Which athletes are making the most money? For 2022, it's Los Angeles Lakers star/media mogul LeBron James who made $126.9 million in the last year, according to research by the sports business publication Sportico.
James, 37, takes over the top spot from MMA fighter Conor McGregor. James is among 36 NBA players listed in Sportico's top 100 rankings. James landed in the top spot after being No. 5 a year ago. He is also the lone American in the top five, though Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry ($86.2 million), Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets ($85.9 million), James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers ($76 million) and golfer Tiger Woods ($73.5 million) are in the top 10. Tennis star Naomi Osaka ($53.2 million) is the top-earning woman on the list. Serena Williams ($35.3 million) is the only other woman in the top 100.
Sportico's estimates are based on earnings from June 2021 to May 2022 and combine salary and prize money. It also includes incentives and bonuses, along with endorsements from things like sponsorships, licensing, royalties, memorabilia, and media appearances. Altogether, the top 100 combined to earn $4.5 billion in this timeframe, up 6% from last year.
While 25 players from the NFL, America's most popular sport, are on the list, it is international footballers joining James in the top 5. Lionel Messi ($122 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($115 million) and Neymar ($103 million) are ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. They are among 13 soccer players on the list. The NFL is second only to the NBA in number representatives.
On the strength of a $60 million signing bonus, Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford comes in at No. 11 and is the highest-ranked NFL player. Stafford made $73.3 million in the last year to go along with a Super Bowl win. Of all the NFL players, 10 are quarterbacks. Josh Allen and Tom Brady are in the top 20. Shoutout to Ryan Ramczyk of the New Orleans Saints and Brandon Scherff of the Jacksonville Jaguars for being two offensive linemen to join the list. Trevor Lawrence ($32.8 million), the 22-year-old Jaguars QB, ranks No. 72 and is the youngest on the list.
Two athletes were notable for moving down the list. McGregor, after suffering a broken leg and not fighting since July, moved from No. 1 to 22. Golfer Phil Mickelson fell from 33 to 44 after losing several sponsors by making controversial comments about the Saudi Arabian government.