Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Conor McGregor and more of today’s superstar athletes may top “world’s highest-paid athletes” lists for a year or two, but they’re unlikely to ever eclipse “His Airness” in total career earnings.
A new report from Sportico reveals that even 20 years after his retirement from professional basketball, Michael Jordan is still the highest-paid athlete of all time. The six-time NBA champion and Jordan Brand inspiration has netted $3.3 billion (adjusted for inflation) since he was drafted into the league in 1984.
Jordan’s record-setting revenue comes largely from his partnership with Nike, which helped transform the athleticwear brand from a barely profitable company to a $49 billion enterprise with a market cap of $187 billion upon inception during Jordan’s rookie year.
In 2022, Nike’s Jordan Brand generated $5.1 billion in revenue, and sales are up 79 percent over the last four years. Sportico estimates that Jordan’s Nike money accounts for roughly 75 percent of his total career earnings, but Jordan Brand is just the largest venture in Jordan’s stacked portfolio.
Jordan is also the only former player to become a majority owner of an NBA franchise—the Charlotte Hornets—and he holds stakes in 23XI Racing team, Cincoro tequila, Michael Jordan Steakhouse chain as well as companies including DraftKings, Sportradar and Dapper Labs.
Jordan’s combined $90 million in NBA salaries represents just 4 percent of his total career earnings. Over his 15 seasons, he was the league’s highest-paid player only once, despite his widespread recognition as the NBA’s GOAT.
Today, Forbes estimates Jordan;s net worth at a staggering $1.7 billion. The Ben Affleck-directed movie AIR, which hits theaters on April 5, traces the story of how shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro led Nike’s pursuit of a young Jordan and the launch of the Air Jordan sneaker. Watch the trailer here.