Bar mekko chart showing % of pay from endorsements and total pay for top 25 athletes

The World's Highest-Paid Athletes

Forbes released its annual list this summer detailing the top earning athletes in the world. Basketball players dominated this year's list, claiming 8 of the top 25 spots. There is signifiant variability among them, however, in the percent of compensation driven by endorsements. While LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry all have above average endoresement percentages, the remaining basketball players' earnings are driven more by salary. You'll notice that athletes from individual sports like golf, tennis and track have a significantly higher dependence on endorsements since they do not have guaranteed salaries.

The biggest movers in the list this year were individual athletes. Rory McIlroy climbed 11 spots to claim the #6 spot (tied with Andrew Luck), while Jordan Spieth and Novak Djokovic dropped 12 and 10 spots respectively.

Earnings comparison for top professional athletes


I used a bar mekko for this data to make it easier to see the relative differences in total pay (shown as the bar width). The top athlete (Cristiano Ronaldo) earned nearly 3x that of the 2 athletes tied for #24 (Gareth Bale and Conor McGregor). I displayed the athletes in rank order (bars widest on left) to make it easier to visualize the differences in total pay (also shown in the first data row). Instead of simply comparing total compensation, I chose to focus on the % of total pay from endorsements because there was significant variability among the athletes, not just for those in individual sports.

I added a series (row) for each sport so I could color each bar according to the sport and show the sports in a legend. Here's the data sheet for the chart.

Data structure for a bar mekko chart

I added the data row for change in rank to highlight the big changes since 2016. I used an asterisk in this row for athletes who did not appear in the Top 25 in 2016.

You can download this chart on SlideShare.