Nicknamed Mr. McMahon, the richest athlete position goes to the founder of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the majority owner. WWE was previously known as Titan Sports Inc. Around twelve years old, Vince McMahon decided to follow the footsteps of his father, Vincent James McMahon, who was a professional wrestling promoter and founder of the World Wrestling Federation.
In 1968, armed with a business degree, Vince McMahon started to work with his father as a ring announcer and promoter.
A decade later, Mr. McMahon created Titan Sports and bought his father’s company (1982).
Expansions overseen by McMahon ushered the Golden Era of WWE (1982-1992). From hiring superstars wrestlers Like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin and
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, WWE was able to carve market share in the hyper-competitive sports entertainment industry.
As viewership grew, ticket sales, sponsorships, and merchandising help increased Vince McMahon’s net worth to an incredible $2.2 Billion. Through success and failures, McMahon continues to find ways to expand the WWE and venture into other businesses.
Vince McMahon’s net worth is estimated at $2.2 Billion
Net Worth: $2 Billion
Nicknamed the “Brașov Bulldozer’”, Romanian business mogul and former professional tennis player is the second richest athlete of all time. Less known than Vince McMahon or Michael Jordan, Ion Tiriac made savvy investments after retiring from Tennis in 1987.
Before expanding business investments fueling his net worth of $2 Billion, we should highlight the fact that the Romanian native was a sport prodigy from an early age. First a child ping pong champion, then a hockey player, making the Romanian 1964 Winter Olympics team to subsequently becoming a professional tennis player.
After his professional tennis career, Ion Tiriac coached and managed successful tennis professionals such as Guillermo Vilas, llie Nastase, Marat Safin, and Boris Becker.
In the mid 1908s, Ion started his business career by founding various businesses as communism was collapsing in Eastern Europe. The Tiriac Group is a holding company managing Ion Tiriac investment and company he created. They are currently invested in various sectors, from automobiles to aviation, energy, finance, and sports.
Ion Tiriac made his first appearance in the Forbes Billionaire list in 2007.
Tiriac’s net worth is approximately $2 Billion.
Net Worth: $2 Billion
His Airness, M.J, The Goat, the Black Cat…Michael Jordan is widely considered the most iconic athlete of all time. Helping him become one of the most popular athletes in the 1980s through today is the Jordan Brand, created from his partnership with NIKE.
Michael Jordan’s fame began in college at North Carolina University, making the final shot to claim the NCAA final championship in 1982 against Georgetown.
Within two years of entering the National Basketball Association (NBA), Jordan was seen as the best basketball player in the world and his popularity made him the face of the NBA eager to expand globally. MJ signed an endorsement deal with Nike and released the iconic Jordan brand sneakers.
Nike helped Jordan net worth ascend to $1.9 Billion, but Jordan also helped Nike become the top sport brand in the world. In the 1990s, as Jordan and the Chicago Bulls popularity increased worldwide, so did the NBA.
Michael Jordan won six NBA titles and inked endorsement deals with mega-brands such as Coca Cola, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Nike and Hanes. He is currently the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA franchise.
Michael Jordan’s net worth is approximately $2 Billion.
Nicknamed “Tiger”, Tiger Woods is one of the most popular golfers of all time. Along with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger is in the conversation of the greatest golf player of all time.
Born in 1975, Tiger Woods started playing golf at an early age, under the guidance of his father Earl, ex lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran. Woods was a child prodigy, winning tournaments against older competition and becoming the youngest US Junior Amateur champion.
After leaving college early to turn professional, Tiger signed his first big endorsement with Nike. Like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Nike relationship helped propel both brands, Tiger became the most popular golfer, and Nike Golf took off.
The success of Tiger Woods on the golf course helped him top the charts of highest-paid athletes in the 2000s, to now reaching a net worth of $800 Million.
Tiger Woods’s net worth is estimated at $800 Million.
German megastar Michael Schumacher transcended Formula One in the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Driving for the iconic Ferrari brand, Schumacher won seven F1 championships, five consecutively.
Similarly to Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher was a child prodigy, winning car races at a fairly young age, often facing older competitors. Known for his aggressive driving style, Schumacher was able to push his car to the limit when it mattered most.
