For most of America, income wasn’t keeping up with inflation even before 2022 increased the price of everything. But the country’s top athletes got pay raises this year that will let them cross off every item on their holiday shopping list without having to worry about how they’ll pay their credit card bills in January.
From the basketball court to the racetrack, the baseball diamond to the gridiron, the biggest stars in the sports world signed contracts that guarantee them riches beyond the wildest dreams of mere mortals — whether they or their teams win or lose.
Some of the year’s juiciest contracts were new deals with new teams, others were extensions of existing contracts — but all of the year’s top contracts make those who signed them among the richest athletes on Earth.
MLB: Aaron Judge
Contract: $360 million over nine years
Aaron Judge, 30-year-old outfielder for the New York Yankees, made his major league debut in 2016 and has been smashing records ever since. He won American League Rookie of the Year in 2017 and finished second for that year’s MVP Award. In October 2022, he broke a 61-year-old record for the most home runs in a single season — hitting 62 of them.
Judge has an impressive net worth of $50 million, which will be considerably bolstered by the deal he just closed with the Yankees. The team clearly didn’t want Judge to continue as a free agent, as the two parties have agreed to a historic $360 million deal, which Judge will be paid over the next nine years.
Formula 1: Max Verstappen
Contract: $266.5 million over five years
Max Verstappen, who has a net worth of $70 million, earned the title of Formula One World Champion back to back in 2021 and 2022. With his contract with Red Bull Racing set to expire in 2023, his team paid top dollar to lock up its star driver through 2028. In early March, ESPN reported that his contract extension will pay him $53.3 million a year — about $266.5 million over five years starting in 2024.
The Dutch racer was already the highest-earning driver of 2022, dethroning Lewis Hamilton, who Forbes had put at the top of the list since 2013.
His team could afford to dig deep to keep him on board. Before the contract was inked, Red Bull landed a $500 million deal with its new title sponsor, Oracle, which ESPN called “one of the most lucrative sponsorship agreements in sports.”
Red Bull now competes as Oracle Red Bull Racing.
NBA: Nikola Jokić
Contract: $264 million over five years
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić went from being a No. 41 draft pick to a four-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA, just the 13th player ever to win back-to-back MVP titles and the first to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season.
In 2022, the famously low-key Serbian broke another record when he signed the biggest contract in the history of basketball. Not bad for a guy whose second-round 2014 draft selection didn’t make the air because the TV broadcast went to a Taco Bell commercial as his pick was being announced.
According to NBA.com, his supermax contract extension is worth $264 million over five years from 2023-24 to 2027-28. Should he exercise his final-year option, he would earn $60 million in a single season. Nikola Jokić has a net worth of $30 million.
NFL: Russell Wilson
Contract: $242.59 million over five years
The Broncos are dead last in the AFC West and star quarterback Russell Wilson has been so abysmal that he has just three more touchdown passes than Joe Flacco, the Jets’ backup QB who hasn’t played since Week 3.
Wilson’s trade from the Seahawks has been so lopsided in favor of Seattle that it’s being compared to Dallas’ masterful trade of Herschel Walker to the Vikings in 1989 — but Wilson still has reason to smile.
In early September, just days before the season began, Wilson agreed to a contract extension with the Broncos that will pay him $242.6 million over five years. The deal includes a $50 million signing bonus, $161 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $48.5 million.
Wilson has a net worth of $165 million.
WNBA: Arike Ogunbowale
Contract: $725,925 over three years
The Dallas Wings selected Arike Ogunbowale with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft, and she quickly established herself as one of the most dynamic players in the league, including stints as the All-Star MVP, All-WNBA and the league scoring leader.
In February, the Wings locked in her services through 2025 with a three-year, $725,925 extension that pays her an average annual salary of $241,984 until she enters unrestricted free agency in 2026.
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Levi Leidy contributed to the reporting for this article.
All net worth information comes from CelebrityNetWorth.