Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods top the list of highest paid athletes of all time

Jordan and Woods join Floyd Mayweather and LeBron James as athletes who earned at least $1 billion since becoming professional players in their respective sports

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Basketball and golf have next to nothing in common, however, retired basketball player Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods do. Both athletes are considered, arguably, the very best players of their respective sports, and now the two are both the highest-paid athletes in history.

Jordan ranked number one on the Top 25 Highest-Paid Athletes of All-Time chart, reported by Sportico. Since turning professional in 1984, calculations show the former Chicago Bulls shooting guard has earned a little over $2.6 billion to date, which amounts to $2.05 billion in non-inflation adjusted earnings.

Woods, not far behind the NBA Hall of Famer, came in at number two, earning $2.1 billion since turn pro in 1996, or $ 1.66 billion in non-inflation adjusted earnings.

Michael Jordan theGrio.com
Guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls stands on the court during a playoff game against the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Jazz won the game 104-93. 6 Jun 1997. (Photo: Brian Bahr /Allsport)

The results of the list were tabulated from athletes’ total earnings based on salaries, endorsements, licensing, and memorabilia since their first year of playing professionally.

What’s remarkable about Jordan’s fortune is that only about six percent of his $2.6 billion was made from his NBA contracts during his 15-year career. The first 13 of those 15 seasons were spent with the Chicago Bulls, with whom he won six NBA championships. His final two seasons were spent with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, the first of which he donated his salary to various 9/11 related relief efforts, as reported by CNN.

Much of Jordan’s wealth is a result of his numerous lucrative endorsement deals with brands like Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck, which he remained signed with even after retirement. Last July, Jordan began a 10-year plan to have Jordan Brand donate $100 million to organizations dedicated to “racial equality, social justice and greater access to education,” as previously reported by theGrio.

Other basketball players on the Top 25 list include LeBron James at number seven with $1.17 billion, the late Kobe Bryant at 13 with $930 million, Shaquille O’Neal at 14 with $870 million, and Kevin Durant at 19 with $625 million.

In July, James became the first active NBA player to earn $1 billion, as reported by Newsweek. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is currently in his 19th season.

Woods, a 15-time major tournament champion, made $121 million dollars in PGA Tour winnings alone. Like Jordan, Woods made a lot of his fortune outside of golf. At his peak, he made $100 million a year off course, many from endorsement deals and even in appearance fees.

Tiger Woods thegrio.com
Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on December 20, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Top golfers also can command seven-figure appearance fees, with Woods getting up to $3 million per event at one point during his career,” Sportico reports.

In September, Woods joined Autograph, Tom Brady’s NFT company. He is also part of Autograph’s advisory board, which includes other big-name athletes like Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt.

Woods is not the only golfer on the list, either. In fact, coming in at number three and four are hall of fame golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus with $1.5 billion and $1.38 billion, respectively.

Also included on the list is boxer Floyd Mayweather at number six with $1.2 billion, boxer Mike Tyson at number 16 with $775 million, race car driver Lewis Hamilton at number 20 with $620 million, and Jeter, former shortstop for the New York Yankees, at 25 with $555 million.

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