Everyone knows professional athletes get paid an obscene amount of money. But have you ever stopped to wonder why

Yes, professional athletes get paid insanely high salaries. And then many of them get brand endorsements on top. But what really drives their salaries so high? Fan support.

Forbes recently released the 2019 edition of its world’s highest paid athletes. Who made the cut? Who’s at the top? Keep reading to find out. 

The Highest Paying Sports

Before we dive into the specific players raking in the dough, let’s discuss the sports themselves. 

62% of the top 100 list are Americans playing American sports — U.S. basketball and football particularly. 

The total earnings of NBA players in 2019 is a whopping 1.3 billion dollars. Basketball as a whole is heads and shoulders above any other sport (both in players’ heights and their salaries).

The second highest-earning sport is American football, bringing in $775 million. Followed by soccer at $607 million, baseball at $468 million and tennis at $246 million.

It’s interesting though. American sports generate the highest cumulative earnings for their players, but when salaries and endorsements are accounted for – it’s the soccer and tennis players who top the list.

Even if you’re not paying out hundreds of millions to your staff this year, get more info about how to pay your employees promptly and efficiently. 

The Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes of 2019

Athletes are getting paid more than they ever have. The amount needed to make the 10th slot has increased by 150% in the last decade and a half. 

10. Kevin Durant

American basketballer Kevin Durant is raking in a total of $65.4 million this year. He sees $30.4 million on his official paychecks and an additional $35 million from endorsements. 

9. Stephen Curry

Another NBA player Stephen Curry will see $79.8 million dollars total in 2019. $42 million from his endorsement deals plus a meager $30.4 million salary. 

8. LeBron James

Yet another NBA player, household name LeBron James isn’t crashing on his friends’ couches anytime soon. His total earnings this year are $89 million. His salary makes up $36 million and endorsements make up the rest. 

7. Aaron Rodgers

Now we’re leaving the world of basketball, but we’re not yet straying from American sports. American football player Aaron Rodgers will get an annual salary of $80.3 million, plus an additional kicker of $9 million from endorsement deals. 

6. Russell Wilson

With figures just a bit higher than Rodgers, NFL star Russell Wilson’s salary for 2019 is sitting at $80.5 million, plus another $9 million from his sponsors. 

5. Roger Federer

Even though Americans dominate the top 100 list, the real money-makers are from abroad. Swiss tennis pro, Roger Federer, makes a staggering $86 million from his sponsors. But he only gets a $7.5 million dollar salary, so it evens out.

4. Canelo Alvarez

Weighing in at number 4 on the top 10 list of highest-paid athletes in the world this year, famous Mexican boxer Canela Alvarez has managed beat out Floyd Mayweather with a gargantuan salary of $92 million.

Plus another couple of million from sponsors. 

3. Neymar

Now, we enter the world of soccer. Brazilian pro Neymar hits the third spot with his $75 million salary plus another $30 million in endorsements. That’s a total of $105 million. No big deal. 

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

The only other soccer player to rank first on the list, Cristiano Ronaldo lost his first place spot this year only to be runner-up.

This Portuguese fan favorite is bringing in total earnings of $109 million this year. $65 million in salary, the rest from his sponsors. 

1. Lionel Messi

In the number one spot this year with a staggering $127 million in total earnings, Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi rings in at number one for the second year in a row. 

The Bottom Line

To put this all into perspective, the person who just barely made the highest paid athletes list at number 100 was French basketballer Nicolas Batum. Poor guy only made $22.9 million.

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