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After winning his 3rd round match on Friday at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic secured himself a minimum prize of $250,000, officially becoming the first professional tennis player (or golfer) to cross $150 million in career prize money.
Most Career Prize Money (Men’s & Women’s Tennis)
Novak Djokovic: $150 million
Roger Federer: $130 million
Rafael Nadal: $125 million
Serena Williams: $95 million
Andy Murray: $62 million
Pete Sampras: $44 million
Venus Williams: $43 million
Maria Sharapova: $39 million
Simona Halep: $38 million
Caroline Wozniacki: $35 million
Even crazier? Despite more than 100 career wins and 15 major championships, not even the world’s best golfer — Tiger Woods has $121 million in career prize money earnings — has made more than Novak Djokovic in competition.
But prize money only tells part of the story.
What do Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Simone Biles, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer all have in common?
Well, there is an incredible work ethic, a motivation to be the best, and a relentless competitive spirit that isn’t able to be measured, but financially, each of these “GOATs” made more money off the court, field, or course than they did on it.
Michael Jordan might be the best example. If you asked 100 sports fans today who the greatest basketball player of all time is, maybe you’ll get 10-20 LeBron James, Kobe Bryant’s, or Wilt Chamberlain’s, but the reality is, over 80% of people would still probably say Michael Jordan.
The crazy part? Michael Jordan “only” made about $90 million during his NBA career, which is significantly less than a whole host of less talented players:
Otto Porter Jr.
Hell, even Scottie Pippen — the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman for nearly a decade— made almost $20 million more than MJ did during his NBA career.
The difference? Endorsements. I’m convinced that no athlete in sports history has done a better job monetizing their IP than Michael Jordan. There are sponsorship deals with companies like Gatorade and Hanes, which pay the NBA legend millions of dollars annually two decades after retirement, but the real winner is Nike.
Since signing a five-year deal worth $500,000 annually as a 21-year-old rookie in 1984, Michael Jordan and Nike have expanded their relationship into one of the most profitable individual-IP-driven businesses in sports history.
The Jordan Brand — a subset offering within Nike’s brand portfolio — did $4.7 billion in sales last year (+31% year-over-year). For context, that’s more revenue than athleisure competitor Lululemon did last year ($4.4 billion).
Even better, with a ~5% royalty structure in place, Michael Jordan will take home over $200 million from Nike alone. Not only is that more than 2x what he made during his entire NBA career, but as Nike continues to expand the Jordan Brand through new product offerings, the royalty checks are only going to get bigger.
So what does this have to do with Novak Djokovic?
Well, despite his inevitable seat atop the Mount Rushmore of Men’s tennis — Djokovic has won 5 of the last 9 majors, now sits just 1 major championship back of Federer & Nadal, and is younger — his total career earnings likely won’t match up against other sports legends.
For example, even after only earning about $300,000 from tennis events last year, Roger Federer still brought home about $90 million and was the 7th highest-paid athlete in the world.
2020-21 On-Court Earnings
Novak Djokovic: $6 million
Rafael Nadal: $3.3 million
Roger Federer: $300,000
2020-21 Total Earnings (via Forbes)
Roger Federer: $90 million
Novak Djokovic: $34.5 million
Rafael Nadal: ~$30 million
This chart is a few years old, but it’s a great visual showcasing the incredible job that Roger Federer has done building his brand.
In the end, the best athletes in the world put in an incredible amount of work to rise to the top of their profession, but rather than simply relying on cash earnings from competition, they build businesses & monetize their lucrative IP to multiply their income.
Michael Jordan & Tiger Woods have done it with Nike, Roger Federer is doing it with Uniqlo, and Conor McGregor did it with his $150 million-plus Proper 12 Whiskey sale.
Ultimately, that’s what makes these athletes legendary.
Have a great day, and I’ll talk to everyone tomorrow.
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