With the NBA finals currently underway, a much-anticipated rematch between the Lebron James led Cleveland Cavaliers and the record-breaking Golden State Warriors, the sports world seems to be on everyone’s daily conversation agenda. Especially recently, the NBA has been taking fire from viewers over the perceived incompetence of NBA officials during games. Granted, the hate always seems to stem from the losing team, although it’s still of note how so many people genuinely believe that the NBA is, at least to an extent, rigged.
One of the most common accusations that the NBA faces is that NBA officials are told (and presumably paid) to sway the outcome of a game. Sometimes, it’s said that this is because a win for the more popular team will boost ratings for the game. Other times, people claim that the NBA deliberately tries to extend the length of a seven-game series as much as possible, so as to be able to make more money from the series. Considering how much athletes are paid, it’s easy to see why some may believe this to be the case. Extending beyond just basketball, these organizations make a lot of money, thus being able to pay their athletes quite a considerable amount as well. Treating these sports leagues as businesses, the athletes essentially drive viewership, thereby being a key money-making factor for the organizations themselves.
Top 5 Highest Paying Sports in 2023 – Updated List
However, not all sports quite share the same level of audience attraction. Thus, and while other factors certainly come into play, it makes sense that some athletes for some sports are paid more than others. With that being said, here are the Top 5 Highest Paying Sports.
5 – American Football
To begin the list is American Football and its most popular parent organization, the National Football League (NFL).
In the United States, American Football viewership statistics are something to certainly be desired, definitely showcasing the popularity of the sport. For example, the top 12 shows of the Fall 2012 season, according to ratings and viewership statistics, were all games put on by the NFL. The average viewership of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Sunday Night Football alone is at a whopping 23.7 million viewers. To put this into perspective, NBC’s hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory achieved an average viewership of 19.96 million at its peak.
This isn’t even taking into account pro football’s largest event of the year, the Superbowl, which breaks viewership records year after year. In fact, millions around the world tune in simply to watch the event-specific commercials, and the extravagant halftime shows, featuring the most popular entertainers. With the kind of following American Football has, it’s no wonder why their athletes are said to be paid an average salary of $1.9 million.
4 – Golf
This list is in many ways difficult to construct. When comparing how much each sport pays, its important to remember that each sport, and it’s given parent organizations, all operate differently.
Golf is one of the sports that exemplifies this perfectly, as how much money a player makes is largely dependent on which and how many tournaments he or she may win. This system differs from American Football, for example, as NFL teams are guaranteed to play a certain number of games throughout the regular season, how much a given player may earn isn’t technically on a per-win basis.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) tour golfers end up earning millions of dollars. Famed golfer Tiger Woods, for example, holds the record for being the highest-paid athlete on the annual Forbes list eleven times. On the current 2016 PGA tour money list, all of the top 23 golfers have earned more than $2 million so far, with Jason Day being at the top of the list with roughly $5.6 million in earnings.
3 – Auto Racing
Once again on the list is a sport that pays on a per-win basis, Auto Racing. It’s no secret that this sport in particular is one of high risk.
Even in daily life, many are scared to ever get into a car accident, even considering that the average speed one travels in their car on a typical day isn’t really that high. For race car drivers however, the stakes are much higher. Driving at hundreds of miles per hour, the slightest mishandle of the vehicle could mean certain death not only for the diver himself but also for the drivers he may be competing against. With that being said, the risks of the sport are offset by the amount of prize money that comes with winning a headlined race. In 2013 for example, team Red Bull finished in 1st place, earning a total of $101.5 million for the season. Even the team who finished 8th, Toro Rosso, walked away from the season having pocketed a total of $56 million.
2 – Boxing
Once again offsetting the sport’s danger, this time the risk being potentially beating your opponent to death, boxing likewise has a reputation for paying its athlete’s large sums of money.
Sometimes, even the loser of the fight walks away with more money than the average athlete in one of this list’s prior entries. While earning money from winning or losing fights directly, the boxers also receive money from pay-per-view earnings, which typically fluctuate with how high-profile the fighters are. Perhaps the most notorious example in the sport would be Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr, who recently retired with a perfect 49 – 0 record throughout his career. In 2015, Floyd finished on top of Forbes’s annual list of highest-paid athletes. Throughout his career, Floyd has accumulated of $700 million in earnings, and he continues to make millions even now that he’s retired. Whether you like him or not, Floyd Mayweather Jr. perfectly shows why Boxing finishes second on this list of highest-paying sports.
1 – Basketball
Basketball is the world’s highest-paid sport. What’s the average salary for an NBA player? Around $7.5 million, They don’t just get paid for their games either, they also earn a huge amount from sponsorships. Take LeBron James, for example, he earns $70 million from endorsements alone. Other highly-paid NBA stars include Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Klay Thompson.
And NBA referees get paid a fair amount as well. Not as much as the players themselves, but still a considerable amount—around the $200,000 a year mark. Of course, that’s just the average. Some veteran referees earn way more than that. Take James Capers, for example, he earns upward of $550,000 a year and that’s not including the extra fees he receives for calling individual matches.