LeBron James and Steph Curry on Forbes’ Highest-Paid Athletes list

Soccer and the NBA dominate the rankings, with athletes like Kylian Mbappé, LeBron James, and Steph Curry amassing significant wealth.

The affluence of professional athletes is a well-known fact, frequently covered in the media. ESPN routinely incorporates the signings of top-tier stars into its regular programming. Even if you have a general understanding of athletes’ earnings in their respective sports, it remains astonishing to see the annual income they accumulate. In this regard, let’s examine Forbes’ compilation of the top ten highest-earning athletes in 2023. Before delving into the specific figures, it’s important to understand the methodology Forbes employs to create this list.

On-field earnings “include all prize money, salaries, and bonuses earned” from May 1, 2022 to May 1, 2023, Off-field earnings “are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and memorabilia and licensing income,” as well as, “cash returns from any businesses operated by the athlete.”

Kylian Mbappé

Football dominates the top of the list, with World Cup standout/Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé coming in at No. 3 with $120 million. He earned $100 million on the field and $20 million off the field. This is a significant improvement for the 24-year-old, who was ranked 35th last year. He took use of his post-World Cup popularity to secure new advertising deals and persuade the French Football Federation to reconsider its stance on players images when he “refused to take part in sponsor activities.”

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LeBron James

Mbappé is followed closely by the ‘King’ LeBron James, securing the fourth position with a substantial $119.5 million in earnings. His income consists of a $44 million on-field salary and a remarkable $75 million off-field income. This division of income might come as a surprise to some, but LeBron has reached a stage in his career where his personal brand holds more value than his on-court performance. He’s actively involved in various entertainment projects, further enhancing his brand’s significance.

Over the past year, LeBron has continued his role as an executive producer for shows like HBO’s The Shop, NBC’s The Wall, and the comedic adaptation House Party. While the latter project might not have been particularly lucrative, it’s likely that he received compensation for his acting role in it. Moreover, if you’ve ever dined at Blaze Pizza, LeBron has a share in the profits as he owns a stake in the company. Additionally, through his partnership with the Fenway Sports Group, he holds ownership stakes in renowned sports franchises like the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC.

Stephen Curry

In the realm of intense competition among top athletes, Stephen Curry also secures a spot on the list. Ranking at No. 8 with a substantial $100.4 million in earnings, he trails just behind LeBron James. His income comprises $48.4 million from his on-field endeavors and an impressive $52 million from off-field sources. It’s evident that winning championships can significantly boost your standing on these rankings.

Steph recently signed an extension with Under Armour and had plans to launch his documentary, “Underrated,” which premiered on AppleTV+ on July 21, all while chasing his fourth championship ring. However, his involvement in a lawsuit against the crypto-currency firm FTX, following its collapse, added a twist to his financial journey. Despite this setback, he displayed remarkable performances during the playoffs, striving to lead the Golden State Warriors to yet another championship victory.

Kevin Durant

Completing the trio of basketball superstars, we have Kevin Durant representing the Phoenix Suns, with earnings totaling $89.1 million. This breakdown includes $44 million from his on-court contributions and an impressive $52 million from off-court ventures. Despite not having as much playing time as he or his fans may have hoped for this season, Durant has managed to thrive through his investment firm, 35V.

It’s a curious thought whether his move from the bustling New York City to a smaller locale like Phoenix will impact his earnings. However, considering his recent lifetime contract with Nike, it’s likely that Durant will easily recover from any potential financial setbacks.

ALSO READ: Kevin Durant has signed a lifetime contract with Nike, joining LeBron James and Michael Jordan


If you’re curious about the rest of the rankings, football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo maintains his lead with a staggering $136 million in earnings. The breakdown of $46 million from his on-field activities and a remarkable $90 million from off-field endeavors highlights his immense popularity as a former Manchester United player.

Lionel Messi secures the second spot with a substantial $130 million, evenly split between his on-field and off-field earnings. Notable figures on the list also include the boxer Canelo Álvarez, tennis legend Roger Federer, and three golfers from the LIV Golf Tour. Regrettably, there are no women among the top ten earners. This stark gender pay gap in sports is well-documented, and it’s astonishing that not even Serena Williams, with her numerous endorsements and investments, could break into the top 10. It serves as a stark reminder that greater efforts are needed to achieve gender equality in the world of athletics.

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