Forbes study finds athlete incomes on rise since 1995; biggest gains for international players

The highest-paid athletes today are far wealthier than they were 20 years ago, and fewer Americans rank among the top earners, according to a study from Forbes.

The 40 top-paid athletes this year made over $1.3 billion, dwarfing the $490 million ($776 million adjusted for inflation) accrued by the 1995 list. Floyd Mayweather ($300 million) topped the list with nearly seven-times the income of 1995 leader Michael Jordan ($43.9 million).

In 1995, the list included just eight non-Americans. This year, the list features 21 international athletes, including four in the top five.

Blackburn's Chris Sutton ($800,000) was the highest-paid soccer player in 1995 and fell outside the Top 40. This year, the list includes eight soccer players, including Cristiano Ronaldo ($79.6 million) and Lionel Messi ($73.8 million). The study linked the rise in soccer salaries to a 1995 European court ruling that allowed players with expired contracts to change teams without a transfer fee.