Woods Still Way Ahead in Top 50 Highest Earning Athletes

June 1, 2011

Forbes’ list of the top 50 highest paid athletes shows that Tiger Woods is still the highest-paid athlete in the world – and it isn’t even a close call. Woods earned US$75m over the past 12 months, easily outdistancing second-ranked Kobe Bryant, who made $53m.

Despite the likes of sponsors Accenture, AT&T, PepsiCo and Gillete cutting their ties with the golfer, Woods can thank two long-term sponsors for his hefty income. Nike signed Woods to a five-year, $40m deal when he turned pro in 1998. Electronic Arts released its first “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” videogame in 1998.

Bryant leads 15 basketball players that made the list, more than any other sport, having added Turkish Airlines and Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Car to his endorsement portfolio this year. His $24.8m salary with the Los Angeles Lakers is $4m more than any other NBA player. No. 3 on the list is Miami Heat forward LeBron James, who earned $48m over the past year.

Soccer is the most represented sport in the top 10 with English LA Galaxy midfielder topping Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of earnings.

Women were, once again, under-represented among the top-earning athletes with tennis player Maria Sharapova being the only woman to crack the top 50 for the second straight year. She ranks 29th with earnings of $24.2m, largely from her lucrative Nike deal, which pays her royalties on her lines of tennis apparel and Cole Haan shoes.

Top 10

1. Tiger Woods (Golf) – $75m

2. Kobe Bryant (Basketball) – $53m

3. LeBron James (Basketball) – $48m

4. Roger Federer (Tennis) – $47m

5. Phil Mickelson (Golf) – $46.5m

6. David Beckham (Soccer) – $40m

7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer) – $38m

8. Alex Rodriguez (Baseball) – $35m

9. Michael Schumacher (Formula One) – $34m

10. Lionel Messi (Soccer) – $32.3m