Highest-paid athletes of all time: Michael Jordan leads star-studded top-25 list

Highest-paid athletes of all time: Michael Jordan leads star-studded top-25 list

Michael Jordan is the highest-paid athlete of all time, earning $2.62 billion in inflation adjusted earnings, according to a story released by Sportico on Thursday morning. 

Jordan topped a list in which he is followed by three golfers: Tiger Woods ($2.1 billion), Arnold Palmer ($1.5 billion) and Jack Nicklaus ($1.38 billion). Current NBA superstar LeBron James ranks seventh on the list at $1.17 billion. 

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Here’s a look at the full top-25 list: 

Rank Athlete Country Sport Turned Pro Inflation Adjusted Earnings
1 Michael Jordan United States Basketball 1984 $2.62 billion
2 Tiger Woods United States Golf 1996 $2.1 billion
3 Arnold Palmer United States Golf 1954 $1.5 billion
4 Jack Nicklaus United States Golf 1961 $1.38 billion
5 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Soccer 2002 $1.24 billion
6 Floyd Mayweather United States Boxing 1996 $1.2 billion
7 LeBron James United States Basketball 2003 $1.17 billion
8 Lionel Messi Argentina Soccer 2004 $1.14 billion
9 Michael Schumacher Germany Racing 1991 $1.13 billion
10 Roger Federer Switzerland Tennis 1998 $1.12 billion
11 Phil Mickelson United States Golf 1992 $1.08 billion
12 David Beckham United Kingdom Soccer 1992 $1.05 billion
13 Kobe Bryant United States Basketball 1996 $930 million
14 Shaquille O’Neal United States Basketball 1992 $870 million
15 Greg Norman Australia Golf 1976 $815 million
16 Mike Tyson United States Boxing 1985 $775 million
17 Alex Rodriguez United States Baseball 1993 $650 million
18 Manny Pacquiao Philippines Boxing 1995 $630 million
19 Kevin Durant United States Basketball 2007 $625 million
20 Lewis Hamilton United Kingdom Racing 2007 $620 million
21 Neymar Brazil Soccer 2009 $615 million
22 Jeff Gordon United States Racing 1990 $595 million
23 Oscar de la Hoya United States Boxing 1992 $580 million
24 Peyton Manning United States Football 1998 $570 million
25 Derek Jeter United States Baseball 1992 $555 million

Here’s a look at other statistics from Jordan’s net worth, NBA salary and career endorsements. 

What is Michael Jordan’s net worth? 

Jordan’s net worth is $1.6 billion, according to a story in March from the Chicago Sun-Times. 

That total is down $500 million from last year, according to the same story, which is perhaps related to the GameStop stocks that rose considerably earlier this year. 

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Per the Sun-Times, Jordan was worth $1 billion in March 2015, a total that rose to $1.8 billion by March 2019, per Forbes. He continued trending up to his high of $2.1 billion in April 2020 before taking losses in the past year. 

What was Michael Jordan’s NBA salary? 

According to HoopsHype, Jordan earned $86,760,000 during his playing career ($144,638,640 in current dollars). 

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Jordan’s highest-paid year was during his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98, when he earned $33,140,000 (equivalent to $53,296,273 today). It was significantly more than what he earned earlier in his career and even surpassed the NBA salary cap at the time. 

Which current endorsements does Michael Jordan have? 

The story from Sportico evealed only 6 percent of Jordan’s total earnings are from his playing days with the Bulls and Washington Wizards. His estimated total is based on salaries, endorsements, licensing and memorabilia earnings since he entered the NBA in 1984 and includes ongoing endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck. 

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Per the story, Jordan will earn an estimated $150 million through his seminal Nike partnership in royalties in 2021, which is nearly two decades after he retired from the sport following the 2002-03 season. 

Jordan’s “retro” shoes from when he played during the 1990s have continued to sell well since his retirement, and the Jordan brand led a Nike resurgence in fourth-quarter sales and shares this year.





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.