WHEN WELTERWEIGHT Floyd Mayweather was No. 1 on SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Fortunate 50 last year—knocking out Tiger Woods, who had been No. 1 every year since SI started producing the list in 2004—it looked like a fluke, the result of the $85 million he received for his fights with Victor Ortiz and Miguel Cotto. Now Mayweather is proving that he belongs at the top. From just two bouts this year, one earlier this month and the other scheduled for September, he will earn at least $90 million, and that's conservative; he could make as much as $128 million.
There are other notable shifts this year. LeBron James (No. 2) passed Kobe Bryant (No. 4). Tiger Woods (No. 5) is back above Phil Mickelson (No. 6)—thanks to $4 million more in tour winnings. Drew Brees wasn't on last year's list but he burst into the top five thanks to a $37 million signing bonus from his new contract.
The findings consist solely of salary, winnings, bonuses and endorsements. SI consulted players' associations, tour records, online databases, agents and media reports. The endorsement estimates come from a stable of marketing executives, agents and other experts, including Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing.
Candidates for the Fortunate 50 must be U.S. citizens or play in a U.S.--based league. Endorsements reflect current deals, and salaries are based on current or most recently completed seasons; for instance, for NFL players the season that ended in February was used. (Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's new deal, which will pay him $20.1 million next season, isn't reflected.) For auto racing and tennis, prize money came from the 2012 calendar year. Golf earnings are from July 1, 2012 through April 21, 2013. Boxing purses are from August 2012 through May 2013 (but projected money from bouts through September was included since fight deals are done on a yearly basis).
1 FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
The May 4 welterweight title bout with Robert Guerrero brought Mayweather a guaranteed purse of $32 million, with his pay-per-view cut yielding at least another $13 million. Once he gets a similar payday for his Sept. 14 fight, likely against Saul (Canelo) Alvarez, he should hit $90 million in 2013 earnings. From two matches alone Mayweather, 36, stands to make nearly as much as Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander will from his five-year, $140 million extension.
2 LEBRON JAMES