Recognizing 50 figures with an uncommon ability to shape the most important conversations in sports, business, culture, and technology today
As we look back on the year in the rearview and ahead to 2023, a select group drives the biggest trends across the cultural zeitgeist.
These 50 people are consistently central to the most important business deals and the hottest parties. Collectively, they change and challenge their industries. They hold incredible influence and stay in our headlines.
Welcome to Boardroom’s first-ever Most Influential list.
It was a historic 2022 for Judge. Amid a contract standoff with the New York Yankees, the slugger went out, bet on himself, and eclipsed Roger Maris’ American League home run record. The Yankees underwhelmed in the postseason, but Judge saw fruit to his labor after re-signing with the Bronx Bombers for nine years, $360 million. His $40 million average salary is the highest for a position player in baseball history.
Adam Silver has weathered more storms than Oklahoma City, still making it rain in NBA markets large and small. Despite sitting in the center of the hoops tornado, Silver hasn’t rested in his efforts to make his league bigger and better for all involved. Think media rights and franchise values are high in ‘22? Just wait until Jerry West’s silo starts popping up on pro clubs from Milan to Mexico.
Bad Bunny embodies the blueprint of the modern entertainer, extending his reach far beyond music. In 2022, the Puerto Rican megastar clocked a record-setting 18.5 billion streams on Spotify. His Un Verano Sin Ti Tour became the summer’s hottest ticket, grossing $373 million. Add a collab with Adidas, a certified WWE star turn, and his commitment to humanitarian causes, and he has written (and rewritten) history while bringing Latin music front and center on the world stage.
If 2022 belonged to anyone in music, it was undoubtedly Beyoncé. After hearing the cries from fans for new music, Queen Bey dropped her long-awaited seventh studio album, Renaissance. Filled with upbeat anthems and bops that have a permanent spot on everyone’s playlist, it’s even more confirmed the “Cuff It” singer not only has a fierce grip on the music industry, but also personifies evolution as an artist. Set to go on a worldwide tour to promote the album in 2023, let’s hope Ticketmaster is far kinder to her fans than they were to those of other artists.
Longtime Walt Disney Company exec Bob Iger made a surprise return to the House of Mouse last month after two years away. Iger was serving as the president and COO of ABC Television in 1996 when Disney acquired the network; he has since led the House of Mouse through a momentous growth period over the last three decades that includes the acquisitions of Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm. It’s clear to see why Disney wanted the top biz leader back for another go.
In between designing namesake collections with Adidas, providing desk commentary for TNT, checking in on her investment with NWSL club Angel City FC, and producing documentary films with ESPN, Candace Parker still finds the time to stack All-Star and All-WNBA nods atop her already-legendary pile of accolades. And did your hometown ever name a day after you?
Diddy is a perennial powerhouse. This past year, he founded LOVE Records, for which he announced a one-album recording deal with Motown. He also expanded his empire into the cannabis industry, building the largest black-owned cannabis company in the US. But most importantly, he’s the one person on this list who could get the other 49 in a room, no questions asked.
Don’t confuse leveling up with falling off; we’re 16 years into Drake’s career and it’s still very much Aubrey Season. Spotify’s cash cow despite milking money from Apple and Sirius along the way, Drizzy drives the conversation around modern music, yet is always agile enough to switch lanes. Possessing the power to sell out stadiums worldwide while feeling at home in arenas of sports, entertainment, and fashion, don’t get it twisted, The Boy is still very much The Man.
Dua Lipa stands at the forefront of a resurgence in pop music. After breaking onto the scene with a steady set of bangers, the British singer has attracted collabs with everyone from Elton John to Miley Cyrus and secured membership to the highly coveted Spotify “Billions Club.” Meanwhile, she’s fronting campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Yves Saint Laurent, Puma, and Evian.
A main attraction in four different decades, Dwayne Johnson is truly bipartisan in both overall cultural popularity and box office appeal. He’s a sky-high ratings driver in the age of streaming, but is no less loved in plenty of other arenas. Calling plays from the corner office, Johnson co-owns the entire XFL while most on this list simply dream of buying a sports team.
