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Who are the World’s Best Paid Athletes?

Sports fans have argued for years over which specific sport pays its players the highest wages. That debate has been put to rest somewhat in the internet age as annual reports are typically released showing who makes exactly how much money. A new report was released in mid-April by sporting Intelligence and there may be a few surprises to some people.

According to the report, NBA basketball players make the most money on average, but Spanish soccer teams Barcelona and Real Madrid pay their players the best. Last year, players from the New York Yankees were the highest paid on average. The average wage of an NBA player is $4.79 million a year or $92, 199 a week.

The average wage at Barcelona is just over $7.9 million a year ($157,038 per week) while Madrid’s players make about $7.35 million yearly ($146,038). Yankees players are the third-biggest money makers at  about $6.75 million a year ($134,122).

The study included 14 different sports leagues around the world in seven different sports. There was a total of 272 franchises involved in the studies. The biggest surprise to most people was the fact that the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket league came in second place behind the NBA when it comes to the top paid league.

Most North Americans have never heard of the league and probably wouldn’t know what a cricket bat was if hit over the head by one. But they make so much money because the league is only six weeks long. Therefore, millions of dollars can be made in a month and a half.

But even though the NBA is the best paid league, only four teams are in the top 12 best paid teams. These are the LA Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Utah Jazz. However, there are 10 NBA teams in the top 30. Six of the top 12 clubs are soccer teams and there are two baseball franchises, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. What’s surprising is that even though the IPL ranks behind the NBA as best paid league there are no IPL teams in the top 12. In fact, there are only four in the top 50 and these are ranked at 26, 29, 40, and 44. The Royal Challengers Bangalore are the best paid IPL team at $86,667 per player.

The English Premier League is still the top-paid soccer league with five clubs in the top 30. These are Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal.

However, let’s put this report in perspective though. Some leagues have salary caps and some don’t. In addition, when you see athletes such as boxer Manny Pacquiao earning about $15 million for a fight, it’s hard to rate anybody else as being higher paid. In fact, that would make a good idea for another survey, to compare team sports to individual sports such as boxing, tennis, and golf.


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