New York: Tiger Woods, who has fallen to 13th in the world golf rankings without a title since November of 2009, remains atop the list of the world`s highest-paid athletes according to Forbes magazine.
While Woods has seen his annual earnings plunge USD 50 million over the past two years, he remained atop the Top 50 list with USD 75 million over the past 12 months to outpace NBA star Kobe Bryant, the runner-up at USD 53 million.
The list considers not only player salaries but all endorsement and sponsor income, with Woods having become the first career USD 1 billion sports pitchman before his epic fall from grace when a sordid sex scandal was revealed in 2009.
Woods lost such sponsors as Accenture, AT&T, Gillette and PepsiCo but retained Nike and EA Sports, who together bring more than half of Woods` income over the 12-month period ending May 1.
The golf videogame bearing his name was a big seller this year as it was the first of its kind to feature Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters.
Woods was the catalyst for a Nike Golf division that had sales of USD 638 million last year while the 14th edition of the Woods videogame had record first-week sales of 225,000 units.
The drop by Woods and lack of a fight by boxer Floyd Mayweather, last year`s No. 2 on the list with USD 65 million, led a drop of 11 percent by the combined list to a total income of USD 1.4 billion.
Another factor was an NFL lockout that kept new deals from being signed last March and April for American football star free agents. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots led three gridiron stars on the 2011 list at USD 31 million.
Bryant tops 15 basketball players on the Forbes list, with his USD 24.8 million salary topping any NBA rival by USD 4 million.
LeBron James, playing in the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, ranks third on the list with USD 48 million.
The only woman on the list was Maria Sharapova, who was ranked 29th with USD 24.2 million, in large part thanks to apparel deals with Nike and Cole Haan shoes.
Swiss tennis star Roger Federer was fourth on the list at USD 47 million followed in order by US golfer Phil Mickelson at USD 46.5 million, English footballer David Beckham at USD 40 million, football`s Cristiano Ronaldo at USD 38 million, US baseball star Alex Rodriguez at USD 35 million, German auto racer Michael Schumacher at USD 34 million and football`s Lionel Messi at USD 32.3 million.
At the bottom of the list of the richest were two NBA stars, Spanish playmaker Pau Gasol of the Lakers in 49th at USD 18.9 million, a mere USD 100,000 above American Michael Redd of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The minimum to make last year`s list was USD 21 million.