As kids, most of us had wild dreams of one day playing our favorite sport for a living. Getting paid to play a game you love must be awesome. But for most of us those dreams fade away during high school or college. The odds against making it as a professional athlete are just astounding, so only the best of the best even have a shot at making a roster in the NFL, MLB, or NBA.
The odds of being one of the highest paid athletes is even more mind boggling. You are more likely to be eaten by a Great White Shark in the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly just after buying a winning lottery ticket. Forbes has just released the 2015 list so I want to break down the highlights on the new list of super rich guys and girls who get paid to play a game.
For a sport that is pretty much dead in the U.S., boxing holds not just the top sport on the Forbes highest paid athlete list, but also the number two position. Of course their “super (boring) fight” made Floyd Mayweather (#1) and Manny Pacquiao (#2) the top two athletes. Money May took in $285 million directly from his sport and another $15 million in endorsements. Pacquiao made about half of his rival, raking in $148 million from ring work and $12 million in endorsements. As they say in late night multi-level marketing infomercials, “these results are not typical.” The only other boxer to make the list was Wladimir Klitschko at #63. The heavyweight champ earned less than 10 percent of Mayweather’s total for the year!
We Americans sure do hate soccer. After all the NFL is real football right? That is my sentiment, but no NFLer is close to the two soccer guys who rank three and four on this Forbes list. Cristiano Ronaldo‘s total income is $79.6 million, while Lionel Messi eked out a living with $73.8 million for 2015. Each of these soccer dudes earned almost twice in endorsements what Peyton Manning earned for his off the field work, and Peyton is king in the NFL when it comes to endorsement money!
Being the face of tennis pays pretty well still. Roger Federer pulls in $67 mil a year, with $58 million coming in endorsements. Dude is selling a lot of tennis balls I guess?
LeBron James really made a big sacrifice going back to Cleveland for a discount deal. Hopefully the “king” can survive on his $64.8 million per year, earning him the number six spot. To be fair his endorsement deals equal more than double his salary. Kevin Durant is right behind James at number seven. The OKC star takes in over $54 million a year with much of his coming in the form of off the court work. NFLers take note. It’s hard to get these kind of endorsement deals when your face is covered with a helmet and mask. Best find other ways to stand out so that sponsors seek you out to throw more money your way. See Richard Sherman for more details.
Golfing pays really well, even when you start to suck. Tiger Woods (#9) made just $600K with what’s left of his golfing skill. He made up for it with car commercials and putting his name on other items for sale to the tune of $50 million. No athlete has made more money based on what he used to do. Phil Mickelson (#8) didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his course greatness either. He made $2.8 million on the golf course, with another $48 million coming from endorsements. Pay attention kids. Golf is super easy on the body and you can play until you have one foot in the grave. Be great for a couple of years and you have basically hit the lotto and will be able to coast the rest of your career just like Tiger.
Kobe Bryant came in at number ten on the Forbes list. Kobe still plays basketball?
Ben Roethlisberger is the top earning NFL player for the year with $48.9 million total income. Many people are fooled by these high profile NFL contracts. We often hear about $100 million deals, but the fine print leaves some of that money hanging in the balance at the end of a player’s career. Lose a step or fail to hit the deep pass on a regular basis and $100 million can look more like $75 million once you get cut with two years left on the deal.
Ndamukong Suh may not be the cleanest football player ever…OK he’s downright dirty. But it is nice to see a guy in the trenches make serious money. His new contract with Miami got him to #16 on the highest paid list. Suh makes nearly nothing from endorsements so he earns that $38.6 mil on the gridiron chasing QBs like a rabid dog.
Derrick Rose made it to the number 20 slot on the list even though he has been injured much of his career. The Bulls have paid this snake bitten guy a lot of money over the years. At least most people know who Rose is, as opposed to some guy names Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The fact that this cricket player is even on the top 100 list makes me wonder if the thing wasn’t all made up by Forbes just to be cute.
A soccer player with just one name made it to the #23 spot cashing checks for a total of $31 million dollars. I won’t bother mentioning his name since he must be world famous, what with one name and all. It’s nice to see Carmelo Anthony earning over $30 million dollars a year as he helps the Knicks embarrass themselves on a yearly basis.
Maria Sharapova is the top female athlete on the big money list. The beautiful tennis player understandably made most of her $29.7 million off the court. Nike and Avon (not door to door) help keep the lights on at the Sharapova homestead.
The NFL runs players off just before they start to be a shadow of their old selves. The NBA does just the opposite. They sign players to huge deals and have to keep paying them long after they begin to resemble a YMCA league player. Amar’e Stoudemire made the top 100 highest paid athlete list. Not only that, he is at #44! This guy is totally washed up and made more than the best NASCAR driver alive, Jimmie Johnson. Stoudemire also made more cash than Tony Romo and Drew Brees. I hope Russell Westbrook is sitting down when he runs across this list. Finding out he makes $5 million less than Stoudemire might send him into freakout mode.
The best quarterback in the NFL is all the way down at #95. The Packers are getting a good deal with Aaron Rodgers at just $11.6 mil per year. Rodgers does well with endorsements at $7.5 million, but certainly could pull in more than that. He should be at least at Peyton Manning level when it comes to sponsors. These NFL guys need to talk to agents for tennis and racing guys. They are missing a piece of the puzzle somewhere.
The Forbes list is a super interesting look at just where the big money truly resides in the world of sports. The NFL may be king in the USA, but the players are not paid on the same scale as other sports clearly. College players of any sport should brush up on their communication skills and take as many marketing classes as possible. Endorsements are an easy way to multiple their earnings that come directly from their sport of choice.
It’s not very likely your kid playing pee wee football or little league baseball will one day earn a living as an athlete. But on the off chance they are that fortunate, you might want to steer them in the direction of the easier riches that lie in the world of golf, baseball, basketball, or even tennis. If they love football, advise them to enjoy it from the stands instead of getting their head turned into a canoe on the field.