What Is Highest-Paid Sport in The World in 2023
It is no secret that professional sports pay quite well. But what is the highest-paid sport? There are a few major sports in the running, and the title of the highest-paid sport is a lot closer than you may realize. We will get into which sport is the highest-paid below.
The highest-paid athlete does not necessarily equate to the highest-paid sport in the world. We will look at the total salaries paid out, the median salary, and the average player salary of the top 5 highest-paid sports in the world. The salary amounts and opportunities for sponsorships play a big role in the incomes of the top athletes from around the planet.
Without further delay, let’s look at some of the highest-paid sports players as well as determine which sport has the highest-paid athletes.
So, what is the highest-paid professional sport? Will it be soccer? What about American football? Is baseball the highest-paid sport? Potentially ice hockey? There are a few contenders for “the highest-paid sport in the world,” with these five standing a cut above the rest.
#1. Soccer: From Hat-Tricks to Huge Paydays
Soccer certainly has the highest-paid sports player in the world – Cristiano Ronaldo – and a few others that make the list of the best-paid athletes in soccer, putting it in the discussion for the highest-paid sport in the world.
Ronaldo makes $200 million per year, French star Kylian Mbappe makes $128 million per year, the legendary Lionel Messi makes more than $120 million per year, and Neymar Jr. makes nearly $70 million per year. Players who manage to make it to the top of the soccer world are paid more handsomely than almost any other athlete on the globe and are among the top earners in the world.
#2. Basketball: Banking on Three-Pointers
Basketball is hard to beat as there are 18 players making $40 million or more per year, seven of which make more than $50 million. It is not uncommon for supermax deals to climb well over $200 million for just a few years in the NBA. With large payouts from major sponsors, the taxes and fees from agents can add up quickly.
Player salaries are well over the $4 million mark, and the best of the best are well-paid for it. Damian Lillard has the highest current annual average value at $60.88 million, while Nikola Jokic has the highest-valued contract in the NBA at $272 million. So there are mega bucks to be had by hitting the hardwood.
#3. Boxing: Counting The Winnings Beyond The Knockouts
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Floyd Mayweather. The “King of PPV,” Mayweather is notorious for a lot of things, one of them being the nine-figure paydays he would earn for a single fight during the peak of his career.
The earnings at the top of the list are just as staggering. Anthony Joshua, one of the top boxing fighters in the world to bet on, earned more than $100 million in 2022 and looks to keep that going in 2023. The “Gypsy King,” Tyson Fury, has had some of the biggest and most successful fights in recent years, and it shows in his $70 million salary.
#4. Golf: Hitting The Green in More Ways Than One
Tiger Woods changed the game for golfers in more ways than one. Because of his historic rise and the increasing demand for golf betting, golfers earn eight or more figures each year. For example, Phil Mickelson was the biggest winner on the course in 2022, earning more than $100 million. Dustin Johnson was next up, clearing $68 million in on-course earnings.
With the LIV Tour becoming a direct competitor to the established PGA Tour, golfers are now getting paid the big bucks before they ever step onto the course. For example, Bryson DeChambeau makes more than $60 million from his LIV contract, meaning he doesn’t have to win much to come out as a big winner in his chequebook.
#5. F1 Racing: Turning Laps Into Lucrative Deals
Though it may not necessarily have the recognition in America that it does in the rest of the world, F1 Racing is a serious way to earn big bucks. Of course, it is also one of the most dangerous sports in the world, with drivers flying around the course at more than 200 mph regularly.
So, how much do F1 drivers make every year? Max Verstappen of Team Red Bull stands above the rest, set to earn more than $55 million in 2023. Lewis Hamilton may be the most recognizable name in the sport right now and is set to earn more than $35 million. The cream of the crop in F1 Racing will make over $10 million this year, and the earnings will only continue to grow as the sport gains more popularity.
Is Baseball The Highest-Paid Sport?
Baseball is certainly on the list of the highest-paid sports because the contracts at the top of the mountain are unheard of. For instance, Yankees star Aaron Judge recently inked a nine-year, $360 million contract, the type of deal that has become standard for the top stars.
There are nine players making $35 million annually or more, with a duo of Mets pitchers – Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer – making more than $43 million each. Pitchers tend to command the biggest deals, though there are more star position players being inked to huge pacts.
