International athletes Conor McGregor, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to dominate the highest paid athlete lists, but in the States there are more than a few sports stars with money to burn.
Many NFL legends and NBA superstars make the rundown, with some of the best known names in the business making serious money not only from their paychecks, but from multi-million dollar endorsement deals.
Every athlete in the top 25 of America’s highest earning sports stars, according to Forbes, earned at least $38.5 million in 2021.
1. Dak Prescott ($107.5m)
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass to Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
America’s top-earning athlete is football player Dak Prescott, who earned $97.5 million of his fortune this year on the field.
In March this year, Prescott signed a four-year contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys worth $160 million which came with a $66 million signing bonus, with his 2021 earnings setting a record for the NFL.
Sponsorships from Adidas, Albertson’s, Anheuser Busch InBev, AT&T, Beats Electronics, Directv, Frito-Lay, Panini, PepsiCo, Seven & I Holdings and Sleep Number, plus an investment in four Walk-On’s restaurants in Texas, bump up his earnings by $10 million.
2. LeBron James ($96.5m)
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half at State Farm Arena on December 15, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
One of the world’s most famous basketball stars, James is three years into a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers worth $153 million.
While he has $31.5 million in earnings from his game this year, $65 million comes from endorsements and sponsorships with the likes of AT&T, Beats Electronics, Nike, PepsiCo and Walmart, with James having the NBA’s top endorsement portfolio.
As well as owning his own production company and media company, James and his partners own 19 Blaze Pizza franchises in Chicago and South Florida.
3. Tom Brady ($76m)
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots cheers as he runs on to the field before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
After leaving the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers last year, Brady signed an extension with the team in 2021, and has earned $45 million from football.
However, the legendary quarterback has also earned $31 million from his TB12 lifestyle brand, his production company 199 Productions, and sponsorships with Under Armour and T-Mobile.
He forms quite the power couple with his wife Gisele Bündchen, who is one of the world’s highest paid supermodels.
4. Kevin Durant ($75m)
Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors smiles at his bench in a 129-110 win over the LA Clippers during Game Six of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 26, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Harry How/Getty Images
Setting a trend in NBA vs NFL wealth, Brooklyn Nets star Durant earns more money off the court than on, despite his four-year, $164 million contract.
Some $44 million of his earnings have come from sponsorships, with the likes of Nike, 2K Sports, Degree and Master & Dynamic, as well as investments in Postmates and the Major League Soccer team Philadelphia Union.
5. Stephen Curry ($74.5m)
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in the third quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry also earns more off the court, with $44 million in earnings thanks to sponsorships with Google, beverage start-up Oxigen, Callaway Golf and Under Armour, who launched the Curry Brand.
He also owns his own production company, Unanimous Media, which has deals with Sony and Audible.
Of course, he’s also well paid with the Golden State Warriors, claiming the league’s top salary.
6. Tiger Woods ($60m)
Tiger Woods (L) of the United States celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia.
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
While Tiger Woods has been out of action this year due to injuries sustained in a car accident, he has still managed to earn $60m this year, but only $200,000 of that is from actual golfing.
He signed a deal this year to allow his likeness to be used in the PGA Tour 2K video game franchise, launched his own signature clubs with TaylorMade in 2019, and holds sponsorships with a string of brands including Nike, Rolex and Monster Energy.
7. Russell Westbrook ($59m)
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets reacts on the bench in the first half against the Orlando Magic at Toyota Center on March 08, 2020 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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After signing a five-year, $207 million extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017, Westbrook has been traded to multiple teams, and is now with the Lakers.
Outside of his $33 million day job earnings, Westbrook’s millions come from a ten-year contract extension with Nike’s Jordan brand, his own shoe with Nike, and his ownership of ten car dealerships in Los Angeles.
8. Patrick Mahomes ($54.5m)
Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs is announced before the game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium on October 05, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
At just 25 years old, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Mahomes is basking in the glow of a ten-year contract extension with the Chiefs worth up to $503 million.
His endorsement portfolio features brands including Adidas, BioSteel, Bose, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Directv, Electronic Arts, Hy-Vee, Molson Coors Brewing, Nestlé, Panini, Procter & Gamble, and State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance, and has added $22m to his earnings this year.
9. James Harden ($51m)
ames Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at Barclays Center on January 23, 2021 in New York City.
After trading to the Brooklyn Nets from the Houston Rockets this year, Harden is looking forward to a massive payday, as his four-year extension from 2017 worth $171 million will pay out $47 million in 2022-2023.
Harden partnered with Adidas in 2015 in a 13-year deal believed to be worth $200m, while other partnerships and endorsements with brands including Amazon, Beats, State Farm Auto Insurance and an investment in the MLS team Houston Dynamo have added up tp $18m this year.
10. David Bakhitiari ($48.5m)
David Bakhtiari #69 of the Green Bay Packers looks on during the fourth quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Packers defeated the Vikings 43-34.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Just $500,000 of Green Bay Packers star Bakhitiari’s earnings come from endorsements.
The bulk—$48million to be exact—comes from his contract with the Packers, after he restructured his bonuses this year following his four-year extension signing in 2020.
11. Ronnie Stanley ($47.5m)
Ronnie Stanley #79 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on December 8, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Baltimore defeats Buffalo 24-17.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Stanley signed a five-year deal in 2020 with the Baltimore Ravens that could be worth $100 million, resulting in the bulk of his earnings for 2021.
His portfolio is relatively small, with just $500,000 coming from endorsements.
12. Dustin Johnson ($44.5m)
Dustin Johnson of the United States poses with the Masters Trophy during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on November 15, 2020 in Augusta, Georgia.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
2020 was a good year—professionally at least—for golfer Johnson, who won the FedEx Cup’s $15 million just months before claiming the Masters.
