Forbes’ 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes: Ronaldo, Lebron James Top The List


Christiano Ronaldo has emerged as the highest-paid athlete according to Forbes’ 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes list. Over the years, FORBES has been the ultimate scorekeeper of sports business, tracking everything from the most valuable teams to the highest-earning players, from top agencies to biggest sponsors. But quantifying monetary success doesn’t tell the full story.

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Forbes' 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes: Ronaldo, Lebron James Top's The List
Cristiano Ronaldo – Forbes’ Highest-Paid Athlete for 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s highest-paid athlete, taking home $88 million. Nike is the globe’s top sportswear brand, worth $28 billion and clocking $30 billion in annual revenues. And Creative Artists Agency beats all sports agencies, with a whopping $290 million in maximum commissions.

But the question here is, what really makes them so successful?

Whatever that creates the impressive numbers on their balance sheets are their successful business relationships they share within the sports ecosystem.

Ronaldo earns so much because he has a massive contract with Real Madrid – worth $56 million last year – and a group of corporations willing to shell out more than $30 million per year just to be associated with him.

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Forbes' 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes
Lebron James – Forbes’ Second Highest-Paid Athlete fro 2017

Nike is able to sell $20 billion worth of shoes annually because it’s directly associated with some of the biggest names in sports – Barcelona, LeBron James, and the NFL, to name just a few.

And CAA has built its success upon the sports agency world’s most star-studded roster of athletes, boasting a lineup of Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Julio Jones and much more.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted out the top 10 highest-paid athletes on the Forbes’ 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes list, which features four NBA players:

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Forbes' 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes
Lionel Messi – Forbes’ Third Highest-Paid Athlete for 2017

According to Forbes’ 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes list, there’s a significant gap between the top three viz Ronaldo, James and Lionel Messi and the rest of the list. Ronaldo is the only athlete making over $90 million in salary and endorsements, with James at $86.2 million and Messi at $80 million.

No one else is making even $70 million. Roger Federer, who ranks fourth on the list, earns the overwhelming amount of his $64 million in endorsements and earned only $6 million for his on-court tennis performance.

Formula One racing star Lewis Hamilton is the only auto-sport athlete in the top 10. He has won three F1 titles in his career, including back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015. He also finished second in 2016.

Despite playing just seven rounds of golf since September 2015, Tiger Woods still ranks No. 17 in earnings thanks to $37 million in endorsements.

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Forbes' 2017 Highest-Paid Athletes
Roger Federer – Forbes’ fourth Highest-Paid Athlete for 2017

Forbes has always kept a tab on the richest people in the world. Those sorts of relationships are the very foundation of the sports business world. And though they always come up with long detailed results – which teams are most valuable, which players are highest paid – until now nobody has ever done a comprehensive study of how all of those connections fit together to create wealth.

More to follow.