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The World's Highest Paid Athletes of All Time

Forbes magazine has been publishing lists of the highest-paid athletes since 1990, and calculating total earnings of the athletes, which includes money derived from salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing income. Since 2016, they have been able to combine all their data to determine who is the highest paid athlete of all time.

Jordan Highest of the Highest Paid

On top of the lists from 2016 and 2017 is basketballer Michael Jordan, who had a long and well paid career and continues to make millions since leaving the game. He is still earning more money annually than all active NBA players. Jordan was also on top of a similar list in 2021 of the highest earners of all time by Sportico. We also found Michael Jordan topped the list in our analysis of the top 10 highest paid athletes from 1990 to 2010. Second on the list, just behind Jordan, is Tiger Woods. If not for his spectacular though temporary fall from grace, he would be on top.

All-Time Highest Paid Athlete

The all-time highest paid athlete list has been created by Forbes ever since 2016, and each year Michael Jordan has topped the list. Despite not currently playing, he continues to earn money from his sport. Second placed each year was Tiger Woods, who is playing but not earning as much as he once did, and is not gaining on Jordan.

Year Name Sport earnings (USD$ million)
2017 Michael Jordan Basketball $1.85 billion
2016 Michael Jordan Basketball $1.7 billion

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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