As he established his dominance in F1 racing under Ferrari ( starting in 1996), Schumacher’s popularity worldwide grew rapidly. Schumacher’s yearly salary, $80 Million in 2004, coupled with multiple endorsements helped him become the first billionaire athlete, according to Euro-business.
Unfortunately, Michael Schumacher suffered a ski accident in 2013 causing a traumatic brain injury which led to a medically induced coma.
Michael Schumacher’s net worth is estimated at $600 Million.
Nicknamed “Magic” for his electric style of play, NBA Hall of Fame Earvin Johnson was a legend on the basketball court who successfully transitioned to the business field.
Raised in rural Michigan, Magic developed a strong work ethic from his parents and admiration for his idols Bill Russell and Earl Monroe. Athletically gifted and technically refined at a young age, he began to dream of becoming a pro in junior high school. Being one of the top high school players in his final year, Magic Johnson was highly recruited by top programs, from UCLA to Indiana but decided to stay home and joined Michigan State. His two-year stint in college culminated with one of the greatest American college basketball games of all time. The NCAA final championship against his future arch-enemy Larry Bird of Indiana State.
The NBA in the 1980s were defined by two teams and two players, Magic Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird with the Boston Celtic. This rivalry propulsed the NBA into a thriving company before Michael Jordan made it global.
Right from the beginning of his NBA career, Magic’s business mind was at work, purchasing multiple radio stations around the country and signing endorsement deals.
Following his retirement from professional basketball, Magic headed Magic Johnson enterprise, his investment company. From developing Magic Johnson theaters to ownerships of Burger King’s franchises, Sports gyms, and Starbucks retail location in urban neighborhoods, Magic continues to expand his portfolio. After selling his small ownership in the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic and a group of investors purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
Magic Johnson’s net worth is estimated at $600 Million.
Net Worth: $600 Million
Sport: American Football
Nicknamed Captain America, Roger Staubach was a champion quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 to 1979. Born in Cincinnati Ohio, Roger entered the U.S Naval academy in 1961 to study and play football. First a backup quarterback, it didn’t take long for Staubach to showcase his potential. Roger eventually won the Heisman Trophy his junior year and was featured on the Time magazine cover.
After college and a one year tour of duty in Vietnam, Roger came back to the United States to finish his naval career and prepare for the NFL. During the eleven years Roger Staubach played in the NFL,he led his team to five Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them, as well as making the Pro Bowl six times.
Worrying about his career after the NFL and potential injuries, Roger worked on and off in real estate during his pro football career. Upon retiring, he successfully transitioned to the commercial real estate business by creating the Staubach Company. Riding the real estate boom of Dallas in the 1980s, the Staubach company worked with major corporation building and leasing office spaces. Coupled with residential developments and purchase of real estate businesses, by the time Roger Staubach retired from the company he founded, the Staubach Company was a multibillion-dollar revenue company.
The company was eventually sold for $613 Million to Jones Lang Lasalle.
Roger Staubach’s net worth is estimated at $600 Million
Nicknamed Money May, Floyd Mayweather is one of the best and most notorious Boxers of all time. In the conversation of the best boxer of all time, Floyd’s business acumen enabled him to take full control of his brand and directly negotiate his boxing contracts, which is rare in the sport of boxing.
Unlike many top athletes in this list, Floyd Mayweather is an athlete entrepreneur who did not have a lot of endorsement deals but was able to negotiate eight and nine-figure deals for single boxing events.
Born in a boxing family, Floyd Maybweather Jr started learning the ropes from an early age, under the tutelage of his father, Mayweather Sr, and his uncles, all former pro boxers.
Growing up poor, living in a one-bedroom with seven people, Floyd’s only outlet was boxing. Outside school, he spent most of his day’s boxing, with the encouragement of his grandmother who first saw his potential and told him, just keep boxing. He eventually dropped out of high school to fully focus on boxing with the hope of supporting his mother and family at large.
After an impressive amateur boxing career (84-8) and winning the Golden Gloves championships in 1993, 1994 and 1996, Floyd was ready to take his unique skill sets to the next level. And ready he was, Mayweather went to become undefeated over 50 pro boxing fights and acquiring belts on different weight classes. Throughout Mayweather all of fame career, he built a reputation for trash-talking, his quick wit, and more importantly, his savvy business deals with Showtime and HBO.
