Boxer Floyd Mayweather led U.S. athletes in earnings this time around. He is reported to have made $85 million on two pay-per-view contracts.
By one measure, Mayweather is also the purest athlete-earner. None of his list-leading haul came from endorsements. He earned his money by interesting a great many people in how he delivered, received, and sometimes avoided punches to the head and kidneys.
It's interesting that Tiger Woods, who long topped the list by winning tournaments and endorsing all manner of merchandise, has fallen only as far as third place. Given the troubles he's brought upon himself, one might assume he'd not have been any higher than, oh, tenth or so. And still he may be gnashing his teeth that Phil Mickelson stands between Woods and Mr. Mayweather.
The list suggests that if you want to be among baseball's most spectacular earners, it's still good to be a Yankee. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are all among the top twenty one earners. Only two other players in all of Major League Baseball — Joe Mauer of the Twins and Vernon Wells of the Angels — can claim that distinction.
NFL players and NBA players are well represented on the Forbes money list, though the latter have slipped slightly as a group, perhaps as a result of their shortened season. You do remember that the season was shortened by a lockout, right?
Anyway, Kobe Bryant leads LeBron James and the rest of the NBA's stalwarts in dollars accumulated.
Peyton Manning claims that distinction in the NFL, in part because the money hasn't yet begun to flow through the pipeline established by the five-year, $100-million contract Drew Brees just signed with the Saints.
An examination of the list of top international stars playing games for money suggests an altogether different landscape. American football doesn't figure, of course, and although some of the top earners from elsewhere drive fast enough to endanger themselves and others, the highest-earning boxer doesn't show up until No. 6, Manny Pacquiao. He's looking up, perhaps longingly, albeit not from the canvas, at three soccer guys and a tennis player.
And speaking of tennis players, Maria Sharapova is No. 10 among the internationals. She banked a tad less than Rafael Nadal, and though I suppose we need not feel sorry for Ms. Sharapova — who accumulated over $26 million, as the only female on either list — she looks a little lonely.
This program aired on July 18, 2012.