Which is the highest-paid sport in the world? With fans eager to know the answer, we’ve scoured the internet to unravel the mystery.
We will not only show you which are the highest-paying sports in the world, but we’ll also identify the highest-paying sports teams on the planet.
We also highlight which global sports superstars have pocketed the cash to become the highest-paid athletes in the world.
The Highest-Paying Sports in the World
The highest-paid sport in the world is basketball, with NBA players earning an average of just over $10.4 million per year in 2023.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is often overlooked in these types of lists, but the annual cricket extravaganza sees players earn more than $5m annually.
The NFL and MLB both make it into the top five in the high earners’ list, with the English Premier League splitting that pair in fourth place.
Four other European soccer leagues feature in the top 10 (La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1) alongside ice hockey’s NHL.
|League||Average Salary Per Player|
Now that we’ve identified which sports pay the most money to their athletes, let’s look at the top salary earners each year.
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is the highest earner in the NBA, with his annual income of just over $48m putting him just in front of Russell Westbrook.
England cricket star Sam Curran is top of the salary tree in the IPL, with the cash-rich Punjab Kings paying him $2.26m annually.
Veteran Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will never have to worry about making ends meet after signing a new deal worth $50.2m per year in 2022.
Manchester City and Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is the top earner in the Premier League with an annual salary of around $25m.
New York Mets players Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are the highest earners in MLB, with each player earning $43.33m annually.
Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon is top of the salary tree in the NHL, with his annual $12.6m salary just edging out Connor McDavid.
Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong is the highest-paid player in La Liga, with his current four-year deal working out at $40.7m per annum.
Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mane secured a bumper deal for himself when he left Liverpool worth around $24m per year.
Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic is the top earner in Serie A, with his four-year contract paying just over $14m per year.
Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is top of the salary tree in Ligue 1, earning a staggering $78.2m per year.
The Highest-Paying Sports Teams
Basketball dominates proceedings in the highest-paying sports teams rankings, with the NBA filling eight of the top 10 spots on the list.
Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors are not afraid to splash the cash, with each club paying an average of more than $13m annually to their players.
However, they cannot match La Liga giants Real Madrid, who shell out an average of over $13.6m to each of their players every year.
Spanish rivals Barcelona also make it into the top 10 by paying an average of more than $11.7m annually to their talented squad of soccer stars.
|Team||League||Average Annual Salary|
|Real Madrid||La Liga||$13.6m|
|Los Angeles Clippers||NBA||£13.4m|
|Golden State Warriors||NBA||$13.1m|
|Los Angeles Lakers||NBA||$11.9m|
Now we know which teams are paying the big bucks, let’s look at which player is top of the salary stakes for each of them.
Real Madrid – Eden Hazard
You would be hard-pushed to argue that Eden Hazard has given Real Madrid value for money on the whopping $33.9m he is paid each year.
Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi Leonard & Paul George
Los Angeles Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have plenty to smile about given they each earn $42.5m per year.
Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry
As mentioned earlier, Curry’s annual salary of just over $48m puts him at the top of the NBA earnings table.
Brooklyn Nets – Ben Simmons
With Kevin Durant now out of the equation, Ben Simmons is the Nets’ top wage earner on $35.4m per year.
Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Anteokounmpo
Giannis Anteokounmpo is rewarded for his efforts in a Bucks jersey with an eye-watering salary of almost $42.5m per year.
Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum edges out Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown in the earnings list with an annual salary of $30.3m.
Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James
The Lakers pay James an annual salary of $44.4m, which he tops up significantly with numerous lucrative sponsorship deals.
Barcelona – Frenkie de Jong
The La Lga giants were eager to get De Jong’s $40.7m salary off their books in 2022, but the Netherlands international refused to move.
Dallas Mavericks – Kyrie Irving
The Mavericks recently acquired Kyrie Irving from the Nets and made him their top earner on $38.9m per year – almost $2m more than they pay Luka Doncic.
Phoenix Suns – Kevin Durant
The Suns went big to sign Durant from the Nets in 2023, handing him a lucrative salary of $44.1m per year.
The Highest-Paid Athletes in the World
Given the amount of money being ploughed into sports, it is little wonder that the top performers are pocketing eye-watering levels of income every year.
Salaries are just part of the equation where athletes are concerned, with prize money and endorsements among the other elements that keep their bank balance ticking over.
Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo tops the list of highest-paid athletes in the world with annual earnings of $208.6m putting him ahead of some stellar names.
Messi and James are next on the list, with Neymar and Curry rounding off the top five.
|Player||Sport||Total Annual Earnings|
|Tom Brady||American Football||$83.9m|
The Highest Earners in the Most Popular Sports
We’ve highlighted which athletes are raking in the cash each year, but how do some of the most popular sports stack up against each other in the earnings stakes?
