Forbes recently released a list detailing the 100 highest-paid athletes over the past year, and it got us thinking: When you get right down to it, which guys make their money the most, um, efficiently?

So we took the top 10 and broke down their 2015-2016 seasons into three categories: appearances on the court or field, points scored, and total time spent actually playing.

First, here’s a look at the total income for the top 10.


Read on to find out what Ronaldo, Messi, LeBron, Roger, Kevin, Novak, Cam, Phil, Jordan and Kobe did, athletically speaking, to earn that dough. (Note: Yes, a lot of the income, particularly for the basketball, tennis and golf players, comes from endorsements, but as those wouldn’t exist without the on-field performance, we’ve rolled all the data together.)

ronaldo and messi

The Soccer Studs
Sitting atop the list, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both earned over $80 million. In the chart below, we display some key statistics for the pair: matches played, minutes played and goals scored.


We then calculated how much money that translated to in each category. Per match played in 2015-2016, Ronaldo earned just over $1.6 million, while Messi earned just shy of $2 million. Each minute spent on the soccer field in 2015-2016 earned Ronaldo approximately $20,000, while Messi made about $25,000. As Ronaldo average slightly more than a goal per match, each goal equaled about $1.6 million as well, while each of Messi’s goals earned him a whopping $2.5 million.



The Basketball Stars
Coming in at spots 3, 5, and 10, respectively, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant combined to earn a staggering $183.4 million in the 2015-2016 season. Here’s how the money breaks down based on games played, minutes played and points scored.


Doing the math we found that for each individual game played LeBron earned a little more than $1 million, Durant slightly shy of $800,000, and Kobe just over $750,000. For each minute played, Lebron earned $60,000, Durant $22,000 and Kobe $27,000. Finally, for each point scored in the games they played in, LeBron earned $40,000, Durant earned just under $28,000, and Kobe made, yes, $43,000.


federer and djokovic

The Tennis Champs
Coming in at number 4 and 6, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic combined to bring in more than $123 million. Below, we look at their stats. Note that the amount for the “minutes played” category comes from the number of matches each player played multiplied by their average match time.

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Based on this data, Federer earned just over $4.5 million per appearance on the tennis court, with Djokovic earning just shy of $1.2 million. During these matches, for every minute spent on the court by Federer earned him $47,000, with Djokovic earning $10,5000. Finally, for every point scored during their games, Federer earned $10,000 while Djokovic earned $3,000.



The Golf Nerds
Phil Mickelson and Jordan Speith took home the number 8 and 9 spots, with both earning just under $53 million. Below we look at their stats, using characteristics modified for the game of golf. Games played is replaced by the number of tournaments the players appeared in during the 2015-2016 season, while average minutes is subbed out for the number of rounds of golf played. Lastly, points scored is replaced by the number of strokes both players took over the course of the year.Based on these numbers, both Speith and Mickelson earned $4 million per tournament. For each round of golf, Mickelson earned $1.3 million while Speith earned $1.1 million. Finally, per stroke, Mickelson earned $57,000 while Speith earned $31,000.

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The Football Phenom
Coming in at spot number 7, the lone football player to make the top 10 is Cam Newton, who earned $53.1 million. For him, we focused on the categories of hames played, yards gained in a season, and touchdowns scored, all illustrated below.


Based on these numbers, for every game Newton played, he earned $3.3 million. During those games, he earned $14,000 per yard. And for every TD scored (either passing or rushing), Newton made, wait for it, $1.5 million.

In other words, if there’s a lesson for the kids out there, it’s probably: Forget the books and work on your shooting, serving, putting and passing!


Lead illustration and charts: Brian Mayes