Most young athletes dream of going professional one day, making multi-million dollar salaries, and landing lucrative endorsement contracts with sports drink companies and athletic-wear manufacturers.
However, for most young people, no matter how much practising they do, those are just dreams as, sadly, most of them never achieve that degree of athletic success.
Only the supremely gifted, most dedicated, and luckiest athletes ever reach that goal.
Here are ten who, through hard work and smart business decisions, have made it into the top-ten list of the highest paid athletes from around the globe.
10 Matt Ryan
Pro football salaries are often criticized as being too high. However, Atlanta Falcons NFL Quarterback Matt Ryan is the only American football player to make the top 10 list of highest paid athletes.
At 29, this Pennsylvania-born native earned a hefty $43.8million in the past year.
Intelligent and determined, Ryan is a young superstar athlete that is certain to increase his earnings potential and his winning record during the course of his promising football career.
Watch for him to climb even higher in future lists.
9 Rafael Nadal
Spanish tennis star Nadal is an on and off the court favorite. While he earned $14.5million in winnings and salary, his big money was in endorsements from the likes of Nike.
Good looks and charm make him popular and a big sell for the firm’s products. This sweet deal and others like it brought in an additional $30million to bring his total earnings to $44.5million.
At 29, he’s currently ranked #3 in the world of tennis and will no doubt increase his fame and earnings over the next few years.
8 Phil Mickelson
American pro golfer Mickelson is one of the oldest athletes on the top 10 list. At 44, Mickleson proves that wealth in sports is not a dream attainable only by the youngest athletes.
Mickelson began his love affair with golf at the age of three and continued pursuing it through high school, college, and into the pro league.
He has since earned three Masters’ titles and a remarkable $53.2million in 2014. With $48million of that in endorsements, the corporate world knows Mickelson is a golf legend to be respected and used to their advantage and his.
7 Roger Federer
Federer is a name that is known to people that don’t even follow the game of tennis. Born in Switzerland, he was destined for success on the courts even at a young age.
At 14 he became the Swiss Junior Champion and only two years later he earned his first endorsement at the age of 16.
Now, between earnings and some of the best endorsement deals in the industry, he boasts a stellar income of $56.2million.
He’s also known as a philanthropist that gives back to others through his success.
6 Tiger Woods
Celebrity status has been both a gift and a curse for Tiger Woods. Born Eldrick Woods, Tiger was given his nickname by his father in honor of a soldier he knew. Tiger began playing golf at a young age and was mentored and coached by his father.
He was so talented that his remarkable gift stood out in a sport primarily played by adult Caucasian men. Tiger became a golf phenomenon and celebrity.
At the age of 21, he broke two substantial golfing records — becoming the youngest golfer and the first African-American to win a Masters.
Now 38, Tiger brought in $61.2million in 2014 to place him in the second half of the top 10 highest paid athletes in the world.
5 Kobe Bryant
Just above Tiger Woods in the top 10 rankings is NBA pro basketball player Kobe Bryant. From Pennsylvania, it seems he was born a winner.
He’s won gold in the form of several championship rings, Olympic gold medals, and incredible earnings.
Sporting the yellow-gold Laker’s uniform, Bryant continues racking up success and earnings.
His current contract salary exceeds most other players in the industry. Added to his $31million in endorsements, Kobe earned a sweet $61.5million over the past year.
4 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was born in Argentina but moved to Spain at the age of 13. Messi struggled with being smaller than other players due to a hormone deficiency.
But the move to Spain offered him the opportunity to undergo treatment to help with his medical problem and allow him to grow.
He is now considered one of the greatest soccer players in the world and has won FIFA’s Player of the Year numerous times.
In addition to being an asset on the field, he also dedicates himself to others off the field by advocating for disadvantaged youth and fighting for children’s rights.
Messi comes in at #4 on the highest-paid athletes list with a well-earned $64.7million in earnings and endorsements.
3 LeBron James
James is the top-earning basketball player bringing in a jaw-dropping $72.3million over the past year. James was destined to achieve success when he was named the youngest top rookie player of the year while playing with the Cavaliers.
At that time he was only 20 — too young to even buy a beer to celebrate!
In July 2014, James made the decision to leave his Miami Heat contract and return to the Cavaliers where his career began.
Along with his earnings, he continues to bring in the big bucks through endorsement deals with corporate giants such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Nike.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo
With movie star good looks and incredible talent, Real Madrid soccer star Cristian Ronaldo is a fan draw even with those who are not huge soccer fans.
Beginning as young as 10, Ronaldo was showing advanced skills in the game. By the age of 16 he was offered a contract by Manchester United that exceeded anything ever offered to someone of that age before.
With earnings of $80million, the 29-year-old hits #2 on the top 10 list for 2014. He is second on the list and the #1 top-earning soccer player for the year.
1 Floyd Mayweather, Jr
Undeniably one of the greatest athletes in the world of professional boxing, American fighter Mayweather has earned more at age 37 than most people will earn in a lifetime…or 20 lifetimes!
In the past year, Mayweather has raked a whopping $105million through his boxing success. With a combination of pay-per-view and ticket sales, his earnings far surpassed the other athletes on the list.
In addition, Mayweather can also boast that he is not only #1 in earnings, but the only professional boxer in the top 10 highest earning athletes.