Over the five years we’ve tracked the money game, the Sports Illustrated Fortunate 50 has featured hundreds of athletes worth billions of dollars. As we present our fifth annual rundown of the 50 top-earning American athletes (taking into account salary, winnings, endorsement and appearance-fee income), we drew a number of conclusions:
• The 50 has its power players. Over the past five years, a handful of the same names keep popping up in the top 10. Tiger Woods, of course, has been the runaway leader all five years, and has topped an inconceivable total of $100 million two years running. (Thanks to his dynamite year on the course in ’07 and indomitable endorsement portfolio, Tiger leads this year’s list at nearly $128 million — click here for Golf.com’s breakdown of his off-course income.)
Joining Tiger most years has been his rival Phil Mickelson (No. 2 this year at $62.4 million — click here for Lefty’s ever-growing endorsement lineup). Yankee teammates Alex Rodriguez (No. 7, at $35 million) and Derek Jeter (No. 10, $30 million this year) are mainstays as well. But the hoops duo of LeBron James (No. 3, $40.5 million) and Shaquille O’Neal (No. 6, $35 million) are the only other athletes who have joined Tiger every year in the top 10.
• Basketball and baseball are still king. Not surprisingly, NBA players have dominated the list in years past, and ’08 is no different. In keeping with form, more than half of the 50 are pro hoopsters — including each of the Boston Celtics’ Big Three — Kevin Garnett (No. 8, $31 million), Paul Pierce (No. 34, $17.8 million) and Ray Allen (No. 38, $16.7 million). Similarly, it’s still good to be a Yankee: Of the 10 baseball players on the list, four are on the Steinbrenner family payroll (with one more Yankee on our list of top-paid foreigners).