There are a few factors to consider for a list of the top-earning pro athletes in California. To start with:
- Does it include athletes who come from California, play for California teams, or both?
- Does it include salary and endorsement deals?
- Is it the top-earning California pro athletes of all time, or who earns the most right now?
Different combinations produce different results. So in an effort to include a little of everything, our list is actually two lists.
First, our list of the top 20 highest-paid pro athletes in California for 2022 includes only athletes currently under contract with California teams and only their current annual salaries.
Second, our top five richest, all-time California pro athletes list includes those from California and who played for California teams. It includes total earnings, salary and endorsements.
Top 20 highest-paid pro athletes in California in 2023
These are the highest-paid pro athletes in the state of California based on 2021-22 salary numbers:
|Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||$45,780,966|
|Russell Westbrook||Los Angeles Lakers||$44,211,146|
|LeBron James||Los Angeles Lakers||$41,180,544|
|Kawhi Leonard||LA Clippers||$39,344,900|
|Paul George||LA Clippers||$39,344,900|
|Klay Thompson||Golden State Warriors||$37,980,720|
|Mike Trout||LA Angels||$37,116,666|
|Anthony Rendon||LA Angels||$36,571,428|
|Anthony Davis||Loas Angeles Lakers||$35,361,360|
|Trevor Bauer||LA Dodgers||$35,333,333|
|David Price||LA Dodgers||$32 million|
|Manny Machado||San Diego Padres||$32 million|
|Justin Upton||LA Angels||$28 million|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||San Francisco 49ers||$27.5 million|
|Freddie Freeman||LA Dodgers||$27 million|
|Matthew Stafford||Loa Angeles Rams||$27 million|
|Joey Bosa||Los Angeles Chargers||$27 million|
|Aaron Donald||Los Angeles Rams||$22.5 million|
|Mookie Betts||LA Dodgers||$22.5 million|
|Wil Myers||San Diego Padres||$22.5 million|
Top 5 highest-paid California athletes of all time
There are many “highest-paid athletes of all time” lists out there. We sourced ours from The Sporting News’ “Highest-Paid Athletes of All Time“ mostly because it was put together in 2021 and appeared more up-to-date and accurate than “The 25 Highest-Paid Athletes Of All Time“ from Forbes back in 2017.
1. LeBron James ($1.17 billion)
LeBron James spent most of his 19-year NBA career earning elsewhere. Of course, he played for Cleveland and Miami before finally joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. James’ Lakers salary—more than $41 million—sounds big, but it’s not even tops on his team. However, with endorsement deals from Nike and Coca-Cola, his total career earnings top $1.17 billion, making LeBron James the highest-paid California athlete of all time.
2. Kobe Bryant ($930 million)
Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers. He led the Lakers to five NBA Championships. What’s more, his name became synonymous with the franchise before his tragic death at age 41 in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people in 2020. Contracts with powerhouse brands like Adidas, Nike, Sprite and McDonald’s helped Bryant earn $930-million-plus over the course of his career, putting him second on the list of the highest-paid California athletes of all time.
3. Shaquille O’Neal ($870 million)
Shaquille O’Neal played 19 NBA seasons, but the dominant 7-foot 1-inch center’s most productive years were with the Lakers from 1996 to 2004. Shaq picked up three of his four championship rings during the Laker years. Being the biggest player in the NBA’s second-biggest market (to New York) helped him land some lucrative endorsement deals.
In fact, O’Neal has earned big bucks from countless big brands. These include Burger King, Pepsi and RadioShack. Ironically though, Shaq is better known for what he’s done with some lesser-known brands, like Icy Hot and The General auto insurance, with whom he’s made commercials for decades now. Add it up and Shaq has earned upwards of $870 million throughout his career. This makes “The Diesel” the third highest-paid California athlete of all time.
4. Phil Mickelson ($815 million)
Golfer Phil Mickelson was born in San Diego, California, and practically grew up at California’s famous Pebble Beach Golf Links, where his grandfather was a caddy. Fast forward to 2022 and Mickelson’s $94,955,060 in career PGA Tour earnings make him second only to Tiger Woods and his $120 million-plus.
Endorsements are a big deal for the top golfers, and since Mickelson is synonymous with the KPMG hat he’s worn for most of his career, and also enjoys high-end sponsors like Rolex, his total career earnings top $815 million. That’s why Mickelson ranks as the fourth highest-paid California athlete of all time.
5. Oscar de la Hoya ($580 million)
Eleven-time world champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya was born and raised in East Los Angeles by a boxing family. He won the U.S. National Championship as a 17-year-old amateur in 1990. Two years later he became known as “The Golden Boy” by winning a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics. De La Hoya won his first world title at 20, capturing the WBO super featherweight title.
By the time he had grown into one of the biggest names in boxing, the Golden Boy was promoting his own fights through his own company, Golden Boy Promotions. Doing it all himself led to De La Hoya earning a record $52 million for his 2007 bout with Floyd Mayweather. All told, De La Hoya tallied some $580 million in earnings throughout his career, making him the fifth highest-paid California athlete of all time.