Entrepreneur and internet mogul Gary Vaynerchuk is known for many things, namely co-founder of the restaurant reservation app Resy, a wine critic behind his family’s wine biz, author, and more recently, a digital marketing king who hand designed the VeeFriends NFT collection. Vaynerchuk is known for his bold internet predictions and strong community on social media. It may be too soon to call him the new Godfather of the internet, but Vaynerchuk is well on his way to earning that title.
Without a doubt one of Hollywood’s most in-demand writers, Issa Rae signed a five-year, eight-figure deal with WarnerMedia back in 2021 that has seen her continue to deliver hits. After the conclusion of her critically acclaimed HBO series Insecure, Rae’s new show, Rap Sh!t, launched earlier this year to positive reviews, earning renewal for a second season in September. Rae’s impact on her community and her efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in Hollywood are substantial, and looking ahead, the Hoorae Media head honcho will appear in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse next year as the voice of Spider-Woman.
Even though no solo project came from J. Cole this year, the Fayetteville, North Carolina native’s impact on culture was felt. Cole dished the Dreamville rock around more than he scored it as he oversaw six releases from his signees in 2022. In April, he and his label hosted the second Dreamville Festival and brought $6.7 million in economic impact to the city of Raleigh, doubling revenues from its 2019 inaugural event. We additionally witnessed the release of special edition Dreamer basketball jerseys in a collaboration with Mitchell & Ness, while Cole also became the first recording artist ever to be featured on the cover of NBA 2K.
PUMA private jets and the stock price of Caesars both rise when Jay-Z jumps on board. In his lifetime, the self-made mogul has made both billions and billionaires, having a hand in the success of sports, entertainment, and fashion’s most massive figures. When it comes to elevating industries and individuals to spaces no one else could envision, Hov did –- and he still does.
Less an entertainer and more a force of nature, Bieber’s gravity transcends industries. In between dates on his Justice World Tour, he continued to make moves as a product pitchman (Vespa, anyone?), Web3 startup investor, and, yes, a clean water tech entrepreneur. Looking ahead, his documentary film Justin Bieber: Our World is up for a 2023 Grammy in the Best Music Film category against fellow aces like Adele and Billie Eilish.
Kendrick Lamar’s return to the public eye was as bright as everyone expected it to be. Dawning a $3 million diamond-encrusted Tiffany & Co. crown, Kung Fu Kenny’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers had the second-highest first-week sales for a rap album of 2022. Lamar’s latest effort saw all 18 songs debut on the Billboard Hot 100 list. Following the release, the rapper went on a worldwide stadium tour while securing deals with Converse and CashApp for his newly launched company, pgLang. Lamar’s fourth album, DAMN., fully entrenched him as a superstar in music, but Mr. Morale proves that even with a five-year absence, he has not lost any luster. To kick off 2023, Lamar will have the chance to further cement his legacy at the Grammys, where he is nominated in eight categories.
Kim Kardashian and her KarJenner clan changed the reality television game forever, but that was only the beginning for the mega-mogul. The reality star, actress, and entrepreneur built a billion-dollar empire with her shapewear empire SKIMS and launched a private equity firm to continue building an already abundant portfolio. In her downtime, she’s committed herself to advocate for prisoners who have been wrongfully convicted.
Webster’s Dictionary is yet to add the term ‘girl boss’ to its online platform, though a selfie of Kylie Jenner should be added to the page once they do. A self-made billionaire since she was old enough to order a drink, the now 25-year-old Kylie Skin and Kylie Cosmetics founder is calling the shots in beauty, media, and more. Move over, Merriam, it’s Jacques Webster’s leading lady who’s truly defining success.
LeBron James breaks banks, ankles, and outrageous expectations. A billionaire before 40, the four-time champ is catching wins every place he plays, making moves that touch TV screens across America and football clubs in England. The last two decades have seen LeBron and his main man Randy Mims empower players and educate Akron’s youth; the next two decades may be even more massive.
