LeBron James is fighting an uphill battle against the Golden State Warriors, but there are few peers left to stand in his way in the financial sector. The NBA's best player just came in at No. 2 on the annual Forbes list of the highest-paid athletes, just behind the world's top earner, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
He may not be the sports world's cash king, but finishing second to Ronaldo is no small feat for LeBron. In salary/winnings alone, the soccer star makes $58 million a year, a figure that eclipses the combined earnings of 95 of the 100 athletes listed. Only four people—LeBron, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, and Kevin Durant—were able to match or exceed Ronaldo's salary with their combination of salary and endorsements.
To climb into the No. 2 slot, LeBron had to leapfrog Barcelona's Messi, and he did so thanks to a jump in salary under the new NBA salary cap. LeBron brought in right around the same amount of money in endorsements this year—$55 million vs. $54 million, per Forbes—but his salary/winnings figure climbed by about $8 million from last year's count. Not bad for a kid who jumped to the league straight out of high school.
Here's a breakdown of the list's top-10 earners:
If scanning through the youngest top earners is any indication, NBA athletes are going to climb up the rankings of this list in the years to come. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, six of the 10 youngest earners in the top 100 are basketball players, with the youngest baller, Washington's Bradley Beal, making the list at the ripe age of 23.
Basketball players dominated the top of the list in general, with seven different NBA players—LeBron, Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and Dwyane Wade—all finishing in the top 20 for the year. No other sport had more than three athletes crack that top tier, and four of those guys finished in the top-10.
The NBA continues to rise in ratings, and with the earning potential kids see in playing basketball, a lot of young, top-notch athletes are going to focus their energy on the sport. Soccer may have the guy that reigns supreme globally, but nobody is putting more players near the top of the earning pyramid than basketball.