known and accessible to everyone. He comes in at number 8 with lifetime earnings of $1.13 billion.
The simple truth is you have to be a great sports star to earn the big bucks. But, to become one of the highest paid athletes of all time, you need to know how to parlay your success into great business deals. That’s something all the above five have demonstrated is more than just possible.