LeBron James Lakers Finals
Photo: Twitter/NBA

The list of the top ten highest paid athletes in the world for last year has now been released and features three players from America’s National Basketball Association – more than any other league. The latest version of the list takes into account wages and bonuses in addition to prize money, endorsements, appearance fees and royalties earned between June 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020.

Between them, the top one hundred earned a collective $3.6 billion during that period, down from roughly $4 billion the year before. That makes 2020 the first time in four years that the total has dropped, which is perhaps unsurprising considering everything that happened in 2020.

What is a surprise is seeing Tennis player Roger Federer top the list for the first time, with $106 million of pre-tax earnings seeing him edge past the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. 

2020: The Year Basketball Made it Big

Basketball makes a great showing this year, with more players making the full top-100 list than any other sport. Positions five, six and seven of the top ten are occupied by some of the biggest names in the game, too – let’s look at these big earners in more detail.

LeBron James, LA Lakers

Earnings: $88.2m (Salary/Winnings: $28.2m, Endorsements: $60m)

When discussing the greatest basketball player of all time, most people believe that James is the only name who can compete with Michael Jordan. He began his career playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers before moving to Miami Heat, and then to his current team the Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron is the only player who has won an NBA championship with three franchises, being picked as the Finals MVP on all three occasions. His 17-year career has seen a host of accomplishments – he has competed in ten NBA finals and has won two Olympic gold medals, as well as holding the record for all-time playoff points.

Outside of basketball, James has featured in several movies and television shows and even tried his hand at voice acting in 2018’s “Smallfoot”. He is due to appear as himself in Space Jam: A New Legacy in 2021. The film is currently in post-production.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Earnings: $74.4m (Salary/Winnings: $30.4m, Endorsements: $44m)

Often referred to as the greatest shooter in NBA history, Curry is sometimes credited with revolutionizing basketball by pushing teams to make greater use of the three-point shot. Like Lebron James, Stephen is an Ohio native who was first selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 2009 NBA draft, where he remains to this day. 

Curry is a six-time NBA all-star and has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player twice. The first of these was during the 2014-15 season, after which he led the Warriors to their first championship since 1975. The following season he became the first player in NBA history to receive the MVP award as a result of a unanimous vote. The team has gone on to win two further championships since then, and the current NBA betting odds suggest that the bookmakers fancy their chances next season, too.

Stephen is a devout Christian who often discusses his faith publicly, most notably during an MVP speech in which he stated: “People should know who I represent, and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and Savior”.

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Earnings: $63.9m (Salary/Winnings: $28.9m, Endorsements: $35m)

Often referred to simply by his initials KD, Kevin only played college basketball for one season before being selected as the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. He went on to play nine seasons with the Seattle Supersonics before joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016, where he won back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018.

Durant makes the majority of his earnings through his endorsement deals with big-name sports brands including Foot Locker and Nike. He has also developed a strong reputation for philanthropy.

Kevin made a brief excursion into the acting world in 2012’s Thunderstruck, but is yet to make a second appearance. It seems he may have bigger plans – he purchased a stake in Soccer club Philadelphia Union last year, and states that he is hoping to purchase a larger share in the future.

The Full Top Ten

1.     Roger Federer ($106.3m)

2.     Cristiano Ronaldo ($105m)

3.     Lionel Messi ($104m)

4.     Neymar ($95.5m)

5.     LeBron James ($88.2m)

6.     Stephen Curry ($74.4m)

7.     Kevin Durrant ($63.9m)

8.     Tiger Woods ($62.3m)

9.     Kirk Cousins ($60.5m)

10.  Carson Wentz ($59.1m)

Interested in reading the whole top 100? The full list is published at Forbes each year.