Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

As many of us are probably aware, the rich didn’t seem to be affected too badly from the pandemic. If anything, they actually got richer. It was no different for many athletes as Forbes once again crunches the numbers for us to find out who are the top ten highest paid athletes in 2021.

The best of the best were hardly hurt after the pandemic despite sporting events being cancelled or severely reduced. While it’s true many athletes felt the pinch the same as everyone else, the big names were left with hardly a scratch.

The ten highest-paid athletes in the world earned a pre-tax gross of USD $1.05 billion over the past 12 months. That’s a lot but surely it was less than their previous year’s earnings? Yeah, no. It was 28% more than last year. It wasn’t as high as 2018 which had a record $1.06 billion but that was due to Floyd Mayweather earning $285 million almost entirely from his fight with Conor McGregor.

No event was held this year to match that earning but even despite that, these athletes earned a tremendous amount.

So here we go, the highest paid athlete in the world is…

1. Conor McGregor - $180 Milion

Credit: Zuffa LLC

This money didn’t come from any fights McGregor participated in but from his activities outside of the Octagon. He collected a total of $180 million over the last 12 months with most of that money coming from the sale of his stake in the whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve. The sale was for $150 million.

2. Lionel Messi - $130 Million

Credit: FC Barcelona

Messi is up here almost solely on the fact that he has the most valuable football contract of any player in the game. The contract is worth $674 million. You can be sure fans were upset when this revelation appeared as FC Barcelona have had a few money troubles as of late. Messi set a record for soccer players with his 2021 total coming to $130 million.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo - $120 Million

Ronaldo is a very popular man and he managed to earn $120 million this year. His four-year contract with Juventus is worth, on average, $64 million annually. The rest of his money comes from a lifetime deal with Nike and the CR7 business which includes branded clothing, accessories, hotels, and gyms. He made $70 million on the field and $50 million off the field.

4. Dak Prescott - $107.5 Million

Prescott returned to the NFL after an ankle injury with a four-year $160 million contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys. He also received a $66 million signing bonus on top of that. Off the field has recently invested in four Texas locations for the restaurant chain Walk-On’s. He made $97.5 million on the field and $10 million off the field.

5. LeBron James - $96.5 Million

James took home an NBA record of $96.5 million in 2021. He only earned $31.5 million of that on the field but off the field he earned a staggering $65 million. Most of this is due to his leading role in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacybut also contributing is his new deal with PepsiCo. He also purchased a small stake in Fenway Sports Group.

6. Neymar - $95 Million

Most of Neymar’s value has been determined by his popularity. He’s the third most popular athlete on social media, behind Ronaldo and Messi. He earned most of his money on the field with $76 million. Off the field, Neymar became a brand ambassador for Puma and was put into the game Fortnite as a skin.

7. Roger Federer - $90 Million

Federer didn’t play any tennis for much of last year due to a knee injury but that didn’t stop the Grand Slam champion from bringing in $90 million thanks to his earnings from sponsorships.

8. Lewis Hamilton - $82 Million

Credit: Sporting Ferret

Lewis Hamilton is absolutely dominating the Formula 1 scene and his 11 race wins last season got him a few bonus payments. However, it’s also his endorsements with Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy, and Puma that netted him $12 million off the field.

9. Tom Brady - $76 Million

This was Brady’s most lucrative year of his career. Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has earned him $45 million on the field. His endorsement deals with eyewear maker Christopher Cloos and apparel giant Fanatics helped him collect some big bucks too. On top of this he started a wellness brand TB12, a film production company, and an NFT platform. All up he earned $31 million off the field.

10. Kevin Durant - $75 Million

Durant was another athlete whose income came from mostly off the field endeavours. The reason for this was an Achilles injury that left him sidelined for much of the 2019/20 season. Now he is a full-time media mogul with the television series Boardroom and his firm Thirty-Five Ventures. He was an executive producer of Two Distant Strangers, which won an Academy Award for best live-action short film. He also sold his early stake in Postmates when it was purchased by Uber which definitely helped. His earnings off the field were $44 million.