Recently, Sportico released a list of the highest-paid athletes of all time, and four of the top ten are Black.
The top two are Black, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, respectively Nos. 1 and 2; however, the list reveals how the intersection of race, culture, and access drove increases in earning potential.
— Sportico (@Sportico) November 4, 2021
Michael Jordan is a culture all his own. The symbol of the ultimate win at all costs athlete, Jordan benefitted from the chasm left by the Showtime Lakers era. Jordan became an icon by taking competitiveness up a notch and exposing the world to beautifully executed basketball aerial displays.
As such, “Air” is the pack leader in the lifetime earnings of all athletes worldwide. Throughout his career, Jordan has made $2.26 billion, with inflation adjustment. He has earned $2.06 billion in non-inflation-adjusted profits and still is the all-time earnings leader.
Jordan’s marketability peaks in apparel and licensing, where he capitalizes on the cachet of being perceived as the best to ever play basketball. However, creeping behind him at No. 7 overall is LeBron James, who currently sits at $1.17 billion.
James is still a current player and has already surpassed Kobe Bryant, who sits at $930 million, and Shaquille O’Neal at $870 million. Kevin Durant is the only other basketball star to make the light level list at $625 million.
The Face Of Golf
However, Tiger Woods is just behind Jordan at No. 2, who came in at $2.1 billion. As the most successful golfer ever and most popular, Tiger Woods reimagined golf for the masses. No longer was it just a country club society’s option; golf is now an accessible game that feels more inclusive because of Woods.
The media exposure Woods matured into catapulted his brand into the stratosphere of earnings, and he became a symbol for the uber athlete. Subsequently, endorsements and merchandising propelled Woods into the Jordan level of corporate darling.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. also made the top ten coming in at number 6, just above LeBron James. As the living prototype of the boxer-businessman, Mayweather created a blueprint to being your boss in a sport that discards its athletes harshly.
After winning a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a dejected Mayweather went straight to the pros compiling an undefeated record of wins. After realizing that his promoter, Top Rank, didn’t know how to market him effectively, he purchased his freedom for $750,000 and began Mayweather Promotions.
As the king of his brand, Mayweather pushed boxing promotions to a different level and now holds the top two highest-grossing boxing pay-per-view events of all time. Coupled with his The Money Team gear and in-venue event market share, Mayweather taught athletes how to capitalize fully on their market value.
The Visible Athlete
In the age of social media where Floyd Mayweather and LeBron James have pushed their celebrity to brand new heights, veterans like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods show how a strong brand is timeless. Jordan and Woods didn’t utilize the technology medium, unlike Mayweather and James, but the power of their names resonates with the world.
Black athletes are the pack leaders in earnings and marketability; this list only solidifies what we know about the magic Black excellence and culture can yield.