Deals with TaylorMade and putting mat maker Perfect Practice, as well as endorsements with Adidas, Hublot and BodyArmor, have added $20 million to his earnings.
13. Klay Thompson ($44.5m)
Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in the fourth quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on May 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Thompson’s contract with the Golden State Warriors is worth $190 million over five years, and while he missed the last season due to injury, that hasn’t dented his endorsement earnings.
The shooter has an $80 million deal with Chinese shoe brand Anta, as well as deals with NERF, Activision Blizzard, Mercedes-Benz, Waiakea Water and Bevel.
Thompson is also the co-founder of Just Live CBD.
14. Joey Bosa ($44m)
Joey Bosa #97 of the Los Angeles Chargers before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Dignity Health Sports Park on November 03, 2019 in Carson, California.
Harry How/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Chargers’ first ever $100 million deal went to Joey Bosa when he signed a $135m five-year extension last-year.
Another $1 million of his $44 million earnings this year came from endorsements with Nike, Gamebreaker, Panini and Rock-Tenn.
15. Kyrie Irving ($44m)
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates after he was fouled by Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter during Game One of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series on May 22, 2021 at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
While $27 million of Irving’s earnings come from his four-year, $141 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, endorsements and a media career have led to $17 million.
His Nike shoe is one of the brand’s biggest sellers, and a viral ad campaign with Pepsi led to Irving getting his own film, Uncle Drew, in 2018.
Irving partly owns the elderly character.
16. Jalen Ramsey ($43.5m)
Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars plays to the crowd after he knocked the ball away from DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Equity deals with BioSteel Sports Nutrition and alternative investment platform Rally and endorsements of Grubhub and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers have earned Ramsey $1.5 million this year.
However, the bulk of his fortune comes from his five-year, $105 million extension with the Los Angeles Rams, signed in 2020.
17. Trent Williams ($43.5m)
Trent Williams #71 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on before their game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 01, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images
This year, Williams signed a six-year, $138 million extension to stay with the San Francisco 49ers, leading to his bumper payday.
About $1 million of his earnings come from real estate investments and an investment in the collectibles creator Dapper Labs.
18. Myles Garrett ($43m)
Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns gives a thumbs up as he leaves the field following a win against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 17, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
The Cleveland Browns signed Garrett for a five-year, $125 million contract, with only $500,000 of his 2021 earnings coming from off the field.
19. Serena Williams ($41.5m)
Serena Williams of The United States celebrates victory during the Ladies Singles second round match against Christina McHale of the United States on day five of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 1, 2016 in London, England.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Tennis superstar Serena Williams is the only woman in the top 25 highest earning American athletes.
About $40 million of her earnings this year come from endorsements, with Williams having nearly 20 corporate partners, investments in over 50 startups, and a first look deal with Amazon Studios.
Williams also has an investment in the NFT platform Bitski and owns a 0.5 percent stake in the Miami Dolphins.
20. Phil Mickelson ($41m)
Phil Mickelson of the United States acknowledges the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” on the third green during the third round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 16, 2018 in Southampton, New York.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Another person whose endorsements are pulling the weight this year, golfer Mickelson made $40 million this year from sponsorships with Amgen, Callaway Golf, Grayhawk Golf Club, Heineken N.V., Intrepid Financial Partners, KPMG, Melin, Mizzen+Main, Rolex, VistaJet and Workday.
He also cofounded Coffee for Wellness last year.
21. Damian Lillard ($40.5m)
Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes the ball while driving to the basket during the second half of the game against the Phoenix Suns at the Moda Center on December 30, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. The Phoenix Suns top the Portland Trail Blazers 122-116.
Alika Jenner/Getty Images
Lillard will earn an average of $40 million a year with the Portland Trail Blazers until the 2024-25 season, and has plenty of sponsorships to pad out his pay packet.
He has a bestselling shoe line with Adidas and endorsements with Moda Health, Spalding and 2K sports, as well as a music career.
Recording under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A, the athlete has released three studio albums and features on the soundtrack for NBA 2K20.
22. Chris Paul ($40m)
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts toward an official for a call during the second quarter against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on April 08, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Harry How/Getty Images
Prior to taking a pay cut during the pandemic, Chris Paul’s $41.4 million salary with the Phoenix Suns was the second-highest in the NBA.
In addition to $33 million earned on the court, $7 millio of his earnings comes from a sponsorship deal with State Farm, endorsements with Nike, Spalding and Panini, and equity stakes in Beyond Meat and WTRMLN WTR.
23. DeAndre Hopkins ($39m)
DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates after catching a pass for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium on November 21, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Colts 20-17.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
With $1m coming from investments in Beyond Meat, Therabody, BioSteel and Oars & Alps and a partnership with sports recruiting platform SEQL, $38 million of Hopkins’ earnings came from his day job.
Last year, the wide receiver negotiated his own two-year, $54.5 million contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals.
24. Leonard Williams ($39m)
Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Eagles defeated the Giants 34-17.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
All but $500,000 of Williams’ 2021 earnings came from his deal with the New York Giants.
In March this year, Williams signed a three-year, $63 million extension with the Giants that includes $45 million guaranteed. Not too shabby.
25. Jimmy Butler ($38.5m)
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat reacts after dunking against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 18, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images
In 2019, Butler joined the Miami Heat on a four-year, $142 million deal through a sign-and-trade agreement with the Philadelphia 76ers, leading to $27.5 million in earnings this year.
A further $11 million comes from endorsements with Anheuser Busch InBev, Google, Logitech, Rhone, Tag Heuer and Chinese sports brand Li-Ning, who he signed with after cutting short his deal with Nike’s Jordan brand.