Soccer – Cristiano Ronaldo
The riches on offer in European soccer in competitions such as the Champions League and Premier League have made multi-millionaires of numerous players.
Ronaldo has used the reputation he built up in Europe to secure a bumper deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr that took his annual earnings through the $200m mark.
Basketball – LeBron James
James is the top earner in basketball, although around two-thirds of his annual income is derived from lucrative sponsorship agreements.
An intriguing element to watch where James is concerned is whether he will be able to match Michael Jordan for earnings once his playing days are over.
Tennis – Roger Federer
Despite retiring from professional tennis in 2022, Roger Federer’s plethora of sponsorship deals kept his earnings annual earnings just above the $90m mark.
Quite who will take over his mantle as the sport’s top earner is unclear, with many of the current crop of male players much less marketable than the Swiss legend.
Baseball – Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer’s three-year deal with the New York Mets sees him earn an annual salary of $43.33m – the joint-highest alongside teammate Justin Verlander.
However, endorsements take his total earnings to around $60m, putting him ahead of the rest of the pack in Major League Baseball.
Cricket – Virat Kohli
While cricket is one of the most watched sports in the world, it lags behind many of its rivals when it comes to the amount of cash paid to the players.
Former Indian captain Virat Kohli is the top earner in cricket, pulling in around $34m annually from his salary and endorsement deals.
Hockey – Connor McDavid
Field hockey and ice hockey attract a large global audience, but it is undoubtedly the latter where the players earn the most.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is at the top of the pile, earning more than $15m annually.
Which Highest-Earners are the Most Successful?
When teams shell out massive amounts of money on star athletes, they expect a return on their investment.
Ronaldo and Messi have undoubtedly delivered the goods in soccer, winning countless trophies for the various clubs they have represented.
However, the same cannot be argued about Neymar, who was signed to help Paris Saint-Germain win the Champions League.
While the Brazilian forward has played a key role in PSG’s success in Ligue 1, he has failed to live up to expectations in UEFA’s top club competition.
Basketball’s four representatives in the top 10 highest earners list have been part of NBA championship-winning teams.
James and Curry have delivered the best value for money, with each player boasting four titles on their respective CVs.
Seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady will go down in history as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, so it is safe to say he has earned his corn.
Federer and Alvarez are solo sports stars, but both can rightly reflect on a job well done after winning numerous titles during their respective careers.
Which Sports Stars Earn the Most per Minute?
Given that they put their bodies on the line every time they step through the ropes, the top boxers in the world are understandably well rewarded for their efforts.
Alvarez is an excellent example of this in action, with his $90m annual earnings equating to a ridiculous rate per minute compared to the amount of time spent in the ring.
He is one of just two athletes from non-team sports who feature in the top 10 highest earners list – a statistic that perfectly demonstrates his money-making potential.
In contrast to the Mexican boxer, stars from other sports earn much less per minute when you divide their annual salary by how much time they spend in action.
For example, it takes Aaron Rodgers more than 15 minutes to earn $1m in the NFL based on the usual number of minutes he plays each season.
Canelo swelled his bank balance by that amount in under a minute during two fights that went the distance in 2022.
Athletes in soccer, basketball and several other sports must play significantly more minutes to earn a seven-figure sum.
The 10 Richest Teams in the World
We have established which are the highest-paying sports in the world and which teams are paying out the largest salaries each year.
We’ve also identified which players are cashing in on the lucrative nature of sport and how earnings in different sports stack up against each other.
The question now is which teams are most likely to be able to afford to shell out bumper salaries based on their current valuation.
Here’s a look at the current top 10, which is populated exclusively by teams who play their trade in the major North American sports.
|New England Patriots||NFL||$651m||$6.4bn|
|Los Angeles Rams||NFL||$628m||$6.2bn|
|New York Yankees||MLB||$482m||$6bn|
|New York Giants||NFL||$584m||$6bn|
|New York Knicks||NBA||$300m||$5.8bn|
|Golden State Warriors||NBA||$750m||$5.6bn|
|Los Angeles Lakers||NBA||$316m||$5.5bn|
The NFL dominates proceedings in the rich list, with six of its teams featuring in the top 10 alongside three from the NBA and one MLB team.
Dallas Cowboys have the highest revenue and valuation, but their wealth does not translate into a top-10 finish in the average annual salary stakes.
However, top earner Dak Prescott is not complaining having signed a four-year contract worth $160m in March 2021.
New England Patriots are second in the valuation list at $6.4bn, although their position is under threat now their period of dominance appears to be over.
Los Angeles has two representatives in the top 10 – the Rams and Lakers – while New York trumps them with three – the Yankees, Giants and Knicks.
When it comes to paying salaries, only the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers feature in the top 10s in the rich list and average annual salary rankings.
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