The Olympics is the biggest sporting spectacle as it brings in athletes from every corner of the world squaring off against each other for the ultimate prize. Olympic athletes don’t get paid to compete, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pay to perform. Here in this list, we take a look at the five highest-earning athletes for 2021 who will be participating in the Tokyo Olympic Games:
#1 Kevin Durant (US$75 million)
Kevin Durant, also known by his initials KD, is the highest-earning athlete at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Part of the USA basketball contingent, Kevin plies his trade for the Brooklyn Nets in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The US men’s team are clear favourites to win gold, and alongside Damian Lillard, Durant makes it more than a formidable side.
Durant signed a three-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. Including bonuses, the deal is set to fetch him around US$30-33m on a yearly incremental basis. After his major Achilles injury during the 19-20 season, the 32-year-old has been trying out his hand at other ventures as well, most notably, his executive production venture and purchasing a stake in Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Philadelphia Union. Through his sponsorships, endorsements, and business ventures, Kevin has racked up an additional US$44m in the past 12 months.
#2 Naomi Osaka (US$60 million)
Naomi Osaka has to be the most talked-about athlete in the last 18 months. The 23-year-old Japanese tennis player has been the centre of controversies of late after she boycotted her media obligations and withdrew from ensuing tournaments citing the safety of her mental health as the primary reason. A four-time Grand Slam champion, Naomi’s rise – both on and off the court – has been meteoric.
As per Forbes, Osaka’s yearly earnings for 2021 have eclipsed the US$60m figure when the numbers were released earlier this year. What’s staggering is that Naomi has only made US$5m from on-court prize money earnings while her bag of almost two dozen sponsors and endorsements has earned her a whopping US$55m. Taking her age into consideration, and her existing pool of sponsors, it’ll only be a matter of time before she becomes the first female athlete to earn US$100m annually.
#3 Damian Lillard (US$40.5 million)
Damian Lillard, another player from the USA Men’s basketball contingent, is one of the best NBA players ever to have never won a championship ring. The 30-year-old has been the heart of the Portland Trail Blazers ever since being picked by them in the 2012 draft. A man known for his loyalty and leadership skills, Lillard has been part of the team through thick and thin.
Under contract with the Portland Trail Blazers until the 2024-25 season, Lillard’s salary for the 2020-21 season was reported to be around US$25.5m. Comparing his salary to LeBron James’ US$31.5m, one can see how close he is to the top of the NBA money chain. Besides this, Damian also has an impressive pool of endorsements, with the likes of Adidas, Toyota, and Spotify among many bringing him close to US$15m as of last year.
Also Read – Top 10 NBA Players of 2020-21
#4 Novak Djokovic (US$34.5 million)
Arguably the greatest tennis player of all time. Novak Djokovic is on the verge of creating history. After his 20th Grand Slam title and his third in as many tournaments this season, a gold at Tokyo and another US Open will surely seal this place as the greatest of all time. The 34-year-old has been simply untouchable this season and is on course to win the “Calendar Golden Slam”, a feat only matched by Steffi Graf in the women’s circuit.
The Serbian maestro has won a total of US$4.5m in prize money, a sharp decline from his hay days as, the 34-year-old has given more precedence to recovery and fitness during the latter years of his illustrious career and is finally reaping the rewards with his near-faultless record at Grand Slams in recent times. With his success on court, attracting sponsors has never been an issue for the World No. 1. Along with his varied business investments, his sponsorships and endorsements have added up to fetch him around US$30m in the last 12 months.
#5 Rory McIlroy (US$32.5 million)
Rory McIlroy is one of The PGA tour’s most marketable players, with only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson earning more money off the course. A former World No. 1, McIlroy was 14th on Forbes list of highest-earning athletes for 2020, but with golf suspended for much of the 2020 season and the first couple of months of 2021, Rory has dropped off the list of high-earners but still bags a significant amount.
The Northern Irish golfer has had a difficult 2020 but has still managed to bag US$4.8m in prize money while some of his high-profile endorsement deals, including the likes of Nike and TaylorMade, have fetched him something close to around US$28m in off-the-course earnings.