To be the best in any professional sport requires an abundance of talent, dedication, hard work and a little luck, as well as the sort of commitment to excellence that is strong enough to keep an athlete powering through injuries, loss of form and defeat towards the ultimate in fitness and achievement.
Given how hard they have to work, it is no surprise that the top athletes receive top pay. Just as sports fans look for the best deal on tickets or the best sports betting bonuses, top athletes expect that the level of their pay will match their achievements and all that they bring to a team or a tournament in terms of attention, sponsorship and fame. With so many strong and internationally famous professional leagues, the US is home to some of the greatest and highest paid athletes in the world.
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Dak Prescott is one of the world’s most famous NFL players. Since 2016, he has been the star talent at the Dallas Cowboys. With total earnings in his NFL career of $107.5m, the quarterback, who is 28 years old, was the top earner across all sports in the US in 2021. Of that career figure, $97.5m has been earned by playing for the Cowboys, with the remaining $10m coming from off-field earnings. Long regarded as one of the best quarterbacks around, Prescott will be hoping to lead Dallas to glory in the 2022-23 NFL season.
The 29-year-old point guard, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, has several rich marketing deals in addition to his sizable playing contract. He earned $44m last year despite not being able to play in the NBA for a significant portion of the season due to his decision regarding vaccination. His overall earnings were split between $27m from on-field compensation and $17m from off-field sources.
Despite being a controversial figure in his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and now the Nets, Irving is regarded as one of the most talented NBA players anywhere, and his box office appeal explains why teams are willing to pay so much to have him on their roster.
One of the most successful US golfers of all time, Tiger Woods has had a remarkable career. At the age of 46, with an astonishing 15 Major titles to his name, only Jack Nicklaus has a better record in the big events. With 82 PGA tournament wins, he shares the joint all-time lead. That success has long been rewarded financially. During 2021, he earned around $60m. Of that, only $200,000 was earned by playing golf. The rest was earned via sponsorship deals, as Woods’ global fame has made him a big draw for any company wanting to raise their profile.
source: wiki commons
A four-time NBA Champion, the 33-year-old Curry plays as a point guard for the Golden State Warriors and is widely considered to be the best shooter in NBA history. His partnership with Klay Thompson has helped to revolutionize basketball. Along the way, Curry has become one of the hottest properties in US sports. In 2021-22, Curry was paid an impressive $74.5m, of which $40m was earned through off-field endorsements. As the 2022 NBA Finals MVP, Curry is at the height of his powers and his earning potential remains extremely high.
The LA Lakers may have struggled over the last two seasons, but they have at least been able to rely on one of the all-time NBA greats in LeBron James. At the age of 37, his remarkable levels of fitness and endurance have enabled him to compete at the highest standard over a remarkable 19-season career that shows no signs of ending any time soon. A four-time NBA Champion, with three different franchises, he is also a four-time season MVP and four-time Finals MVP. Remarkably, he recorded one of the best seasons of his career in 2021/22, registering over 30 points per game.
That elite basketball talent, combined with a head for business and a disciplined approach to his off-court life have enabled James to remain one of the most commercially attractive and successful athletes in the US. In 2021, he earned $31.5m for his playing activities, but an impressive $65m through his extensive business and sponsorship interests away from the court.