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The 30 highest-paid athletes of 2019

The world’s biggest sports stars continued to earn record-setting sums for their on-field exploits, while diversifying their personal interests and earnings away from their respective sports as well. Here’s a look at the highest-earning athletes of 2019, using data compiled by various outlets such as Forbes, Spotrac and others. Earnings are from the season that started during the year of the seasonal leagues and for individual competitors, they are calendar-based earnings.

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1. Lionel Messi - $115 million

Lionel Messi - $115 million
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Messi led Barcelona to its 10th La Liga title in his 15 years with the club, scoring 36 league goals in 34 games. In the third year of a 2017 contract extension that runs through the 2020-21 season, Messi is making $94 million on the pitch, making him the highest paid on-field athlete in the world. His income is amplified by an estimated $35 million in off-field earnings, led by endorsements Gatorade, Pepsi, Gillette, Konami, Dolce & Gabbana, Mastercard and mainly, Adidas. His lifetime contract with the athletic brand nets him $12 million annually.

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2. Cristiano Ronaldo - $105 million

Cristiano Ronaldo - $105 million
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The world’s most famous football star earned $64 million in the second year of his four-year contract with Juventus of the Series A league. While the rate keeps him as the third-highest paid on-field athlete in the world, it is a pay cut from his peak earning years with Real Madrid in 2016 and 2017. He remains a powerhouse endorser, earning $44 million off the pitch via endorsements with Herbalife, Electronic Arts, Nike and DAZN, among others. His 400 million social media followers are the most of any athlete in the world.

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3. Neymar - $100 million

Neymar - $100 million
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The most expensive player ever acquired in sports history is surpassed only by Messi in competitive earnings, taking home $75 million from his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. The 27-year old battled injury on the pitch but remained an earnings power off it, netting upward of $30 million in endorsements. Beats Electronics, Electronic Arts, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Red Bull, Gillette and Nike all count him among their most prominent worldwide pitchmen. He is also one of the most charitable athletes in the world, providing millions of dollars of support to his native Brazil annually.

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4. Roger Federer - $93.6 million

Roger Federer - $93.6 million
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The most acclaimed men’s tennis player in history continues to draw strong earnings with his racket, earning $7.3 million in 2019 and finishing ranked third in the world. Yet where he remains unparalleled power is as an endorser, as Federer is the world’s highest earning sponsorship athlete. He made an estimated $86 million from his lucrative deals with Mercedes-Benz, Barilla, Wilson Sporting Goods, Rolex and Credit Suisse Group. His most prominent deal is with footwear company Uniqlo, with whom he signed a 10-year, $300 million pact in 2018.

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5. LeBron James - $93.6 million

LeBron James - $93.6 million
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The King reigns supreme among American athletes, earning $37.4 million in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, James flexes his muscles the most with his diverse portfolio of off-court endeavors. He earns $53 million from various endorsements, including a lifetime contract with Nike, as well as deals with Coca-Cola, Beats Electronics and Kia Motors. James also houses a number of ownership endeavors, including his Uninterrupted media brand, partnerships with HBO and Showtime, as well as health and wellness company Ladder and the LeBron James Family Foundation’s educational endeavors.

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6. Aaron Rodgers - $89 million

Aaron Rodgers - $89 million
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers quarterback cashed in on the NFL’s quarterback contract boom, briefly becoming the highest-paid player in the league history. His four-year, $134 million extension came into play for the 2019 season and with the annual payout of his signing bonus and on-field earnings, Rodgers stands to see $70 million within the first year of his new deal. Rodgers earns an addition $8 million via deals with State Farm, Bose, Panini and Adidas.

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7. Stephen Curry - $82.2 million

Stephen Curry - $82.2 million
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The three-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP, Curry, who is currently injured, will earn $40 million for the first time in his career during the 2019-20 season. This comes in the third season of a five-year, $201 million deal he signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2017, the first supermax deal ever to top $200 million in total value. Curry's off-court interests still earned him an estimated $42 million on the year. This includes him being Under Armour’s most prominent promoter, as well as ventures with Nissan, Chase Banks, Palm and Ratuken. His Unanimous Media brand also recently signed a distribution deal with Sony Pictures.

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8. Russell Wilson - $79 million

Russell Wilson - $79 million
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In April, Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Some $70 million went to Wilson immediately, including $30 million of his $65 million signing bonus and his $35 million in earnings for the 2019 season. Wilson also gains another $9 million via endorsements with Nike, Amazon, Bose, Alaska Air Group and Mercedes-Benz. He is also extremely active outside of the game, possessing an ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders of the MLS and the Portland Diamond Project, which is aimed at bringing a Major League Baseball team to Oregon.

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9. Kevin Durant - $73.1 million

Kevin Durant - $73.1 million
Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

After a handful of seasons taking a team-friendly rate in pursuit of titles with the Golden State Warriors, Durant cashed in during his second trip through free agency. He signed a four-year, $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, which will bring him $38 million during the 2019-20 season as he rehabs a torn Achilles tendon. Durant remains one of the strongest earners in the NBA off the court, taking home $35 million annually from deals with Nike, Google, Alaska Air Group, Gatorade, Panini and Sprint, among others.

