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Athletes who made the most money in 2015

Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a forehand shot to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their Men's Singles Final match on Day Fourteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2015

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The highest paid

Today, athletes are making more money than ever before. It's become commonplace to see sports figures in all major sports get record-breaking deals, like the Cleveland Cavalier's Kevin Love did when he completed a five-year, $110 million deal over the summer. For the mathematically challenged, that's more than $20 million a year—far more, in fact, than the average chief executive of a major corporation.

Read More Why corporate CEO pay is so high, and going higher

Using Forbes Magazine's recently compiled list of the highest-paid athletes in 2015 to date, CNBC has put together a list of the top five earners. While it would seem to make sense that the biggest names in the most popular U.S. sports make the most money, the list proves that this may not necessarily be the case: Big-paycheck names such as Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James and Tom Brady actually failed to make the cut. A few names on this list, ranked from lowest to highest earners, may come as a surprise to many readers.

By Steven Hanley, special to CNBC
Posted 20 Sept. 2015

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