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Jordan held the title of the NBA’s highest-paid player for only two out of his 15 seasons, earning a total of $94 million while playing for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. His off-court ventures were where he excelled, maintaining enduring endorsement partnerships with Gatorade, 2K Games, Five Star Fragrances, and Upper Deck. His long-standing deal with Hanes ended in 2021 after 32 years. However, Nike stands out as his primary income source, estimated at $250 million last year, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo’s $275 million among current and retired athletes in 2023.

In contrast, James currently holds the title of the NBA’s highest-paid active player this year, inclusive of endorsements, ranking fourth among all athletes in 2023 with earnings of $126 million. His career earnings from playing salaries are projected to exceed $500 million next season. His endorsement portfolio includes partnerships with AT&T, Beats,, GMC, PepsiCo, and Taco Bell. Additionally, he has a lifetime deal with Nike worth over $30 million annually. Similar to Jordan’s success with his ownership in the Charlotte Hornets, not factored into the overall earnings, James has equity shares in various ventures such as SpringHill Company, Blaze Pizza, Lobos 1707 tequila, and Fenway Sports Group.

Golfers make up the next significant group with eight representatives in the Top 50 list, featuring Tiger Woods (No. 2, $2.66 billion), Arnold Palmer (No. 4, $1.76 billion), and Phil Mickelson (No. 11, $1.43 billion). Like Jordan, their major earnings come from off-course endeavors; Woods earned $121 million in PGA Tour prize money, while Palmer’s earnings from the PGA and Champions tours totaled just $3.6 million. Mickelson benefited from a substantial payout from LIV.

In various sports, prominent figures include Ronaldo from soccer (ranked 3rd with $1.92 billion), Roger Federer from tennis (ranked 9th with $1.49 billion), Floyd Mayweather from boxing (ranked 10th with $1.48 billion), Michael Schumacher from auto racing (ranked 12th with $1.36 billion), Alex Rodriguez from baseball (ranked 20th with $775 million), Tom Brady from football (ranked 23rd with $745 million), and Conor McGregor from MMA (ranked 50th with $555 million).

To enter the Top 50, one must surpass the $555 million mark, which has increased from $510 million the previous year. Among the 50 names, 31 are Americans, and active athletes constitute 40% of the list. Serena Williams is the sole woman among the top earners, while Maria Sharapova narrowly missed the cut. Williams retired from tennis in 2022 but maintained a substantial endorsement portfolio that grew in the latter part of her career, featuring brands such as Nike, AT&T, Beats, Ford Motor, Gatorade, and Subway. Furthermore, she amassed $95 million in prize money, surpassing earnings of any female athlete in any sport by more than double.