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10. Canelo Alvarez - $73 million

Canelo Alvarez - $73 million
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The world’s highest-paid fighter truly began to reap the rewards of his substantial deal with DAZN, which nets him $35 million per fight. During his 2019 bouts with Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev, he earned $70 million in the ring, before accounting for his additional outside ventures. Alvarez owns Canelo Promotions in his native Mexico, where he represents over 40 fighters. He earns an estimated $2 million annually through endorsements with Everlast, Tecate, Henessey and Roger Dubuis watches.

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11. Anthony Joshua - $60 million

Anthony Joshua - $60 million
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

With two fights with Andy Ruiz Jr., Joshua stands to earn $50 million on the year — once as champion in June and then challenger in December. The English fighter is also one of the most widely promoted athletes in the world, enjoying a diverse endorsement portfolio. This includes British Airways, Under Armour, Jaguar LandRover, Beats Electronics, Hugo Boss and DAZN, altogether worth an estimated $10 million annually.

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12. Mike Trout - $59 million

Mike Trout - $59 million
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Ahead of a season where he would win his third American League MVP Award before his 30th birthday, Trout rewrote the record books with a massive contract extension. Trout and the Anaheim Angels agreed to a 12-year, $425 million extension, the largest sports contract in North American history. The new deal included a $20 million signing bonus that paid out in May, making Trout’s $56 million on-field earnings the largest single-season compensation in MLB history. Trout adds an additional $3 million from endorsement deals with Nike, Topps, Rawlings and BodyArmor.

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13. Tiger Woods - $57.1 million

Tiger Woods - $57.1 million
Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Spurred by his victory at the Masters, Woods enjoyed his highest earning year on the links since 2013, bringing in $3.1 million. Sports’ first billion-dollar earner continued to be one of the most marketable athletes in the world, with an estimated $54 million in 2019. Nike, Rolex, Upper Deck, TaylorMade and Monster Energy count him as a premier spokesperson.

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14. Russell Westbrook - $56 million

Russell Westbrook - $56 million
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In his first season with the Houston Rockets, Westbrook will earn $38 million in the second season of a five-year, $206 million contract. The deal is the largest in total value in NBA history and will reach $47 million by 2023. Westbrook is also the highest-paid athlete on the Jordan Brand, where he has his own signature fashion line. Between that deal and others with Pepsi, Samsung and True Religion, Westbrook stands to earn an additional $18 million on the year.

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15. James Harden - $55 million

James Harden - $55 million
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of averaging 36.1 points per game and leading the league in scoring for a second-consecutive season, the 2018 NBA MVP will earn $38 million from the Houston Rockets. His current four-year, $171 million contract runs through 2023 when Harden will earn $47 million on the year. He is also the lead NBA face for Adidas, with whom he is in the midst of a 13-year contract worth $200 million. Along with deals with Electronic Arts, BodyArmor and State Farm, Harden nets an additional $17 million per year.

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16. Kyrie Irving - $54.1 million

Kyrie Irving - $54.1 million
Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Irving relocated to Brooklyn headed into the 2019-20 season, inking a four-year, $136 million contract that will pay him $31 million in his inaugural year as a Net. Irving makes an additional $23 million off the court, led by his contract with Nike, where his signature shoe is the second-highest selling model annually. Irving also promotes 2K Sports, Foot Locker, Panini and Pepsi in his growing endorsement portfolio.

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17. Rory McIlroy - $53.1 million

Rory McIlroy - $53.1 million
Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

McIlroy won four tournaments in 2019, including a record $15 million purse at the Tour Championship. Overall, McIlroy earned $22 million on the links, en route to being selected as PGA Tour Player of the Year for a third time. McIlroy remains among the richest endorsers in the sport as well, bringing in $31 million from deals with Nike, TaylorMade, Upper Deck, UnitedHeath Group and the GolfPass digital subscription training service.

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18. Lewis Hamilton - $50 million

Lewis Hamilton - $50 million
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Hamilton’s dominance of the Formula One circuit continued in 2019, as he captured his third consecutive and sixth overall World Championship. The British racer began the year by reupping on his sponsorship with Mercedes-Benz, which pays him $40 million annually, the highest contract in Formula One history. In addition to his main sponsorship, Hamilton earns an additional $10 million annually via deals with Sony, Bose, Tommy Hilfiger, Police sunglasses, Monster Energy Drink and Puma, among others.

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19. Chris Paul - $46.5 million

Chris Paul - $46.5 million
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Paul is in the second season of a four-year, $159 million extension, which will make him $38.5 million in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul also remains one of the most visible NBA stars of the court, due to endorsements with Nike, Spalding, State Farm and Disney. These contracts bring him an estimated $8 million additionally per year.

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20. Ben Roethlisberger - $46 million

Ben Roethlisberger - $46 million
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In April, Roethlisberger extended his stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers an additional two seasons. His new contract will earn him $68 million in total, along with a $37.5 million signing bonus. All things considered, Big Ben will make $45 million in 2019 despite an elbow injury ending his season early. Roethlisberger adds an additional $1 million onto his playing income via sponsorships with Nike, Sprint and Fanatics.

