Top 10 Highest Paid Male Athletes

by JS 

Why do they Make So Much?

In honor of the Olympics I thought it would be fun to explore the idea of money in sports. So I headed over to Forbes’ list of the 10 highest paid male athletes.

This list is based on earning for the period of June 1, 2007, and June 1, 2008. Some things that are interesting to me about the list. Michael Jordan has been retired since 1999 and earns all of his money from endorsements. It shows just how big of a star he was, that 9 years later he is still the #3 earning athlete.

Also interesting is that Tiger Woods earned more than double the #2 on the list David Beckham and almost equaled the entire top 10 earning female athletes combined ($118 million).


#1.Tiger Woods

Sport: Golf

Estimated Earnings: $115 million


#2. David Beckham

Sport: Soccer

Estimated Earnings: $50 million


#3. Michael Jordan

Sport: Basketball

Estimated Earnings: $45 million


#4. Phil Mickelson

Sport: Golf

Estimated Earnings: $45 million


#5. Kimi Raikkonen

Sport: Auto Racing

Estimated Earnings: $44 million


#6. Kobe Bryant

Sport: Basketball

Estimated Earnings: $39 million


#7 LeBron James

Sport: Basketball

Earnings: $38 million


#8. Ronaldinho

Sport: Soccer

Estimated Earnings: $37 million


#9. Valentino Rossi

Sport: Motorcycle Racing

Estimated Earnings: $35 million


#10. Roger Federer

Sport: Tennis

Estimated Earnings: $35 million

When you see these kind of earnings associated with sports stars, basically young men playing a game that they love, does it seem right?

Worth whatever they can get?

A popular argument, and one every capitalist holds dear, is that something or someone is worth whatever a free market will pay them.

But wait, aren’t we supposed to be rewarded based on the amount of value we contribute to society?

Since I believe that both statements are true, then it is interesting to try and understand the value that mega star athletes provide to society.


Another factor to consider is simple return on investment, many of the families of Olympians list the costs of raising a child to become an Olympic or elite athlete in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It makes sense that if the costs are this high, possible return would need to be astronomical for the system to make sense. After all the risks are also very high, as only a very few will make the kind of money that the guys on the list above are pulling in.

Certainly there is the adrenaline rush of watching someone pull of some feat of sport that seems impossible, and to do it consistently.

I’d have to say that the real value created by these type of star athletes is to inspire us. To create images that inspire us to believe that anything is possible, that we can be “amazing” at something, or just that we can appreciate someone else’s dedication to being the best and having such a great love for their sport that they sacrificed so many other things that we take for granted to get to the top.

How about you, do you find the money these guys are paid “fair” or outrageous?

Photo Credits: Tiger, David, Michael, Phil, Kimi, Kobe, LeBron, Ronaldinho, Valentino, Roger

Resources: Top 10 Richest Male Athletes & in Pictures

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One Response to “Top 10 Highest Paid Male Athletes”

  1. Agapito on August 29th, 2009 6:18 am

    how about boxer manny pacquiao? I thought he was in a fouthr place report by ring magazine and espn the top ten is not famous so much even in pluto they are not familiar.

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