Despite the coronavirus pandemic disrupting sports leagues and causing players to take a break for most of 2020, the cumulative salaries of the top ten highest-paid athletes in 2021 fall well shy of the all-time peak achieved in 2018.
Conor McGregor, a mixed martial artist, topped the Forbes top 10 for the first time in his career since collecting $180 million in the previous year, with this year’s overall top 10 earnings of $1.05 billion only missing out on last year’s record of $1.06 billion.
The selling of his controlling stake in whisky brand Proper No. Twelve for $150 million provided the majority of the Irish fighter’s earnings.
“When you factor in his endorsements, McGregor earned $158 million outside of his fighting career in the last year, making him just the third competitor after Roger Federer and Tiger Woods to gain more than $70 million off the field in a single year while still playing.”
Lionel Messi ($130 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($120 million) of the Barcelona football team came in second and seventh, respectively, while NFL quarterback Dak Prescott ($107.5 million) came in fourth. Just five other celebrities have ever won more than $100 million in a year: Federer, Floyd Mayweather, Neymar, Manny Pacquiao, and Tiger Woods.
With the 36-year-old recently becoming an owner in the Fenway Sports Group, which manages Premier League team Liverpool and MLB’s Boston Red Sox, LeBron James finished in fifth as the highest-paid NBA player in 2021, receiving $96.5 million.
Neymar, a Brazilian footballer, was sixth with $95 million in earnings, and Roger Federer, despite being sidelined for most of the year due to injuries, was seventh with $90 million in sponsorship earnings.
Despite the sporting calendar being disrupted by the pandemic, Formula One player Lewis Hamilton ($82 million), NFL quarterback Tom Brady ($76 million), and NBA star Kevin Durant ($75 million) rounded out the top 10, who won 28 percent more than last year’s top 10.