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50 Athletes That Make More Money Than You

Jonah Freedman of recently released Sports Illustrated’s 4th annual Fortunate 50.  The list documents America’s top 50 money-making athletes for the past year (includes money made by actually playing the sport plus any off-the-field money…endorsements, appearances, etc.).  Jonah also released the International 20, which highlights the top 20 money grossing athletes in the world (excluding Americans).

Notes on The Fortunate 50:

  • Tiger Woods (#1 on the list) almost made twice as much as the 2nd highest earner, Oscar de la Hoya, who makes little from endorsement and appearance fees.  Car companies would rather have a golfer represent their products.
  • Michelle Wie is the only woman on the list (if you do not count Maria Sharapova, who is listed on the International 20).  She makes a lot of her money from endorsements.  Once again, we see that there are a lot of opportunities for golfers to make big money outside of the sport that they play.
  • It’s really a telling story for golf.  #3 on the list is Phil Mickelson.  Marketing experts should start flocking over to the golf arena this second.
  • 4th-7th are basketball players, and 8th (Derek Jeter) and 9th (Alex Rodriguez) are Yankees.  The big money seems to be in golf, basketball, and one baseball team (surprisingly the Yankees).

-Darren Heitner

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

4 replies on “50 Athletes That Make More Money Than You”

Just to go back to the soccer discussion, look at both lists, other than Becks and Ronaldinho (the best player in the world) the guys like Henry, Ronaldo, etc would be in the mid-20’s with the NBA, NASCAR, golf, NFL, MLB, etc guys.

The money is there, actually overseas, in soccer if you are a star.

Dale, Jr’s numbers are a bit misleading. I know last year’s list didn’t count the money he earned him his own race team, Jr Motorsports. I have a well placed source that is one of the premier marketing guys in NASCAR that said Dale, Jr’s contract with whichever team he decides to go with will guarantee him $30m a year. Probably $7m a year salary, 50% of winnings, and 33% of merchandise.

It is staggering that 74% of the list is comprised of basketball and baseball players (not to mention the two basketball players and the three baseball players in the International 20).

Some other things I noticed:
1) Expect Beckham’s total to skyrocket because of the deal he signed with the Galaxy, along with expected endorsements. He has the potential to shoot up to #1 on the International 20 (and top-five in the world) if he receives full-salary, endorsements, and bonuses, which are estimated to amount to somewhere around $50 million. It is unlikely he’ll gross this much, but there is always the possibility.

2) You’ll also notice LeBron James in #6 on the list, but what you might not notice is that he only brings in a mere $5.8 million in salary. The reason for this? He’s still constricted by his rookie contract. LeBron has already signed a 3-year extension worth about $60 million though. Expect LeBron to be in the top-3 in the very near future – while making a strong push for the #2 spot.

In the end though, apparently it’s Tiger’s world and we’re all just living in it.

It goes to show just how dominate Phil and Tiger are in the golf endorsement market. There seems to be a massive gap between them and the rest, with only Vijay making the International 20. It seems opportuinites are limited for second-tier golfers, such as Jim Furyk and Ernie Els. Considering Furyk made a little over $7 million last year from golf, he would not have got close to the big two in endorsements.

I can see Michelle Wie facing the same career as Anna Kournikova. She is currently the ‘It’ girl, but when the crowds dry up so will the appearance fees. Remember she is still yet to win a tournement.

Agree with Chris in that the golf endorsement market seems to be extremely top heavy, with all contracts and endorsements going to the select few on top. This represents a contrast with basketball, as fringe players who are not superstars, such as Damon Jones and Shane Battier have their own shoe based in China.

I would argue that Wie is different from Kournikova, as Kournikova’s buzz came from her attractive looks, and while Wie is not bad looking it is her age that is the selling factor as well as her driving length and desire to play on the men’s circuit. Her talent far supersedes Kournikova’s so she still has a chance to do something as far as winning tournaments goes.

Lastly, it appears non-nascar motor sports can be quite lucrative overseas.

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