Despite a year that has included losing several endorsement deals and remaining winless on the golf course, Tiger Woods heads this year’s Forbes list of the world’s highest paid athletes, raking in an estimated $75 million over the past 12 months.
Next on the list was another star that has faced scandal over the past decade, Kobe Bryant, whose $53 million led 15 professional basketball players on the list.
Forbes’ earning figures are compiled from salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, licensing and endorsement income in the 12 months ending May 1.
Woods can thank longtime sponsors Nike, which has a history of sticking with their athletes through personal scandals (see Bryant, above) and EA Sports, which released its 14th Tiger Woods videogame in March.
Forbes reports that Nike and EA Sports are responsible for half of Woods’ earnings.
As a result of the NFL lockout, no 2010 NFL draft picks cracked the list. Many of last year’s rookies like Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh signed contracts with option bonuses that would have been paid out in April.
Because the NFL operated without a collective bargaining agreement, last season many players who were slated to be unrestricted free agents and receive a big payday were converted to restricted free agents and forced to sign 1-year “tender” contracts, which were far below their market value.
These developments led to Tom Brady being the highest-ranked NFL player on the list at No. 13,with earnings of $31 million in 2010.
Bryant has rebounded nicely from his legal troubles earlier this decade, gaining new endorsement deals from Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Car and Turkish Airlines this past year. His $53 million is just ahead of No. 3 LeBron James, who earned $48 million in 2010.
As Politic365 noted in an earlier article, James is making some serious power moves in the business world to establish himself higher on the list for years to come.
In addition to running LRMR, his marketing firm with childhood friend Maverick Carter, and recently partnering with Fenway Sports Management to acquire part ownership of soccer’s Liverpool FC, James recently announced plans this fall to invest in “Unknwn,” a luxury lifestyle clothing store in Miami.
With James and the Miami Heat only two wins away from winning his first NBA title, look for his portfolio to expand quite nicely over the coming year.