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The 50 highest-earning American athletes

By Jonah Freedman, Special to SI.com

You can't stop them -- you can only hope to re-sign them. Extracurricular scandals, contract holdouts and ugly labor negotiations seem to have rocked professional sports more than any other point in recent memory. And yet financially, athletes seem nearly bulletproof.

For the seventh consecutive year, SI.com has compiled a list of the 50 top-earning American athletes by salary, winnings, endorsements and appearance fees. The average earnings of those on the list have reached an all-time high of $26.2 million (up 11 percent from '09).

In a year in which Tiger Woods' image has been forever tarnished -- costing the perennial No. 1 tens of millions in endorsement dollars -- he still stayed ahead of the curve. Tiger's earnings were down more than $9 million from a year ago, but he still earned nearly $30 million more than the No. 2 athlete, fellow golfer Phil Mickelson.

Meanwhile, the NFL has its most prolific showing ever on our list: an unprecedented 15 players, thanks to a rash of contracts that pay out big in a 2010 season without a salary cap. This year's list also features 16 basketball players, 13 major leaguers, three NASCAR drivers, two golfers and one boxer.

The average income of the athletes on our International 20 list of the top-earning non-American sportsmen also broke a record: in excess of $30 million, as new No. 1 Roger Federer has become a financial force alongside the soccer and Formula 1 powerhouses.

Our findings consisted solely of salary, winnings, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees. We consulted players' associations, tour records, agents and news reports. Our endorsement estimates for 2010 came from Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, other sports-marketing executives and analysts, and agents. Salary figures were based on current or most recently completed seasons (the upcoming 2010 season for the NFL). For winnings-based sports (auto racing, golf, tennis), we used the '09 calendar year. Boxing purses are from July '09 to June 2010. Candidates for the U.S. 50 had to be American citizens and currently active in their sports.

For the 2009 list, go here.

For the 20 highest earning international athletes, go here.

  • 1
    Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods

    Golf

    Last Year's Rank: 1
    1. $20,508,163
    2. $70,000,000
    3. $90,508,163

    Tiger's off-course troubles cost him millions in endorsements -- he was dropped by Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture. But a $10 million FedEx Cup bonus helps keep him at his usual No. 1 perch.

  • 2
    Phil Mickelson

    Phil Mickelson

    Golf

    Last Year's Rank: 2
    1. $9,660,757
    2. $52,000,000
    3. $61,660,757

    Expanding the fan base: 15,000 consumers got rebates on Big Bertha clubs thanks to Lefty's Masters win, a promotion between Golfsmith and Phil-endorsed Callaway -- all told a $1 million payout.

  • 3
    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    Boxing

    Last Year's Rank: NR
    1. $60,000,000
    2. $250,000
    3. $60,250,000

    Pretty Boy shoots back into the top five after a one-year absence thanks to earnings from bouts with Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley, the latter of which netted $40 million in purses and PPV sales.

  • 4
    LeBron James

    LeBron James

    Miami Heat (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 3
    1. $15,779,912
    2. $30,000,000
    3. $45,779,912

    King James left millions on the table by choosing to bolt Cleveland for Miami. But will James be the same kind of star -- on and off the court - playing alongside Dwyane Wade?

  • 5
    Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez

    New York Yankees (MLB)

    Last Year's Rank: 4
    1. $33,000,000
    2. $4,000,000
    3. $37,000,000

    A-Rod may be baseball's highest-paid player, but even he is feeling the real estate slowdown. He and his ex-wife recently unloaded their one-acre, six-bedroom estate in Florida for $8.5 million -- one-third less than the purchase price.

  • 6
    Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Free Agent (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 5
    1. $21,000,000
    2. $15,000,000
    3. $36,000,000

    No matter where Shaq ends up next season, he is easily the all-time NBA leader in total salary: Over an 18-year career, he has earned more than $290 million.

  • 7
    Kobe Bryant

    Kobe Bryant

    Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 7
    1. $23,034,375
    2. $10,000,000
    3. $33,034,375

    Kobe now has something else in common with Michael Jordan. His extension has him due to earn $30 million in 2013-14. The only other player ever to earn that much in one season? Jordan.

  • 8
    Derek Jeter

    Derek Jeter

    New York Yankees (MLB)

    Last Year's Rank: 9
    1. $21,000,000
    2. $10,000,000
    3. $31,000,000

    The Yankee captain is in the final year of the 10-year, $189 million pact he signed as a 26-year-old. Hal Steinbrenner says there will be no further talks on an extension until after the World Series, but New York must re-sign him.

  • 9
    Peyton Manning

    Peyton Manning

    Indianapolis Colts (NFL)

    Last Year's Rank: 10
    1. $15,800,000
    2. $15,000,000
    3. $30,800,000

    Should more companies hitch their wagons to Peyton? The clean-cut quarterback has replaced Tiger as America's best sporting role model, according to results of a recent 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll.

  • 10
    Dwyane Wade

    Dwyane Wade

    Miami Heat (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 12
    1. $15,779,912
    2. $12,000,000
    3. $27,779,912

    Wade became the biggest star in free agency, convincing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to sign with Miami. While Wade took less money to stay in South Beach, he should more than make up for it in endorsements.

Sources: Salaries, winnings and bonus figures from players' associations, tour records, agents and news reports. Endorsement estimates from Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, other sports-marketing executives and analysts, and agents. Salaries based on current or most recently completed seasons (exception: 2010 for NFL). For winnings-based sports (golf, auto racing, tennis), 2009 calendar year amounts used. Boxing purses are from July '09 to June 2010.

 
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