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21. Giannis Antetokounmpo - $44.8 million

Giannis Antetokounmpo - $44.8 million
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA MVP will earn $25 million from the Milwaukee Bucks during 2019-20 season, the third season of a four-year, $100 million extension from 2016. With his recently released signature shoe and merchandise line via Nike, Antetokounmpo’s earning power is rising quickly. He makes an estimated $19 million currently from his contracts with Nike, Hulu and 2K Sports, as he continues to be one of the world’s global breakout stars.

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22. Damian Lillard - $42.8 million

Damian Lillard - $42.8 million
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Lillard will earn $29.8 million in the penultimate year of a five-year, $139 million deal he signed in 2015. However, Lillard ensured that he will remain among the NBA’s elite earners well into the next decade, signing a four-year, $196 million extension with the Portland Trail Blazers in June. With both contracts combined, Lillard will average $43 million in on-court earnings per year through 2025. Off the court, Lillard enjoys a signature shoe line with Adidas, along with earnings from Hulu and Panini that make him an additional $13 million per year.

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23. Rafael Nadal - $42 million

Rafael Nadal - $42 million
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 33-year-old Spanish star continues to be one of the most successful — and profitable — tennis stars in the world. He finished the 2019 season as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, with $16.3 million in winnings, led by victories in both the U.S. and French Open tournaments, respectively. However, Nadal’s main source of income continues to be a strong variety of endorsement deals, led by Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Babolat, KIA Motors and Telefonica. Overall, Nadal took home $26 million in sponsorship dollars on the year.

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24. Novak Djokovic - $41.6 million

Novak Djokovic - $41.6 million
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Djokovic captured both the Wimbledon and Australian Open titles en route to finishing the year as the world’s No. 2 player. Overall, he earned $11.6 million in winnings during the year, extending his all-time record for career prize money to $132 million. He is the second-highest earning tennis player off the court, making $31 million via endorsements with Asics, Seiko, Head, Ultimate Software Group and others. His largest endorser partner is Lacoste, from whom he earns an eight-digit salary annually.

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25. Blake Griffin - $41.1 million

Blake Griffin - $41.1 million
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons star is in the third season of a five-year, $171 million contract he initially signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Griffin will earn $34.4 million on the year, with another $7 million from various endorsement contracts. Nike and Red Bull are two of Griffin’s most prominent partners, while he has also begun in the media production space via Mortal Media, a partnership with NFLer Ryan Kalil.

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26. Paul George - $41 million

Paul George - $41 million
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

George made a surprising jump after one season with the Oklahoma City Thunder to partner alongside Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers. He brought with him the final three seasons of his four-year, $136.9 million contract he signed in 2018. He will make $33 million during the 2019-20 campaign, with another $8 million via endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Foot Locker, New Era and Bass Pro Shops. His PG1 signature shoe line is one of the fastest-growing brands under the Nike umbrella.

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27. Sebastian Vettel - $40.3 million

Sebastian Vettel - $40.3 million
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Vettel continues to be the second-highest earning driver in the world despite not winning a title since 2015. Ferrari pays the four-time world champion $40 million annually, plus bonuses, to be its Formula One representative. Vettel’s income is further supplemented by endorsement deals with Casio, Tirendo and Infiniti, although he has not promoted as many brands in recent years as he previously agreed to.

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28. Drew Brees - $38.7 million

Drew Brees - $38.7 million
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Brees will earn $23 million in the second season of a two-year, $50 million contract extension he signed before the 2018 season. Brees is also the NFL’s highest-earning endorser, taking home $16 million annually between contracts with Nike, Pepsi, Proctor & Gamble, Wrangler and Microsoft. Brees also has an ownership or franchise stake in a variety of companies, such as Jimmy John’s, Dunkin' Donuts and the Brees Dream Foundation.

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29. Phil Mickelson - $37.3 million

Phil Mickelson - $37.3 million
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While "Lefty" didn’t get the same bump in his income from the links that he did following his victory in 2018’s one-on-one matchup with Tiger Woods, he still did well for himself on the year. Mickelson earned just over $1 million in prize money but took in $36 million via his longstanding strong endorsement portfolio. He is the lead endorser for financial services provider KPMG and continues to earn from deals with Callaway Golf, Intrepid Financial Partners, Rolex and Amgen.

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30. Bryce Harper - $36.5 million

Bryce Harper - $36.5 million
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After one of the most discussed and dissected free agency stints of all time, Harper inked a massive 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper will earn $30 million annually via the deal and received a $20 million signing bonus that paid in full during the year. Harper’s new jersey set a record for the fastest-selling replica of all time by Fanatics. The 27-year-old is the MLB’s highest-earning endorser, gaining $6.5 million from deals with Under Armour, Topps, Rawlings, New Era, Johnson & Johnson and Blind Barber, a high-end men’s barbershop network he has an investment stake in.

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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