Forbes’ List of The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes In 2021

Athletes put a lot of hard work and determination into the sport in which they perform. The efforts put in by these athletes are healthy reward through their salaries and winnings. Being one of the best in their respective sport, the athlete gets a lot of fame and fan following.

The reach of the athletes among its fan following helps them make colossal endorsement deals with various brands and companies. One might wonder how much their favourite athlete earns. Well, no need to wonder anymore.

Following are the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2021.

  • Conor McGregor

Sport: Mixed martial arts      

Country: Republic of Ireland 

Total Earnings: $180 million

Salary/winnings: $22 million      

Other activities: $158 million


The former UFC featherweight and lightweight double-champion, Conor Anthony McGregor, is an Irish mixed martial artist, boxer, and businessman. In January, his comeback to UFC didn’t go as he may have planned as he was knocked down by his opponent, Justin Poirier.

Even with his defeat, he was able to earn $22 million through his contract with UFC. However, the earnings which put him at the top of the charts were through his other activities. In 2021, Conor has a whopping $158 million outside UFC. Most of which was from the sale of his majority stake in ‘Proper 12 whiskey’.

  • Lionel Messi

Sport: Association football     

Country: Argentina

Total Earnings: $130 million

Salary/winnings: $97 million      

Other activities: $33 million

The 34-year-old captain of the Argentina national team, Lionel Andrés Messi, also known as Leo Messi, is an Argentine professional footballer. Messi is the highest-paid footballer when salary is considered. He has the highest earning of a footballer on-field ($97 million). With total earnings of about $130 million, the 6-time Ballon d’Or winner made $33 million through endorsements and deals.

* Not including his latest PSG deal.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo

Sport: Association football     

Country: Portugal         

Total Earnings: $120 million

Salary/winnings: $70 million      

Other activities: $50 million

The Serie A forward for club Juventus and captain of the Portugal national team, Cristiano Ronaldo, made 120 million dollars in 2021. Most of which came from his 4-year deal with Juventus. The highest followed athlete across all social media made $50 million through endorsements, deals, and business (under CR7 brand).

  • Dak Prescott 

Sport: American football

Country:  United States 

Total Earnings: $107.5 million     

Salary/winnings: $97.5 million   

Other activities: $10 million

Rayne Dakota Prescott is an American football quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. The 28-year-old quarterback has the highest winnings/salary on the list, $97.5million, thanks to his $66 million signing bonus from Dallas Cowboys for his contract extension.

  • LeBron James

Sport: Basketball   

Country: United States 

Total Earnings: $96.5 million

Salary/winnings: $31.5 million   

Other activities: $65 million

The 36-year-old NBA star LeBron James fell just short of joining the 100 million club with a gross earning of $96.5 million. The Los Angeles Lakers Shooting guard/ Small forward made 65 million dollars off-court. He is also going to star in the upcoming Hollywood movie Space Jam: A New Legacy.

  • Neymar

Sport: Association football     

Country: Brazil      

Total Earnings: $95 million  

Salary/winnings: $76 million      

Other activities: $19 million

Widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, known as Neymar, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team. Of his $95 million earning, $76 million came in wages, while $19 million came through deals and endorsements. Neymar also recently signed a deal with PUMA.

  • Roger Federer

Sport: Tennis 

Country: Switzerland     

Total Earnings: $90 million  

Salary/winnings: $0.03 million   

Other activities: $90 million

The 20-time Grand Slam men’s singles title winner didn’t play much the past year due to his knee injury, but that wasn’t enough to get him off the list as he earned 90 million dollars through sponsorships from brands and endorsement. The Swiss professional tennis player was the highest-paid athlete in 2020.

  • Lewis Hamilton

Sport: Auto racing 

Country: United Kingdom     

Total Earnings: $82 million  

Salary/winnings: $70 million      

Endorsements: $12 million

The current Formula One driver for Mercedes makes his 2nd entry in the list. Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton currently tops the F1 rankings and is well compensated for it through bonuses, which adds up to a total of 70 million dollars when added to his salary. He also has various deals with PUMA, Tommy Hilfiger, and other brands.

  • Tom Brady

Sport: American football

Country: United States

Total Earnings: $76 million  

Salary/winnings: $45 million      

Other activities: $31 million

The American football quarterback, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., plays for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 44-year-old Tom Brady earned 45 million dollars while playing American Football. He also earned 31 million dollars through other activities. He has also worked in some Hollywood movies. Tom Brady made a total of $76 million.

  • Kevin Durant

Sport: Basketball   

Country: United States  

Total Earnings: $75 million  

Salary/winnings: $31 million      

Other activities: $44 million

Kevin Wayne Durant (born September 29, 1988) is an NBA basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets. KD earned $44 million through brand deals and investing. He recently sold his share in a company that he bought at the company’s start at a discounted rate. His on-court earnings totals $31 million. 


In 2016, Conor McGregor jokingly said to Cristiano Ronaldo’s topper of the list that he (Conor) would overtake him (Cristiano) in the list next year. Well, it took Conor 5 years to do that, but he was able to do it. The list is constantly changing as some athletes retire, some newcomers join the list, and some get higher and better deals and endorsements.

Keep looking and hoping for your favourite athlete to feature the list.

Stay tuned!

Edited by Urvashi Gupta

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