Shohei Ohtani vs. LeBron James: Who makes more?

Los Angeles, CA - February 03: Dodger Shohei Ohtani talks with media at DodgerFest 2024, the official kickoff celebration for the upcoming season of Dodger baseball at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Shohei Ohtani, at DodgerFest last week, is the top-ranked baseball player on Sportico's list of 100 highest-paid athletes in the world. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Which Southern California athlete makes the most money?

In one sense, the answer is easy: The $700-million contract Shohei Ohtani signed with the Dodgers is the most lucrative in the history of North American team sports.

Career earnings for the Lakers' LeBron James: $479 million through this season, according to Spotrac.

But the most popular and most dominant athletes can make more money off the field than they can in salary or winnings. No athlete in the world makes more from endorsements, sponsorships and business ventures than James.

Sportico, a sports business website, just released its list of the 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, combining money earned on and off the field last year. Atop the list: soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo at $275 million, including $215 million in salary (he plays in Saudi Arabia) and $60 million in endorsements.

Read more: Complete coverage: Shohei Ohtani signs record deal with Dodgers

Golfer Jon Rahm, funded by Saudi-backed LIV Golf, was second at $203 million. Soccer star Lionel Messi, partially funded by Apple, was third at $130 million.

James ranked fourth at $125.7 million, with $80 million in endorsements and other deals, and $45.7 million over the last calendar year from the Lakers. If James exercises his player option for next season, his Lakers salary would rise to $51.4 million.

Ohtani ranked 16th — and first among baseball players — at $70 million: $30 million from the Angels and $40 million in endorsements. No other baseball player made more than $7 million in endorsements, according to Sportico.

Ohtani's endorsement income is expected to rise in his first year with the Dodgers — to $50 million, let's say. Add his $70 million in salary for a total of $120 million this year, a figure exceeded last year by only six athletes in the world: Ronaldo, Rahm, Messi, James, and soccer stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Of course, Ohtani has agreed to defer $68 million of his salary each year. So, with $2 million in salary and $50 million in endorsements, where would Ohtani have ranked at $52 million?

Among the 30 highest-paid athletes in the world.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gestures after scoring during the first half.
Lakers forward LeBron James gestures after scoring during a game against the Trail Blazers last month. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.