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Professional Athletes Set To Earn Big Money in 2021

·4 min read
Maddie Meyer / Getty Images
Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

A country music hit song from the 1970s gave this line of sage advice: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”

In 2021, the updated version should say “Mamas, make sure your babies grow up to be point guards,” because they could end up as one of the top five players on the list of highest-paid pro athletes in 2021.

The Latest: How Much Money Are NBA Teams Losing Without Fans?

GOBankingRates looked at the top 50 salaries in terms of cap hit for the four major U.S. sports and compiled the top 20 salaries across sports.

Basketball players dominate the list, with the top five salaries and eight of the first 11. And although football is the most popular U.S. sport, only four NFL players are in the top 20. Read on to see the entire list of athletes who will earn big money this year.

Last updated: Jan. 11, 2021

Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Patrick Smith / Getty Images

18. (tie) Stephen Strasburg

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: Washington Nationals

  • Position: Starting pitcher

  • 2021 Salary: $35,000,000

Find Out: The Richest Athletes in the World

Dustin Bradford / Getty Images
Dustin Bradford / Getty Images

18. (tie) Nolan Arenado

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: Colorado Rockies

  • Position: Third base

  • 2021 Salary: $35,000,000

Did You Know: Injuries Cost These 13 Athletes a Fortune

Julio Cortez/AP / Shutterstock.com
Julio Cortez/AP / Shutterstock.com

18. (tie) Zack Greinke

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: Houston Astros

  • Position: Starting pitcher

  • 2021 Salary: $35,000,000

Read: Most Successful Athlete From Every Decade

Keith Allison / Flickr.com
Keith Allison / Flickr.com

17. Klay Thompson

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Golden State Warriors

  • Position: Shooting guard

  • 2021 Salary: $35,361,360

Who’s Richer: These Sports Stars or Their Significant Others?

Icon Sportswire / Getty Images
Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

16. Paul George

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Los Angeles Clippers

  • Position: Shooting guard

  • 2021 Salary: $35,450,412

Find Out: Biggest Sports Contracts Ever

Frank Franklin II/AP / Shutterstock.com
Frank Franklin II/AP / Shutterstock.com

14. (tie) Gerrit Cole

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: New York Yankees

  • Position: Starting pitcher

  • 2021 Salary: $36,000,000

Read: Pro Athletes Who Have Lost Millions of Dollars

Kathy Willens/AP / Shutterstock.com
Kathy Willens/AP / Shutterstock.com

14. (tie) Jacob deGrom

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: New York Mets

  • Position: Starting pitcher

  • 2021 Salary: $36,000,000

More Sports: Incredibly Rich Retired Athletes

Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Chris Graythen / Getty Images

13. Drew Brees

  • Sport: Football

  • Team: New Orleans Saints

  • Position: Quarterback

  • 2021 Salary: $36,150,000

Related: 27 Richest No. 1 NFL Draft Picks

Mat Hayward / Shutterstock.com
Mat Hayward / Shutterstock.com

12. Aaron Rodgers

  • Sport: Football

  • Team: Green Bay Packers

  • Position: Quarterback

  • 2021 Salary: $36,352,000

Find Out: The Biggest Bargain on Every NFL Roster

Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

11. Blake Griffin

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Detroit Pistons

  • Position: Power forward

  • 2021 Salary: $36,810,996

Looking Back: Biggest Sports Deals of 2020

Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

10. Mike Trout

  • Sport: Baseball

  • Team: Los Angeles Angels

  • Position: Center field

  • 2021 Salary: $37,116,666

On The Big Screen: The 22 Highest-Grossing Movies Starring Athletes

Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images
Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images

9. LeBron James

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Los Angeles Lakers

  • Position: Small forward

  • 2021 Salary: $39,219,565

Find Out: How Much Is LeBron James Worth?

Al Bello / Getty Images
Al Bello / Getty Images

8. Kevin Durant

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Brooklyn Nets

  • Position: Small forward

  • 2021 Salary: $40,108,950

Looking Back: Were These Athletes Worth the Huge Contracts?

Kevin C.  Cox / Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

7. Matt Ryan

  • Sport: Football

  • Team: Atlanta Falcons

  • Position: Quarterback

  • 2021 Salary: $40,912,500

Find Out: Here’s How Rich Every NFL Team Is

Andy Lyons / Getty Images
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

6. Ben Roethlisberger

  • Sport: Football

  • Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Position: Quarterback

  • 2021 Salary: $41,250,000

Did You Know: Which NFL Hall of Famer Has the Highest Net Worth?

Rob Carr / Getty Images
Rob Carr / Getty Images

4. (tie) John Wall

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Houston Rockets

  • Position: Point guard

  • 2021 Salary: $41,254,920

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

Tim Warner / Getty Images
Tim Warner / Getty Images

4. (tie) James Harden

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Houston Rockets

  • Position: Shooting guard

  • 2021 Salary: $41,254,920

Looking Back: From Curry to Mahomes, Fans Bought Up These Sports Jerseys To Make Them the Bestselling Ones of 2020

Omar Rawlings / Getty Images
Omar Rawlings / Getty Images

2. (tie) Chris Paul

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Phoenix Suns

  • Position: Point guard

  • 2021 Salary: $41,358,814

Did You Know: LeBron James and More of the Richest Athletes Younger Than 40

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images
Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

2. (tie) Russell Westbrook

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Washington Wizards

  • Position: Point guard

  • 2021 Salary: $41,358,814

Read: The Richest NBA Team Owners

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

1. Stephen Curry

  • Sport: Basketball

  • Team: Golden State Warriors

  • Position: Point guard

  • 2021 Salary: $43,006,362

More From GOBankingRates

In order to discover which professional athletes are set to earn big money in 2021, GOBankingRates looked at the top 50 salaries in terms of cap hit for the 2020/21 NBA season, top 50 salaries in terms of cap hit for the 2021 NFL season, the top 50 salaries in terms of cap hit for the 2021 MLB season and the top 25 salaries in terms of cap hit for the 2021 NHL season. Once these were isolated GOBankingRates found the following factors for each of the 175 athletes: (1) name of athlete; (2) sport played by athlete; (3) team played for; (4) position; and (5) salary in or 2021 in terms of cap hit. Only factor (5) was used to determine final rankings. All data was collected on and up to date as of Dec. 17, 2020.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Professional Athletes Set To Earn Big Money in 2021