Michael Jordan still tops the list of highest paid athletes of all time

14. 03. 2023 | Kristýna Bezděková

Last month, LeBron James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s leading scorer. But on the revenue chart, Michale Jordan is still the clear champion – and the gap is widening.

Since being drafted in 1984, Jordan has earned an estimated $3.3 billion after accounting for inflation, more than any other athlete in the history of the sport. James is sixth overall with $1.53 billion after accounting for inflation. James was the highest paid athlete in the world in 2022, earning $127 million, but this list only reflects active athletes. Jordan surpassed them all with an estimated $180 million in income, almost exclusively from Nike.


There are eight golfers in the top 50, including three athletes who ranked just behind Jordan: Woods ($2.5 billion), Arnold Palmer ($1.7 billion) and Jack Nicklaus ($1.63 billion). Golfers benefit from decades-long careers, and the sport’s biggest stars remain popular long after their biggest victories. When Palmer died in 2016 at age 87, he was earning nearly $40 million a year from promoting and licensing his name. It had been 43 years since his last victory on the PGA Tour and 28 years since his last title on the PGA Tour Champions, formerly the Senior PGA Tour.

Earnings include salaries, bonuses, prize money, purses, endorsements, licenses, royalties, memorabilia, book deals, media, appearances and golf course design fees. All earnings are before taxes and before agent and attorney fees.


Author of this article

Kristýna Bezděková

Kristýna is a student of marketing and communication in an undergraduate program. She writes and translates content into the Czech language


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