What is the Highest Paid Sport in the World?

Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers

Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers (plavevski / Shutterstock.com)

There are a number of contenders for the title of highest paid sport in the world and a number of ways to calculate it. Sports like boxing, basketball, and soccer have some of the highest earning sports stars on the planet. But to answer this question, it is not about individual salaries it is about the best paying sports overall.

For that reason, we’ve decided to base our top five highest paying sports in the world on average salaries (including sponsorships). This enables us to compare sports fairly and has produced some interesting results.

5. The FA Premier League (Soccer)

Average Salary: $1.6 million

We’ve used the Premiership as it is the most popular soccer league in the world but figures would be similar for any of the world’s major soccer leagues. Although leagues like the Premiership pay big salaries ($19 million per year for Wayne Rooney), there are a high number of teams in the league in comparison to some other sports as well as eleven players in each team.

4. American Football (NFL)

Average Salary: $2 million

NFL salaries have been steadily growing over recent years and it may be surprising that it doesn’t feature higher up in our list. However, the NFL doesn’t have quite the geographic spread of viewers that sports like the NHL and MLB do which can affect the value of sponsorship deals.

There are also more teams in the NFL and there are 11 players on each team too which affects the average salary. Some NFL players do rank well in the individual earnings tables such as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers who earns $22 million per year.

3. Ice Hockey (NHL)

Average Salary: $2.58 million

The NHL is popular across the USA, Canada as well as many European countries. Its number three position may be surprising to some as the NHL does not create anywhere near as much revenue as the NFL, NBA or MLB. However, there are less teams and players in the NHL which increases the average salary figure. The highest paid player in recent years is Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, earning a reputed $14 million per year.

2. Major League Baseball

Average Salary: $3.82 million

Major League baseball is hugely popular in the USA and in other countries, such as Japan. In the 2014 season, the average wage in MLB was $3.82 million. As well as high wages, MLB players boost their income with sponsorship and endorsements.

As a sport, Major League Baseball has been increasing its revenue every year for the last thirteen years and this has been reflected in player’s incomes increasing. This could lead to Baseball challenging for title of the world’s highest paying sport in the near future.

1. Basketball

Average Salary: $4.9 million

It is not surprising that basketball is the world's highest paid sport. As well as earning millions per year in salary, the NBA’s best basketball players earn a huge amount of money from their various endorsements and sponsorships, more so than any other sport.

A quick glance at any Forbes Magazine’s list of highest paid sportsmen will find basketball well represented with the average player earning a $4.9 million per year. Top players can earn even more, with Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers earning over $30 million in the 2013/14 season.

Some Highly Paid Sports We’ve Not Listed

You may be surprised that some sports are not represented in our top 5 highest paying sports in the world. This could include boxing, MMA, golf, and tennis. The reason for this is that we have looked at average salaries. Taking boxing as an example, Floyd Mayweather was the highest paid sportsman in the world in 2014 with a net income of over $100m.

Many other boxing world champions will have also earned several million per year. However, the money in boxing, like many other sports, is only spectacular when you reach the top of the sport. Regular professionals often earn very meagre salaries, which means that the average salary of the sport isn’t that high.

In sports like the NBA and MLB, however, the pool of players is comparably smaller than that of other sports with all players earning high salaries, thus resulting in a higher average salary.