Floyd Mayweather net worth is estimated at $600 Million
One of the most iconic athletes in the past 20 years is Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away in 2020 at the age of 41 years old. Kobe Bryant was born to play basketball.
Growing up in Italy where his father was playing professional basketball, Kobe had a natural feel for the game and started to play consistently against older players.
Back in his hometown of Philadelphia, Kobe was a high school phenom, and in the shortlist of players that could one day replace Michael Jordan as the face of the NBA. His elite talent and work ethic enabled him to go straight to the National Basketball League after high school, instead of spending time in college.
Within a couple of years in the League, Kobe’s potential became a reality. Just three years after his entry in the NBA, Kobe and Shaq led the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive championships, from 2000 to 2002. Kobe Bryant became the face of the NBA and one of his best players for more than a decade. In 2009 and 2010, the Lakers collected two more championships with Kobe being named NBA final MVP on both occasions.
Similarly to his idol Michael Jordan, Kobe gained international fame for his basketball prowess and inspirational spirit beyond the court. His success on the court and fame brought him shoe deals and endorsement from Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, Turkish Airlines, Mc Donald, and Nintendo.
In 2016, toward the end of his career, the Lakers legend began his next chapter by co-founding Bryant-Stibel, a venture focused on investing in various business sectors and startups.
Kobe Bryant’s net worth is estimated at $500 Million
Nicknamed King James, Lebron James is one of the most famous sports celebrities in the world. Arguably considered the best basketball player of all time or second to Michael Jordan. Lebron James has dominated the NBA since his first game in the league.
Like Kobe Bryan, Lebron James went to the NBA straight from High School. Born on December 30, 1984, in Akron Ohio, Lebron was a basketball genius, physically gifted with a high basketball IQ. After winning Ohio Mr. Basketball his sophomore year of high school, Lebron James’ popularity was such that the basketball team of St Vincent-St Mary High school moved their games to the arena of Akron University.
Before entering the NBA in the 2003 Draft, Lebron inked a $90 million contract with Nike, the largest endorsement deal for someone at his age. Right from the beginning of his successful and ongoing NBA career, Lebron signed endorsement deals after endorsement deals, from Gatorade, State Farm, Beats by Dre, to Mcdonald’s and Audemars Piguet. He also started investing early in his career in various ventures such as the premier league soccer team Liverpool, Blaze Pizza, Beats by Dre, and continues to build his portfolio.
Lebron James’s net worth is estimated at $500 Million
Net Worth: $475 Million
Sport: Car racing
Less known for his athletic performance, former race car driver Eddie Jordan used his passion, experience, and knowledge in pro sport driving to build a business empire.
In 1991, the Irish businessman created the Jordan Grand Prix formula one team. Under his management, the team remained competitive and attracted multiple endorsements before selling the enterprise to the Midland group.
Eddie Jordan’’s net worth is estimated at $475 Million
With an Instagram following of 215 million followers, CR7 is not only the most famous athlete in the world but one of the best soccer players who ever lived. Born February 5, 1985, the Portuguese native started to flourish at Sporting CP where he rose from the under 16 team to the pro team within a year. Soon, major European clubs were knocking on the door of Sporting to sign Ronaldo. Ultimately, in 2003, Manchester United under manager Alex Ferguson paid £12 Million to acquire Christiano.
Ronaldo’s rise to stardom began with the United where he won the premier league twice, best player twice and best scorer before leaving for Real Madrid in 2008.
Playing for Real Madrid, Ronaldo continued his ascension in soccer and expanded his brand outside the field. Currently the highest-paid athlete in the world, CR7 signed endorsement deals with Nike, Fifa video game, Herbalife, Tag Heuer, and Toyota. He also ventured into entrepreneurship by creating his own lifestyle brand, hotel resorts, restaurants, and hair products.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s net worth is estimated at $460 Million
David Beckham mega popularity came before the advent of social media. One of the best soccer players at his prime, Beckham led the way for athletes to market themselves outside their sports. One could argue that Beckham entrepreneurial endeavor and success outside the soccer pitch were equal if not greater.
The man behind the popular phrase bend it like Beckham was born on May 2, 1975, in London. From a young age, Beckham’s mind was set on one day becoming a professional soccer player, and hopefully, play for the club his parents loved most, Manchester United.
