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The Highest-Paid Athlete of Every Year From 1990 to 2020

·4 min read
The Highest-Paid Athlete of Every Year From 1990 to 2020

Thanks to the coronavirus, Americans might possibly be robbed of their national pastime some more as the 2020 baseball season tries to continue but remains uncertain. In line with that, people have lost another favorite pastime: complaining about the enormous salaries of superstar athletes. While sympathizing with multimillionaires is never easy, it’s a tough time to be someone who earns a living with their athletic prowess. In a career where retirement comes at age 40 — if you’re lucky — every single lucrative season in your 20s and 30s is crucial. Having an entire year wiped out by COVID-19 can be the same as a small-business owner having to close up shop for the next decade.

So, while many of the people on this list are not in dire financial straits — particularly when compared to the rest of America right now — they are examples of how much money sweeping shutdowns can cost a top-tier athlete. As such, GOBankingRates used Forbes’ annual list of the highest-paid athletes and found the top earner — in combined salary/winnings and endorsements — from every year going back to 1990.

None of these athletes are likely going to end up in serious need of a paycheck, but top earners of today could still miss out on an awful lot of money.

Last updated: Aug. 4, 2020

1990

  • Athlete: Mike Tyson

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $28,600,000

1991

  • Athlete: Evander Holyfield

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $60,500,000

1992

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $35,900,000

1993

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $36,000,000

Find Out: Today’s Richest Athletes in the World

1994

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $30,010,000

1995

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $43,900,000

1996

  • Athlete: Mike Tyson

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $75,000,000

1997

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $78,300,000

1998

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Total earnings: $69,000,000

Check Out: These 13 Athletes Won the Most Lucrative Endorsement Deals

1999

  • Athlete: Michael Schumacher

  • Sport: Formula One

  • Total earnings: $49,000,000

2000

  • Athlete: Michael Schumacher

  • Sport: Formula One

  • Total earnings: $59,000,000

2001

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $65,000,000

Editor’s note: In 2002, Forbes changed its reporting period from the full calendar year to June-to-June. As such, there is no list for the highest-paid athletes of 2001. This figure was sourced from a report by Men’s Health.

2002

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $69,000,000

2003

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $78,000,000

2004

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $80,300,000

2005

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $87,000,000

2006

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $90,000,000

See: Most Successful Athlete From Every Decade

2007

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $100,000,000

2008

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $115,000,000

2009

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $110,000,000

2010

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $105,000,000

2011

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $75,000,000

Outside the Game: Athletes Who Got Rich for Something Other Than Sports

2012

  • Athlete: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $85,000,000

2013

  • Athlete: Tiger Woods

  • Sport: Golf

  • Total earnings: $78,100,000

2014

  • Athlete: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $105,000,000

2015

  • Athlete: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $300,000,000

2016

  • Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Sport: Soccer

  • Total earnings: $88,000,000

Read: 23 Athletes Who Love Giving Their Money Away

2017

  • Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Sport: Soccer

  • Total earnings: $93,000,000

2018

  • Athlete: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

  • Sport: Boxing

  • Total earnings: $285,000,000

2019

  • Athlete: Lionel Messi

  • Sport: Soccer

  • Total earnings: $127,000,000

2020

  • Athlete: Roger Federer

  • Sport: Tennis

  • Total earnings: $106,300,000

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the highest-paid athlete of every year from 1990 to 2020 by looking at Forbes’ highest-paid athletes for the years 2004 and 2007 to 2020. TopEnd Sports was used for all other years, as they have archived Forbes’ figures since 1990. GOBankingRates only analyzed contemporaneously active athletes. All data, except for 2020’s highest-paid athlete, was collected and up to date as of March 17, 2020. Information for 2020’s highest-paid athlete is accurate as of July 28, 2020.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Highest-Paid Athlete of Every Year From 1990 to 2020