Black players makeup 50% of Forbes 2024 list of highest paid athletes

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 28, 2024 5:34 PM EDT
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Historically, the sporting arena was among the first and most high-profile spaces to accept African-Americans on relative terms of equality. Sports has had a unique role within American culture, driving social and political change. Sporting achievements have become a way to measure racial progress within the United States and demonstrate African-American contributions and challenges within contemporary American society. With the massive commercialization of sports, the focus has noticeably shifted to the economic aspect of contracts and partnership deals.

Black athletes take up half of the top 10 spots of Forbes’ 2024 list of the highest-paid athletes of 2024, and it is noteworthy that 50% are occupied by Black athletes. The rankings are based on both on-field earnings such as prize money, salaries, and bonuses, as well as off-field earnings including sponsorship deals, licensing income, and memorabilia sales. This year, for the first time in Forbes’ history, each of the top ten highest-paid athletes earned more than $100 million. Collectively, the world’s ten highest-paid athletes earned a total of $1.38 billion before taxes and agents’ fees over the past 12 months.

At number four, LeBron James is the highest-ranked Black player on the list. The four-time MVP signed a two-year $99 million with the Los Angeles Lakers and has a $51.4 million player option with the team next season. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are open to discussing a $164 million max extension and drafting his son, Bronny. James recently partnered with DraftKings and joined other celebrities investing in the PGA Tour Enterprises, a new golf commercial venture.

Next in line is Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time NBA MVP agreed to a three-year $186 million extension with the Bucks, including $228, 200,420 guaranteed and an annual salary of $45, 640, 083. Antetokounmpo launched a production company in January and partnered with Pepsi’s Starry soft drink in February. His sixth signature sneaker with Nike is on the way later this year.

With a four-year $215, 353, 664 contract with the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry is ranked at number nine. He earns an average annual salary of around $50 million and signed a new deal with Under Armour last year that is expected to run past the end of his playing career. Curry received $75 million in stock in the sportswear company vesting in equal installments between 2029 and 2034.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson closes the top ten list at tenth. His five-year, $260 million extension in 2023, which he negotiated representing himself, was briefly the biggest contract in NFL history by average annual value. Jackson works with Oakley and StatusPro, makers of the NFL Pro Era virtual reality video game, and owns a restaurant, a production company, a record label, and a clothing line called Era 8.