With this goal in mind, David Beckham relentlessly perfected his game and was signed to Manchester United youth squad which included Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes who all ended making the first team and won multiple championships for United.
Beckham first turned pro at Preston North End on a loan from Manchester United who wanted him to get some experience and minutes playing on a first-team before making the jump back to the Red Devils.
On April 2, 1995, David made his debut for Manchester United. This was the beginning of a long and successful career in soccer. Manchester United dominated the premier league from 1995 to 2003 with six championships.
After the 2003 season, Beckham was transferred to Real Madrid. This was the era of the Galacticos in Real where management signed some of the most famous soccer players of the time such as Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo de Lima, and Robinho.
At this point in time, Beckham’s popularity off the field eclipsed his production on the field. Endorsement off the field and business venture made him one of the wealthiest athletes and helped him prepare for a business career after soccer.
The list of Beckham investment deals is vast. In 2003, he reportedly signed a deal with Adidas for $160 Million. Over the course of his career, he signed deals with Tudor, Jaguar, H&M, Gillette, Pepsico, and Armani. Following his move to the LA Galaxy, where he earned close to $50 Million, he purchased the right to launch a Miami MLS team (Inter Miami) in 2020.
David Beckham’s net worth is estimated at $450 Million
Widely recognized as the greatest Tennis player of all time, Roger Federer charisma and class inside and outside the tennis court made him one of the highest-paid athletes in the past twenty years.
The Swiss Native was born on August 8, 1981, in Basel. During his youth, Federer played various sports like soccer, badminton, and Basketball, which helped him improve his Tennis. After a successful junior career where Federer played over 150 games and winning Wimbledon in 1998, he decided to turn pro. Federer entered the top 100 rankings in September 1999.
After winning a couple of tournaments and beating top players from 2000 to 2002, Federer made a leap to becoming one of the best tennis player in 2003. After his first Wimbledon championship, Roger came close to taking the number one ranking position from Andre Agassi. From 2004 to 2008, Roger Federer claimed the pole position in Tennis and showcased his dominance by winning top tournaments. Toward the end of the 2000s, many predicted the end of the Federer era, given his age and the rising of his rival Nadal and newcomer Djokovic. Roger eventually lost the number one position in pro tennis but stayed in the top 5 for the next decades, often claiming back the number one position.
His style of play and personality made him one of the most famous athletes every year since claiming the number one position in 2004. Over the past twenty years, Federer signed endorsement deals with Rolex, Gillette, Nike, Uniqlo, Lindt, Wilson, Mercedes-Benz, Barilla, NetJets, Maurice Lacroix, Credit Suisse, Sunrise and many more.
Roger Federer’s net worth is estimated at $450 Million
Net Worth: $400 Million
Unlike the majority of athletes in this list, Bud Selig has never played pro sport but has been deeply involved in pro baseball. Bud’s connection to professional baseball goes back to 1965 when he invested in the minor-league team the Milwaukee Brewers. Bud Selig’s love for baseball and particularly his home team led him to focus all his time to get the Milwaukee Braves to the Major League.
A couple of years after failing to buy the white sox baseball team and relocate them to Milwaukee from Chicago, Selig bought the Seattle Pilots, moved them to Milwaukee, and renamed them the Milwaukee Brewers.
In 1992, Selig became the acting commissioner of the MLB, a title he kept until 2015. To prevent any conflict of interest, Bud transferred his team ownership to his daughter Wendy Selig-Prieb.
Bud Selig’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million
Surprisingly, the man who popularized the phrase “ let’s get ready to rumble” makes the list of the richest athletes of all time. Michael Buffer was not a professional boxer but his connection and impact on boxing made him undeniably part of this group.
Michael Buffer didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a boxing announcer. He served in the US Army for three years before starting a modeling career. It’s only after seeing a couple of fights on television that he thought he could do better than what announcers were doing at the time.
After reaching out to hotels in Atlantic City to propose his services, Buffer got the opportunity to start and made his debut in 1982. By 1984, Buffer came up with the popular phrase “Let’s get ready to rumble”, inspired by Muhammad Ali “rumble young man, rumble”. Doing most of the big fight broadcasted on Espn, Michael Buffer became known around the country and were able to capitalize on his brand outside the boxing field. He signed various announcing gigs for other events, from Pro Wrestling to the MLB World Series, the NBA Finals, the Indy 500, and the NFL playoffs.
