Sports are an integral part of American society. Many people play, watch, or involve themselves in sports in some way.

With popular athletics such as basketball and baseball to fringe competitions such as strength contests and competitive eating, there’s a sport for everyone.

If you’re wondering what kind of money the top male athletes make on a yearly basis or just interested in learning more about your favorite pastime, read on for the best-paying professional sports.

NBA Basketball

It’s no surprise that basketball has some of the top-paid athletes of all time. NBA players see a yearly salary average of over $7 million. Since NBA rosters have fewer players than the NFL or NHL, they can pay players a higher salary. This still isn’t an easy feat, though.

Professional basketball players must attend rigorous practices, conduct press interviews, maintain training regimens, and perform to the expectations of fans, coaches, managers, and team owners. If these players cannot hold up to their expectations, they can be cut at any point.

MLB Baseball

MLB players make a bit less, averaging almost $4.5 million a year. The MLB season has 162 games—plus playoffs, travel, and practice—so this paycheck is rightfully earned.

Unlike in most other sports, in which players maintain just one position, each baseball player—no matter his position—must practice his batting skills as well as his offensive skills.

Baseball is also one of the most competitive major league sports to get into. Most players never get to play in the major leagues, so the ones that do are in for a lucrative career.

NHL Hockey

Hockey is very popular in the northern U.S., Canada, Russia, and other snow-filled countries. NHL players see a handsome paycheck of between $2 million to $4 million.

As in baseball, most professional hockey players play in minor leagues before they get the opportunity to play in the NHL.

Even these minor leagues can pay players upwards to six-figure salaries. On the professional level, these players see an 82-game schedule full of intense skating, puck handling, shooting, and fights.

NFL Football

American football is one of the most popular sports in the entire United States. These players only see about 45-to-60 minutes of play in a game that’s often extended to four hours due to commercial breaks, timeouts, and halftime.

Regardless, most players on an NFL team see an annual salary between $2 million to $3 million. Rosters total up to 53 players, so salaries are divided between each player, respective of individual contracts.

These contracts can be short, with some lasting only a season, so players must bring their top game to keep their positions.


Interestingly, soccer isn’t an American pastime like some of the other sports on this list. USMNT players earn anywhere between $300,000 to $900,000 a year. This salary is exceedingly high, but it dwarves in comparison to the multimillion-dollar salaries of other sports players.

Furthermore, many European countries where soccer reigns supreme—specifically England and Spain—pay their soccer players over $3 million yearly.


With so many motorsports in the country, there are two that pay well: NASCAR and motorcycle racing.

NASCAR drivers make approximately $100,000 to $300,000 plus prize money, disability insurance, and individual corporate sponsorships.

Sponsored motorcycle racers can make equally as much. Not to mention, motorcycle companies often provide the bike and equipment motorcycle racers need to perform to the best of their abilities.


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