Racing world puts four on Forbes.com's Top 25 earners list
Updated: November 4, 2007, 10:14 PM ETBy Kurt Badenhausen | Forbes.com
Tiger Woods left his competitors on the golf course gasping for air this year with seven victories in only 16 tournaments, including four wins in his last five events.
When we looked at the highest-paid athletes in the world three years ago, Tiger Woods narrowly topped the list ahead of German Formula One legend Michael Schumacher (still on the list at No. 5 with $36 million). Today, Woods still sits on top -- and no one is even close.Woods earned $100 million in the 12-month period ending June 2007. That is the most an athlete has ever made in one year. Woods banked $13 million in prize money and $87 million from endorsements and appearance fees. His take was more than twice the amount earned by the second highest-paid athlete, pugilist Oscar De La Hoya. The "Golden Boy" pocketed $43 million from his May fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.One big shift on this year's list is the presence of athletes from outside the U.S. Only three of the highest-paid athletes were from outside the U.S. in 2004. This year that numbered tripled to nine athletes, led by Finnish Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen, who earned $40 million and ranked fourth overall. Other international notables: British soccer star David Beckham, ranked sixth with $33 million; Brazil's Ronaldinho, tied for ninth with $31 million; Valentino Rossi, the Italian motorcycling champ, who raked in $30 million, placing him at No. 11; and Yao Ming, China's most famous export, who banked $26.3 million in the NBA. He was 17th overall.
Our list represents both the young and old. Tennis star Maria Sharapova can't legally buy a drink at 20 years old, but she can certainly afford it on her $23 million income last year. Sharapova ranked 25th, and is the sole woman on the list (no women made the list in 2004). NASCAR star Jeff Gordon clocked in at No. 21 with $24.5 million.On the other end of the spectrum is 78-year old golfing legend Arnold Palmer. Despite retiring from competitive golf last year, Palmer still earned $25 million from sponsors like Callaway, Rayovac and Rolex.Woods doesn't show any sign of slowing down either. Off the course, he extended his contract with Nike at the end of last year. The Swoosh has been writing Woods his biggest paychecks since he turned pro in 1996 (a grand total of more than $150 million). The new deal should be worth more than $25 million a year for Woods, including royalties. He recently signed a five-year deal with PepsiCo's Gatorade -- it's valued at a reported $100 million, which would be by far the largest beverage deal ever for an athlete.On the course, Woods continues to out-drive his competitors in earnings. He just picked up $10 million for his retirement account by winning the PGA Tour's inaugural FedEx Cup. His career prize money stands at $77 million, 42% higher than second-ranked Vijay Singh, No. 18 on our list. Over the course of his career, Woods has earned $650 million in endorsements and prize money, and at this rate, should become the first athlete to cross the $1 billion threshold by 2010.The minimum earnings to make our list of the 25 highest-paid athletes was $23 million this year, up from $19 million three years ago. These athletes earned $813 million cumulatively. Basketball was the best represented sport with seven NBA players making the cut, led by Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, who earned $32.9 million and ranked seventh overall -- just one spot ahead of his nemesis Shaquille O'Neal. Despite its role as the richest U.S. sports league, only two NFL players made the cut: Leonard Davis from the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints' Reggie Bush. Blame the league's strict salary cap, which keeps football stars from being paid as much as their counterparts in basketball and baseball--plus, those pesky helmets keep most NFL stars from being well recognized, except pitchman extraordinaire Peyton Manning, who just missed our list.
Hazrin Yeob Men Shah/Icon SMIValentino Rossi hung around and collected $30 million.