The sport has become a multi-billion dollar business and a lucrative career option. Most of the top sports teams are publicly traded, while top athletes in individual sports often earn more from sponsorships than from playing.
Thanks to rapid commercialization and worldwide popularity, many sports leagues like football and basketball have lucrative television rights and jersey deals. It is therefore not surprising that the athletes of these two sports are among the highest paid in the field. Many players and teams also earn income through various social media platforms.
Athletes in individual sports like tennis, golf, and boxing also make a lot of money in a number of ways. However, it is not just athletes, but also team owners, administrators and sports entertainment staff who have built fortunes. On that note, here’s a look at the top ten richest sportsmen by net worth in 2022 (according to Wealthy Gorilla):
Spoiler Alert: Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, tennis legend Roger Federer, basketball superstar LeBron James and boxer Floyd Mayweather narrowly miss out on the top ten.
Without further ado, let’s get started:
#10 Michael Schumacher (Formula 1 legend) – $600 million
Michael Schumacher is one of the finest drivers to grace a Formula 1 car. The seven-time world champion had a particularly successful stint with Ferrari in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.
At his peak, the 53-year-old reportedly made between $80 million and $100 million a year, including endorsements. Schumacher ($1.21 billion) is one of a handful of athletes whose career earnings exceed $1 billion (after adjusting for inflation).
He retired from the sport for the second time in 2012. He is currently sponsored by Deutsche Vermogensberatung – a financial services distributor, Mercedes Benz, CS Ranch – a reining facility.
Schumacher suffered a horrific head injury while off-piste skiing in the Swiss Alps in 2013. A year later he returned from a coma and is now undergoing a long period of rehabilitation at home.
His son, Mick, is currently racing in Formula 1 for the American F1 team Haas.
#9 Magic Johnson (Basketball Legend) – $600 million
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson is one of the greatest players in basketball history. The five-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP had a distinguished playing career that spanned more than two decades.
He had a memorable debut campaign in 1979-80 with the LA Lakers, becoming the first rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP award. Four decades later, he remains the only rookie and the youngest player (20 years old) to have accomplished the feat.
The 62-year-old went on to win five more NBA titles as part-owner of the LA Lakers. He earned around $40 million during his playing days in the 80s and 90s. That amount would be multiplied by ten today after adjusting for inflation.
Johnson also enjoyed success after his retirement. Ses Magic Johnson Enterprises is a highly successful conglomerate, which is valued at over $1 billion. He has also owned several sports teams over the years, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and the Los Angeles Sparks WNBA team.
#8 Lionel Messi (Soccer Superstar) – $600 Million
Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the finest players to grace football.
The 34-year-old has scored goals and won big titles galore for club and country during his storied career. Now at PSG, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is one of the few players to have scored over 750 goals for club and country.
With a reported annual salary of $75 million after tax, he is one of the best earners on the playing field. Last year, Messi was the second highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes. The Argentine has earned $130m, including almost $100m in endorsements. He has endorsement agreements with Adidas, Gatorade and Pepsi, among others.
Since 2022, Messi has done $1.14 billion in career earnings, most of them coming during his 21-year association with Barcelona.
Messi has two properties in Miami – a condominium worth $5 million and the entire floor of another building worth $7 million – which also counts towards his net worth. He owns another property in Pedrables, Barcelona, which is worth $9 million after renovations.
#7 Junior Bridgeman (former basketball player) – $600 million
Junior Bridgeman had a modest NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Lakers, excelling as a sixth man, in the late 70s and 80s. However, the Bucks legend is worth over half a billion dollars despite winnings from the field of just $350,000.
After retiring in 1987, the 68-year-old went into business and made a plethora of smart investments. Bridgeman is Wendy’s largest franchise owner, owning more than 160 restaurants across the United States. It also has over 120 Chili’s restaurants.
He is now the President and CEO of Coca-Cola Heartland Bottling Company, which makes approximately $650 million in revenue each year.