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Fortunate 50 intrigue (cont.)

Posted: Thursday May 31, 2007 10:32AM; Updated: Thursday May 31, 2007 10:32AM
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Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning is the NFL's top earner on and off the field, and one of five quarterbacks among the Fortunate 50.
Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning is the NFL's top earner on and off the field, and one of five quarterbacks among the Fortunate 50.
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Kobe earns $16 million a year in endorsements and royalty fees from his deals, including those with Nike, Upper Deck and Sony PlayStation, eclipsing Shaq's $15 million portfolio that includes Burger King, Nestle and Vitamin Water. (James is the true King of endorsements, earning $25 million annually.) And starting in '08-09, Kobe's salary jumps to $21.3 million, leaving Shaq behind.

There are just 12 baseball players on this year's Fortunate 50, only five of whom are Yankees -- a record low for the list as title-hungry George Steinbrenner is spending his war chest on a larger group of players instead of a cluster of stars.

The number of football players is down to five -- all of whom are quarterbacks. As super-agent Tom Condon told us a couple years ago, teams rarely concentrate their payroll dollars on any one player unless he's an immediate difference-maker. And Condon would know: His most prominent client is the NFL's highest-paid, its top-earning endorser and, at last, its biggest winner. We're talking, of course, of Peyton Manning (No. 12, $23 million).

Maybe the more intriguing storylines come from our International 20 list of the top-earning non-American athletes. Only six of them play for U.S.-based leagues -- including Major League Soccer-bound David Beckham. The flashy superstar is one of nine soccer players on this year's list. That's a phenomenon that has been helped by one of the poorest exchange rates on the American dollar in years, as well as the emergence of the Steinbrennerian owner of London club Chelsea, billionaire playboy Roman Abramovich. (SI.com's Gabriele Marcotti reports on how soccer has truly gone global.)

You'll likely know most of the names on the International 20: Maria Sharapova, Yao Ming, Ichiro Suzuki. But does the name Fernando Alonso instantly ring a bell? If not, don't worry -- the Spanish Formula One star has become a household name in Europe, where his exploits on and off the track (as well as the retirement of reigning king Michael Schumacher) have helped him rise to the top of our rankings at $35 million a year. (SI.com's Richard Deitsch discusses Alonso's fame and fortune.)

A number of new faces and names dot both our lists this year -- Vince Young, Amaré Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki. And in the years to come, we'll likely see a lot more people we know: Carmelo Anthony, Reggie Bush, Danica Patrick. But there a few other names you may not know, such as Jozy Altidore and Lewis Hamilton. (For a rundown of who we think will one day make their way to the ranks of the top earners, see our gallery of the Future Fortunates.)

Former boxer Larry Holmes once said, "I came from a dirt farm; now I'm filthy rich." Of course, that was some 30 years ago. The current athletes who are lucky enough to make the Fortunate 50 are doing something slightly different: They're cleaning up.

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