When you’ve won the League of Legends World Championship three times and are the most popular player to play the game, you can command an impressive salary.
T1’s Faker is considered the best League player ever and the closest thing esports has to a household name. He’s won countless titles since his professional debut in February 2013, including three world championships, two Mid-Season Invitationals, a Rift Rivals, and multiple LCK regional titles under the SKT banner.
So how much does a player like that make?
The fact is, we can’t know for certain. The only people who know that for sure are probably Faker himself and his accountant. He has revenue streams beyond just his professional play: There’re sponsorship opportunities and streaming revenues.
Even though the current details of his deal with T1 are unknown, Faker confirmed that he turned down offers from China that would net him $10 million yearly alongside blank check offers from North America. Trying to guess what he earns from T1 is quite difficult, but rumors claim that the number is between $1 million and $2 million while also letting him keep most of his prize money. On top of all that, Faker was also offered part ownership with his most recent contract and is now a part-owner of T1 Entertainment and Sports.
EsportsEarnings estimates that Faker has won $1,255,465.80 overall from all the tournaments he’s attended as of March 12, 2020. The only player to come close to this in League is Lee “Duke” Ho Seong, Invictus Gaming’s former top laner, who’s taken home an estimated $954,620.62 over the course of his career.
Faker also gets money from Twitch through subscribers. Even though the player has over 1.5 million followers, less than 400 people subscribe to him as of March 12, 2020. He also declined multiple Chinese companies’ sponsorship offers, which would require him to stream on their platform while netting him around $425,000.
In April 2018, former South Korean Starcraft player and current TV personality Hong “YellOw” Jin-ho claimed that Faker was earning up to $4.6 million every year, which included basic salary, sponsorship, and winnings. YellOw’s claims are guesswork, however, so we aren’t sure where these numbers come from.
Faker is also known to adopt a quite frugal lifestyle. On a Korean talk show called Radio Star, Faker revealed that his monthly expenses were around $200. Considering the cost of living in South Korea isn’t that low, guessing that his deal with T1 may also be covering his living expenses may not be a far off estimation.
Despite his low spending lifestyle and all the offers he rejected, Faker still is far off from being one of the highest-paid earners in sports. On the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, soccer star Lionel Messi leads the pack with $127 million in total earnings, nearly 28 times Faker’s theoretical wage. Other high-profile earners include NBA star LeBron James ($89 million), tennis star Roger Federer ($93.4 million), and NFL star Russell Wilson ($89.5 million).
Still, that’s comparing Faker to stars in established sports that have, in the case of soccer and football, built up their professional scenes for more than a century. League was released in 2009. Considering just how quickly esports has grown, it’s safe to assume the biggest esports stars of the future are going to make even more money than Faker a lot sooner than one might expect.