6. LeBron James (basketball)
Salary/Earnings: $20,8 million
Endorsements: $44 million
Without doubts the best player of his generation, LeBron James returned to Cleveland as the prodigal son, after spending several years in Miami. Hatred then turned back to love for the Ohio sports fans, as one of their own has returned, now an accomplished man with two championships under his belt, to bring glory back to his flock.
Self-proclaimed NBA king
James now hopes to end the city’s 51-year wait for a championship, and in his first season back home, he almost managed to do it. However, the Golden State Warriors proved to be one obstacle too big for the Cavs. James, however, is prepared to make another run for it, the Cavs looking to be the runaway favorites in the East, the return to the Finals is almost expected of them.
The good thing about the NBA parity and the global nature of the game is, superstars no longer need to confine themselves to big cities such as New York or Los Angeles to freely walk their path to stardom. Once considered only a province, in US terms, Cleveland is now one of the basketball Meccas of the world, all thanks to James and his extraordinary basketball abilities. James now sits at 2-4 in NBA finals appearances, but the fact the Cavs are well equipped for another run at the title, and he’s only 30 years old, we wouldn’t rule out at least one or two crownings for the self-proclaimed NBA king.
5. Roger Federer (tennis)
Salary/Earnings: $9 million
Endorsements: $57 million
At the age of 34, Roger Federer refuses to quit. Dethroned from the world spot number one by Rafael Nadal and subsequently current number one Novak Djokovic, Federer’s game started to fade in 2013.
After seeing his ranking drop to number 7, Federer used the upcoming two seasons to re-establish himself as one of the tennis greats, landing at number 2. Novak Djokovic was out of reach, but the rest of the competition is still hardly a match for the Swiss professor, notorious for his grance on and off the courts.
Federer is the world record holder for the most Grand Slam tournament wins (17), and has earned over $94 million from tennis alone. Alongside endorsements, this living legend is currently worth over $320 million.
On the court, Federer continues to impress, and although he hasn’t won a major since the 2012 Wimbledon, he is still very successful at holding off younger rivals.
Well, all except Novak Djokovic. However, at the sensitive tennis age of 34, Federer’s game is still incredibly impressive, which almost guarantees he’ll be on top for at least a few years to come.
4. Lionel Messi (football)
Salary/Earnings: $51,8 million
Endorsements: $22 million
Already recognized as one of the best players in football history, Lionel Messi has now seen success with Argentina as well. In 2014, Messi helped Argentina reach the World Cup final, where they lost to Germany. Had Messi lifted the cup, talks about the Barcelona striker reaching All-time best status would probably ended, helping his case.
Messi is the only football player in history to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or four times, all of which he won consecutively, and the first player to win three European Golden Shoes.
With Barcelona he has won seven La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles, as well as three Copa del Rey titles. A prolific goalscorer, Messi holds the Guinness World Records titles for most goals scored in La Liga (289), a La Liga season (50), a calendar year (91), a Champions League match (five), and most Champions League seasons (five).
He has scored over 440 professional goals and being two years younger than Cristiano Ronaldo, he will be looking to catch up on his numbers before he hangs up the boots. German legend Franz Beckenbauer has selected words for the Argentine – ‘He is a divine player, he is god-like‘.
Messi’s achievements have put in question Diego Maradona’s status as the best Argentine player of all time, however Diego himself has acknowledged Messi’s greatness, as well as the Brazillian Pele, who pointed out that he prefers Messi over Ronaldo. Messi, in football terms, is an absolute alien, an extra-terrestrial being that materialized on Earth to show that real magic exists, and it can be performed on a green pitch with a round ball.
Messi’s ball-control, physical stamina, shot-precision, passing abilities and scoring prowess have launched him into the realm reserved only for the very best sportspeople in history. If Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, Lionel Messi belongs in the company of only a handful of footballers who have reached that jordanesque status. And apparently, for Barcelona, he is worth every penny.