50 Highest Paid Athletes in the World (2012 Edition)

Professional athletes get paid an obscene amount of money to do what they do. Or at least, they do if they’re good, and if they play the right sport. (Sorry, professional indoor lacrosse players.) But in addition to getting paid to play, many of them also get paid to endorse a variety of products and services. And in some cases, these endorsements are worth a lot more than what they make on the field.

Today we’re counting down the 50 highest paid athletes in the world, presenting what they made in salaries, bonuses, winnings, and endorsements from July 2011 to July 2012.

So what’s the breakdown of this list? Well, here you go:

8% NFL players (14)

16% MLB players (8)

14% NBA players (7)

14% Auto racers (7)

8% Soccer players (4)

6% Tennis players (3)

6% Golfers (3)

6% Boxers (3)

2% Cricket players (1)

This breakdown is illustrative of which sports pay the most money out to their athletes; however, it doesn’t reflect where a guy (or, in one case, a gal) can make the most money. While the NFL has the most players on this list, several of them are here because of crazy signing bonuses. Moreover, every NFL team has 50 players on its roster, and the teams make crazy money. Thus, while the NBA seems almost underrepresented, when you consider that there are fewer players in the league, making up 14% of this list is actually pretty good.

Meanwhile, golfers and tennis players don’t appear very much at all. But the few who are genuine sports superstars make a killing. Ditto for boxers and golfers.

Also interesting to note: which sports yield the most lucrative endorsement deals. Almost all of the NFL players on this list have higher salaries than the NBA players; however, the NBA players generally make two or three times more on endorsements. And ditto with baseball. Meanwhile, golfers and tennis players make next to nothing in actual winnings (compared to baseball players), but they clean up by endorsing all kinds of rich people shi—err, stuff.

But enough intro. Let’s get started and see who comes in at #50.

Tags: endorsement deals, forbes, highest paid athletes, salaries,