Managed by his brother, renowned UFC announcer Bruce Buffer, Michael was able to license his catchphrase and persona for merchandising and video games.
Michael Buffer’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million
Larger than life, figuratively and literally, Shaquille O’neal down to earth personality amplifies his on-court prowesses, making him one of the wealthiest athletes of all time.
Born on March 6, 1972, in Newark, New Jersey, Shaq grew up with his mother and adoptive father, Phillip Harisson, an Army Sergeant. Shaq started his basketball career after the family relocated to San Antonio. There, he led his high school team to a record of 68-1 over two years and grew up to 7 feet and 1 inch. After a successful two year stint at LSU, Shaq entered the NBA Draft in 1992 and was selected number 1 overall by the Orlando Magic.
After four successful seasons playing for the Magic, where he reached the NBA finals and was selected for the all-star game every year, Shaq signed for the Los Angeles Lakers (1996). This move brought his popularity outside the court to another level.
Paired with young phenom Kobe Bryant, the Lakers went on to win three NBA championships, from 2000 to 2002 before Shaq’s departure to Miami in 2004. Joining forces in Miami with future hall of fame Dwane Wade, O’Neal helped the team claim their first NBA championship in 2006 by beating the Dallas Mavericks.
After twenty seasons in the NBA, Shaq retired as one of the most dominant players in NBA history. Throughout his career, Shaq signed endorsement deals with major brands such as Reebok, Nestle, Pepsi, Gold Bond, The General, and Icy Hot. He is also active in the real estate business with properties in Orlando, Miami, Newark, and California.
Shaquille O’neal’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million
Arguably the best soccer player of all time, Lionel Messi production and success on the field never cease to impress. Born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina, Messi’s love for soccer at an early age. He joined his local club coached by his father at just four years old. Two years later, Messi joined Newell’s Old Boys youth squad and scored close to 500 goals. Unfortunately, Leo was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at 10 years old. His parents didn’t have enough money to pay for growth hormone therapy, as well as his club Newell’s and River Plate, a bigger from Buenos Aires who was scouting him.
Still, in 2000, after a trial in front of FC Barcelona’s first team director and scouts, Messi was signed to the youth academy and able to receive growth hormone therapy. Still physically weak, Messi’s technique and speed with the ball sat him apart from his peers.
He made his first-team appearance at sixteen-year-old and immediately showed signs of his immense potential. On his 18th birthday, Messi signed his first contract for the first team and quickly rose through the rank of the best players in the Spanish Liga. After two unsuccessful seasons for Barcelona where Messi continued his ascendance, the club made some managing changes and hired Pep Guardiola. Under Pep, Barcelona’s new style of play made them unbeatable in la Liga and at the UEFA European Champions League.
Over the next decade, Messi asserted himself as the best player of his time and arguably the best ever, winning six ballon d’Or, four champion league and ten Liga championships.
Off the field, messy inked endorsement deals with global brands such as Pepsi, Adidas, Dolce & Gabbana, Audemars Piguet, Gillette, Turkish Airlines and Fifa video games.
Lionel Messi’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million
Nicknamed Lefty, Phil Mickelson is an American professional golfer, winner of 44 PGA tour events, and one of the top 10 players in the history of the sport.
Born on June 16, 1970, in San Diego California, Phil started golfing under the tutelage of his father, who was a commercial pilot. After high school, he attended Arizona State University on a golf scholarship and became one of the best amateur golfers in the country.
In 1992, Mickelson graduated from ASU and turned pro. This was the beginning of a successful and ongoing career where he attracted endorsement from Rolex, Ford, Barclay, KPMG, Callaway Golf, and many others.
Phil Mickelson’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million
Net Worth: $400 Million
Ex-NBA player Vincent Johnson, nicknamed the microwave for his ability to catch fire and score points rapidly, was the perfect backup for Isiah Thomas during the “Bad Boys” Detroit Piston Era. After a prolific college basketball career, Vinnie Johnson was drafted seventh in the 1979 NBA draft.
After winning two championships with the Detroit Piston, Vinnie retired in 1992 and founded the Piston Group venture. Today, the Piston Group owns four companies in the automotive and energy business, employing 10,000 employees and grossing upward of $2 Billion a year.
Vinnie Johnson’s net worth is estimated at $400 Million