Sport is arguably the most popular pastime on earth. Not only does it light up the competitive spirit hidden in every human being, but it also provides us with heroes and legends, key aspects of human storytelling and culture. We have picked ten of the biggest sports stars in 2022.
Mixed martial artist Conor McGregor is renowned for his larger-than-life and braggadocious personality. The Irishman was ranked as the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2021, earning a reported $180 million. He has his fair share of controversy outside the ring, with several brawls, charges, and arrests to his name. But that does not stop him from being one of the most popular sportsmen on earth. The MMA scene owes its rising popularity mostly to him.
Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, the Argentine was the key figure in an all-conquering FC Barcelona side of the early 2010s and continued to carry the team till his big-money move to Paris Saint Germain in 2021. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, a record six European Golden Shoes, and in 2020 was named to the Ballon d’Or Dream Team.
Also considered by many to be the greatest footballer ever, Cristiano Ronaldo’s rivalry with Lionel Messi created a long-standing duopoly at the top of the game. The Portuguese Icon may have slightly fewer accolades than his rival, but Ronaldo is by far the most marketable athlete alive. He has more followers than anyone on Instagram, and constantly rakes in millions from lucrative endorsement deals. His relentless drive to be the best and stay in top shape has earned him scores of admirers worldwide.
As the star man in the most valuable NFL franchise, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott definitely makes his way onto our list. His $107.5 million in total earnings for the 12 months through April 2021 set a record for NFL players. In early 2022 he broke the Cowboys’ single-season touchdown record previously held by Tony Romo. Ironically, in his rookie year, Prescott was intended to serve as a backup for Tony Romo when he was injured in the preseason.
Fewer sports stars have had to carry the weight of expectation that was laid on the shoulders of LeBron James. Touted as the next best thing in basketball since his high-school days, the super talented James met those expectations and has placed himself firmly in the conversation for the greatest basketball player of all time. LBJ has enjoyed an incredibly long career, which currently sees him suiting up for the LA Lakers. He also holds several investments including a stake in Liverpool F.C.
Neymar rose to stardom as a child prodigy playing for Santos in Brazil. This earned him a series of big-money moves; Firstly to FC Barcelona, where he formed a deadly trio with Messi and Suarez, then to Paris Saint Germain in what is still the most expensive transfer in world football (€222 million). His silky skills on the pitch and flamboyant lifestyle off it have earned him a huge following which is befitting of his talent.
Swiss tennis star Roger Federer has been world No. 1 in the men’s tennis rankings a total of 310 weeks – including a record 237 consecutive weeks – and has finished as the year-end No. 1 five times. He is one of the sport’s dominant “big three” along with Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. His effortless and classy style earned him a huge following among tennis fans, an on-court calmness that matches his graciousness off the court. Federer is also often ranked as one of the top ten highest-paid athletes in any sport.
The only knight on this list, SIR Lewis Hamilton is a British racing driver. His rise in the sport has seen him and his team Mercedes embark on an era of dominance not seen since the Ferrari era. He is currently tied with Michael Schumacher for the most individual F1 titles (7). He has been credited with growing F1’s global following, with fans eager to catch a glimpse of his flashy lifestyle, social activism, and fashion taste.
Widely regarded as the greatest player to ever play in the NFL, Tom Brady embodies drive, success, and longevity in the sport. Brady led the New England Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances, and six Super Bowl titles. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 and led them to win Super Bowl LV, extending his individual records to 10 Super Bowl appearances and seven victories. Like many on this list, his strict diet and training regime is testament to his need to succeed.
Also known by his initials KD, Kevin Durant has often been called the best player in the NBA and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. His tall and lanky frame disguises one of the most accurate shooting capabilities in the sport’s history. Durant’s jersey regularly ranks among the NBA’s best-selling, and he often tops the voting in the NBA All Star selection. He has a slew of philanthropic ventures as well as some wise investments to his name.
It takes a lot to succeed in the realm of sport, and each of the stars on this list has overcome scores of challenges to become the best. With all the stars here in their 30s, it will be interesting to see which young stars will assert their dominance this decade.