When you’ve won the League of Legends World Championships three times and are considered the best player to ever play the game, you can command an impressive salary.
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok of SK Telecom T1 is the best League of Legends player ever, and the closest thing esports has to a household name. He has won countless titles since his professional debut in February 2013, including three world championships, two Mid-Season Invitational titles, 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’s sponsorship opportunities, for one thing. Still, one recent report claimed that Faker was offered $2.5 million per year to resign with SK Telecom T1 following their third world championship win.
EsportsEarnings estimates that Faker has won $1,174,048.35 overall from tournaments he has attended as of Sept. 8, 2018.
The only player to come close to this in League is Lee “Wolf” Jae Wan, SKT’s support, who has taken home an estimated $912,064.70 over the course of his career.
Faker also gets money from Twitch through subscribers. Ironically, however, even though the player has over 1.5 million followers, only less than 400 people subscribe to him as of Sept. 8, 2018.
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 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 Cristiano Ronaldo leads the pack with $88 million in total earnings, nearly 35 times Faker’s theoretical wage.
Other high-profile earners include NBA star LeBron James ($77.2 million), tennis star Roger Federer ($67.8 million), and NFL star Cam Newton ($53.1 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 of Legends was released in 2009. Considering just how quickly esports has grown, it’s safe to assume the biggest esports stars are going to make even more money than Faker in the near future.