It may have been a down year on the track, but the seven-time F1 world champ possesses the rarest kind of global appeal. Routinely among the sports world’s highest earners, he’s so prolific that he had to turn down a role in Top Gun: Maverick. Hamilton’s investments run the gamut from electric car racing to restaurants to fashion, and he’s synonymous with luxury brands like Mercedes, Tommy Hilfiger, and IWC watches.
One could argue the release of Lil Baby’s sophomore album It’s Only Me was not the peak of his 2022. The album sold 216K in its first week, topping the 197K mark set by his debut, My Turn, in 2020. Leading up to the project’s debut, Baby released his critically acclaimed documentary Untrapped on Prime Video. Outside of the album, the rapper racked up chart-topping hits with DJ Khaled, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. Music also took Baby to new waters, as he had the honor of creating the theme song of the FIFA World Cup, “The World is Yours to Take,” which he performed in Qatar. In business, Baby invested in Mitchell & Ness while dropping a collaboration jersey.
The Beautiful Game’s GOAT continues to innovate and dazzle on the pitch for Paris Saint-German — and maybe in MLS or back at Barcelona in his future — and is breaking new ground off it with a holding company that will invest in sports, media, and technology. He’ll add to what is an already-impressive resume if he’s able to secure a World Cup title in Qatar for Argentina.
Just this year, Lizzo hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live, dropped her fourth studio album Special, launched her shapewear brand Yitty, and wrapped up the North American leg of her worldwide tour. We’re exhausted just reading that. In addition, the singer used her platform to uplift body positivity and inclusivity and empower Black women and people of color, only reaffirming she’s more than just a pop star and classically-trained flautist. Lizzo took 2022 head on and for that, deserves all the accolades and more. Did we forget to mention that she nabbed three Primetime Emmy Awards for her Amazon Prime show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls?
Around the time Hov released Roc La Familia, another Carter of no relation had dynasty dreams of his own. Yes, young Maverick proved everything his name suggests, getting busy as a college athlete while still keeping close to his brothers back in Akron. Led by loyalty, he soon shelved school to learn lessons with The Chosen One, climbing corporate America with the weight of the world on his back. All these years later, Mav’s managed to change the game without changing crews.
Few have dominated Formula 1 like Verstappen has, dethroning Lewis Hamilton in style for the last two drivers championships while leading Red Bull in ending Mercedes’ constructor’s reign. The 25-year-old begins a dynasty just as F1 is booming in popularity in the U.S. He earned $60 million this year in salary and bonuses and there’s a whole lot more coming on the endorsement side for the new face of racing.
*Siri, play Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares”*
The Philadelphia native has done much more than provide his city with its unofficial anthem. Meek has been a champion of criminal justice reform, which is demonstrated through the co-founding Reform Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to probation, parole, and sentencing reform in the United States. The recording artist recently provided a treat to area children caught in the criminal system with a day at the Eagles’ practice facility. While his music clearly has staying power, the work he’s doing off the mic could affect the lives of so many moving forward.
From the ESPYs to the Met Ball, Megan Rapinoe runs every red carpet with her daring signature style. As the clock winds down on her time on the pitch, the Presidential Medal of Freedom winner has built a robust book of business and advocacy wins that keep her at the head of the table in boardrooms around the country.
Megan Thee Stallion
The Hot Girl Coach took social media by storm in early 2018 when her freestyles started going viral. Megan Thee Stallion rode that wave by dropping her EP named after her alter ego Tina Snow, and nearly a year later, “Big Ole Freak” entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s been history for the Houston rapper since. In addition to officially graduating from acclaimed HBCU Texas Southern University while balancing her music career, Megan has inked partnerships with big names such as Popeyes, Nike, CapshApp, Netflix, and more.
Michael B. Jordan
When Michael B. Jordan walks into the room, people notice. In 2022, he partnered with Chase Sapphire Reserve to share stories and ways the brand can help with travel, dining, and experiences. Looking ahead, Jordan has a busy slate, and likely much more on the docket than the public even knows. One thing to keep an eye on: the third iteration of the Creed film franchise, which doubles as MBJ’s directorial debut. Throw that in with becoming a part owner of English soccer club AFC Bournemouth, and it’s safe to say Michael B. Jordan is keeping busy.
