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Michael Jordan’s Endorsements Make Him Highest-Paid Athlete With AM-Athletes-List

November 8, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Playing basketball is only an income supplement for superstars like Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, who tops Forbes magazine’s third-annual ranking of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

The really big bucks come from product endorsements, which earned Jordan an estimated $32 million in 1992. That’s on top of the $3.9 million he made dribbling and slam dunking, Forbes said in its ranking of 40 top athletes, released Sunday.

Jordan’s contract with athletic footwear maker Nike Inc. for about $20 million is the most lucrative in sports. Deals with Wilson Sporting Goods, Gatorade, General Mills, McDonald’s and other companies make up the rest of his take.

At 29, Jordan won’t even bat an eye at any offer worth under $1 million, says his agent, David Falk. Since he first appeared on the Forbes list in 1990, Jordan has earned $60 million.

No. 2 on the list was boxer Evander Holyfield, with earnings of $28 million. Auto racers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell were third and fourth respectively, with Senna earning $22 million and Mansell taking home $14.5 million.

Veteran golfer Arnold Palmer, who makes most of his money from endorsements, was fifth with $11.1 million.

The highest-ranking woman on the list was tennis star Monica Seles, the winner of the Australian, French and U.S. opens this year, with earnings of $8.5 million.

Tennis player Jim Courier, the highest-paid newcomer to Forbes’ list, came in at No. 9, with income of $9 million, only a third of it from playing tennis. Courier recently inked a deal with Nike worth about $4 million a year, joining court rival Andre Agassi as the company’s tennis endorsers.

The minimum annual income needed to make this year’s best-paid athletes list grew from $3.9 million to $4.6 million.

A few names dropped off the list for other reasons.

Mike Tyson, one of the highest-paid last year, is in jail on a rape conviction. Basketball legend Larry Bird retired and teen-age tennis prodigy Jennifer Capriati had a lackluster season last year.

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