So, what is the highest-paid sport? Despite having the highest-paid sportsman in the world in Ronaldo, the crown goes to basketball. With more than a dozen players making $40 million per season and the average salary being just north of $4 million, even the bench players are making bank in the NBA. Profile also helps generate dollars for the players. It should come as no surprise that the best-paid sports are the ones where the player can be seen clearly. Not to mention the potential for earning major dollars as a brand spokesman as well.
While the focus of this piece has largely been on the field/court, there are other sports emerging with major earning potential. Some of them are a bit off the beaten path, creating a whole new genre of sports stars that will be earning serious money from competition.
#1. Esports: Turning Pixels Into Paychecks
eSports have risen in popularity in recent years, and paychecks are climbing right along with it. As spectators around the world get familiar with these players through their player ID, they are also becoming more familiar because of the massive earnings these players are generating.
Johan Sundstein is currently the biggest earner, making his name in the Dota 2 realm. He has taken home more than $7.1 million in winnings so far. The top 50 in the space all earned more than $1.9 million, and those numbers are only expected to grow as streaming numbers and views continue to climb for eSports events.
#2. MMA: Fighting Their Way to Financial Success
MMA has exploded in popularity since 2005, thanks largely to the rise of the UFC. Now a billion-dollar industry, MMA has managed to produce some very rich athletes. We have all heard of Connor McGregor, the undisputed king of MMA PPV. It was not uncommon for him to earn $5 million or more on his fights in his heyday.
Currently, there are major names like Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman, who earn around $1 million per fight. While that number might not seem like that much, they also get a cut of PPV points, performance bonuses, and sponsorship rewards as well, bolstering those earnings even further.
#3. Drone Racing: High-Flying Profits in The Tech Sports Era
Drone racing is the newest to the table and is climbing each year. Though the salaries are nothing close to what even the top eSports players earn, it is worth taking note that players in the Drone Racing League are starting to see real compensation.
On average, racers earn more than $360k in the Drone Racing League, with the numbers climbing. The high-end racers earn more than $420,000, racing drones competitively. As the sport gains more popularity, that number will continue to rise.
To those who do not know, it may seem like these athletes are making a ton of money for simply playing a game. But the simple fact of the matter is that they are driving financial benefits for their teams that cannot be understated.
There are a few major revenue streams for teams and sports leagues. The first is television broadcast rights. Leagues like the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB are signing deals with television networks in the billions, providing a lot more funds in the pool for the players to get a piece of.
The second major revenue stream is in merchandising. Apparel with team logos and player names on them is a billion-dollar industry. Teams can make much of their investment in a player back simply by selling merchandise with that player’s name or likeness on it throughout the course of the contract. So, while it may seem crazy to pay Stephen Curry more than $40 million per year, he is likely earning the Warriors far more in return.
One of the final major revenue streams is ticket sales. This used to be the driving factor but has since taken a backseat. That said, the NFL goes to show that there is a ton of money to be made in ticket sales. Teams rake in millions each year by selling out home games, providing just another bolster to the bottom line.
There is a lot of money being thrown around in the sports world these days. Soccer and boxing stars at the top of the list make more than $100 million per year, putting them in truly rarified air. In baseball and basketball, the top of the list hovers around the $50 million/year mark.
Teams and sports alike are finding more revenue streams than ever before. And as the importance of television continues to grow, huge broadcast rights deals are going to continue to drive revenue for those sports. This ultimately means that the stars making those sports so popular will continue to be paid at huge levels.
Getting into the world of the highest-paid athletes is a tough go. These are the most elite athletes in the world, getting started as young kids and making their way through some of the best amateur and youth leagues in the world. That said, dedication and persistence (and a little talent) can pay huge dividends.
Here are some of the most common questions regarding the highest-paid sport in the world.
Basketball is the world’s highest-paying sport, as a player’s average salary is more than $4 million.
Boxing has some of the biggest paydays ever, with hundreds of millions being doled out to boxers at the top of the card.
In America, the NBA (basketball) is the highest-paid sport. The top-end players make more than $40 million per year in salary alone.
As of 2023, the five best-paying sports in the world are basketball, golf, soccer, boxing, and F1 racing.
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Jake is an SEO-minded Combat Sports, Gaming and Pro Wrestling writer and successful Editor in Chief. He has more than ten years of experience covering mixed martial arts, pro wrestling and gaming across a number of publications.