Everybody on this list wants to be like Mike, but few can hope to ascend to the level of His Airness. Jordan’s Jumpman logo is as visible as ever despite its namesake figure making moves on yachts and fairways. Even in his second life, MJ embodies the executive lifestyle most suits dream of while having a halo so bright he exists everywhere at once without being seen.
The Fanatics CEO sold his stake in both the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils in June, paving the way for him to immerse himself filly in his company’s fledgling sports betting venture. Fanatics, which will eventually operate under the moniker BetFanatics in the gambling industry, hopes to take wagering by storm. Rubin and Co. are well on their way, with their latest round of funding pushing Fanatics’ value to $31 billion. With that, Rubin’s personal fortune also increased to $11.3 billion, per Forbes.
Naomi Osaka has four Grand Slams and $60 million in 2022 earnings to her name. She’s also only 25. An author and an advocate, she’s not just an agent of change, but an agency in and of herself. At Evolve, the Gen Z icon is excelling at doubles by doing deals with co-founder Stuart Duguid, placing her at the apex of culture when it comes to tennis, investing, and fashion. Not only do the likes of LVMH adore Osaka, but longtime endorsement partners have transformed into investors as she continues to ascend.
The Kansas City Chiefs remain the most threatening team in football thanks to Patrick Mahomes. Currently a contender in this year’s NFL MVP race, Mahomes continues to set the standard for what makes an elite QB. In addition to welcoming a baby boy in November, Mahomes also became a shareholder in American State Bank, joined the Fortnite Icon Series, and continued to set NFL records left and right.
Quinta Brunson is pushing back against the notion that streaming has rendered network television obsolete. Based on her mother’s time as an educator, the wickedly funny Abbott Elementary serves as a reminder that original thought in television still exists. The program’s inaugural season garnered Emmy nominations for most of the cast regulars and wins for Sheryl Lee Ralph for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and Brunson herself for Outstanding Writing For a Comedy Series.
Sure, he’s one of the most powerful agents in the business, representing 16-year-old kids and 37-year-old kings alike, and his Klutch Sports empire wields head-turning influence on teams and across leagues. But perhaps the greatest proof of Rich Paul’s uncommon accomplishments is the fact that he’s only 40 and already writing a memoir. (We’re crossing our fingers about getting a copy adorned with the mogul’s signature.)
A baby boy, new music, and a fashion and beauty empire that keeps growing? Rihanna had quite a productive 2022. To make things even better, she picked up Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for “Lift Me Up,” the lead single from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever dedicated to the legacy of the late actor Chadwick Boseman. At the moment, she’s probably deep in planning February’s Super Bowl halftime show. If the rumors of a stadium tour and ninth studio album are true, we can go ahead and claim 2023 as Rih’s for the taking.
While one of the greatest ever to play officially called it quits this year, Roger Federer‘s impact on the sport knows no limits. His unflappably suave, cool disposition will never go out of style, and we’re excited to see how he’ll impact tennis in his next chapter. His ascension to billionaire status was fueled by a wide range of business deals that are as locked in as his drop shot.
From the big screen to the pitch, Ryan Reynolds has expanded his book of business far beyond his iconic filmography. With a soccer club to his name and now setting his sights set on adding NHL owner status to his résumé, there’s no telling what else may be in his entrepreneurial vision.
After a career spanning two decades and encompassing 23 Grand Slams, four Olympic medals, and countless other accolades, Serena Williams signaled she was close to calling it a career in 2022. Though her competitive spirit and head-turning outfits will be missed on the court, she’s proven there’s much more to life than tennis. Her VC fund Serena Ventures, ownership in NWSL franchise Angel City FC, and plenty of other endeavors have kept her busy — not to mention raising five-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
Though we’re all reeling from Snoop Dogg’s decision to remove Death Row’s catalog from streaming platforms earlier this year, it’ll still be exciting to see what comes of the restructured record label led by the LBC legend. Snoop’s accomplishments speak for themselves and span far past musical accolades, but 15 platinum records — in particular Doggystyle, his debut album — are always worthy to note. More recently, Snoop’s successful foray into Web3 has been the talk of the industry.
