How much does it pay to be the world’s best? If you’re Lebron James, that number hovers around $88 million a year (salary, plus endorsements). That sounds outlandish, but it makes sense. The NBA is one of the world’s most popular sporting leagues and King James is among the greatest players of his generation. Surprisingly though, James isn’t the highest paid athlete in the world. According to Forbes, that honor goes to Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns an estimated $93 million.
In professional cycling, things are decidedly less extravagant. When recently asked about his annual earnings, five time World Cup overall champion Aaron Gwin estimated his annual compensation to be about $1 million after factoring in salary, sponsorships, bonuses, prize money, and royalties from signature products. Scroll forward to the 8:08 mark of the video below to hear Gwin talk about his earnings. (We’ll let you decide about the merits of the rest of the video…)
Compared to your average joe, that doesn’t sound so bad. It’s not Lebron money, but the UCI World Cup DH circuit consists of seven races plus world champs. The NBA season has 82 games plus playoffs.
However, it is interesting to compare Gwin’s salary to Peter Sagan. Both riders deliver breathtaking performances on the bike and generate wins, yet Sagan is rumored to earn roughly double the downhiller’s entire paycheck in just salary.
The mountain biker turned road racer joined the Bora-Hansgrohe team last year on a three-year contract worth 6 million euro. Once winnings, bonuses, and royalties are factored in, Sagan’s take home pay likely exceeds two million annually. And just in case you’re wondering about taxes, remember he lives in Monaco, which doesn’t collect personal income tax.
What do you think of Gwin’s take home pay? Is it in line expectations, or does the sport need to do more to reward athletes and encourage growth?