If hip-hop is a young man’s game, then why is Steve Stoute still outpacing the pack? From marketing Nasty Nas to the masses to founding creative agency Translation, The Commissioner has ascended to CEO and never looked back. Being able to work a room and a product at 52, it’s still halftime where Stoute’s run is concerned.
Steph Curry added the last gem to his legacy gauntlet by winning the 2022 NBA Finals along with a Finals MVP trophy. Following the championship, Curry continued to rack up accomplishments as he signed a lifetime deal with Under Armour that is reportedly worth $1 billion. The Curry Brand has continued to expand under the Maryland-based company as Steph signed UConn women’s basketball star Azzi Fudd to a partnership NIL deal. In entertainment, Curry’s media company, Unanimous, released produced projects including About Last Night and Level Up, with many more coming down the pipeline next year.
Sue Bird may have retired from basketball in 2022, but the future Hall of Famer is far from done. The five-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time WNBA champion has been a relentless advocate for equality, in sports and in the real world, and has shown no sign of slowing down. This month, Bird and fiancée Megan Rapinoe launched A Touch More, a production company aimed to elevate those who “move culture forward.”
A five-year absence only made SZA’s walk into superstardom grander. The release of SZA’s sophomore album SOS saw her take over charts all across streaming services. She surpassed one billion streams worldwide in less than a week, charted all 23 songs from the album, and currently has the number one song on the Global Spotify chart (“Kill Bill”). Already boasting a deal with Crocs, it is highly likely that SZA will have more endorsement money coming her way year. But for now, she will kick off her tour in Columbus, Ohio in February.
In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first Masters. 25 years later, he became a billionaire. Tiger’s playing peak may be behind him, but his earning potential is far from finished. Still standing as golf’s single biggest figure, the forever favorite is invested in the lucrative sport, most recently by joining forces with Rory McIlroy on tech-driven venture TMRW Sports. The most influential figure that golf has ever seen, Tiger has now set his sights on becoming a beacon of business.
It might not be possible for Tom Brady to accomplish more off the field than he has on it, but the ageless superstar is giving it a shot. In 2022 alone, he made waves in apparel with BRADY Brand, in NFTs with the Autograph platform he co-founded, in Major League Pickleball as a franchise owner, and even in golf as a backer of the Golf+ VR company. Oh, and he has a $375 million payday waiting for him whenever he retires (provided he doesn’t unretire) with his upcoming Fox Sports deal.
No artist packs more heat or intrigue than Travis Scott. A “year off” for La Flame only enhanced the narrative as he embraced his ascent as a director while preparing Utopia, his fourth studio album set for 2023. He’s a go-to guy for everyone from Future to Pharrell to Michael Jordan, possessing the ability to shut down SNKRS or Rolling Loud at the drop of a dime.
The Weeknd’s global appeal and popularity are undeniable. The “Blinding Lights” singer was 2022’s highest-grossing Black touring artist, as reported by Billboard. He was Spotify’s No. 2 artist globally behind only Taylor Swift this year, as well as the fourth-most-streamed artist in the world. Alongside Wassim “Sal” Slaiby and Cash XO, he’s started the XO record label that’s raising up a new generation of talent. The self-proclaimed “Starboy” is able to turn heads in any room, and anything he touches seems to turn to gold — or Platinum, for that matter.
Whether he’s building his record label or curating one of his famed LA events, Zack Bia is a natural born connector. The 26-year-old has become a cornerstone of the LA social scene and assembled a rolodex that reads as a who’s-who of pop culture, music, and more. His influence is undeniable, but oftentimes invisible, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
If Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list ever named an all-time MVP, it’s gotta be Zendaya. The 26-year-old entertainment mogul has been steadily rising to the top since her days at Disney, most notably as an actor and executive producer on Euphoria, which crowned her as the youngest-ever Primetime Emmy winner for Best Actress in a Drama Series, and in putting a new twist on “MJ” in Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise. Zendaya’s legacy is more than her on-screen roles, however — she’s invested in socially resonant causes and secured partnerships and endorsements with big brands like, Valentino, CoverGirl, Beats by Dre, Dolce & Gabbana, and Tommy Hilfiger.