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Pro Athletes and Their Salaries


Athletes and their salaries are making the news often these days, reports that international soccer star David Beckham has signed a 5-year deal worth $250 million dollars (salary + endorsements) with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The 31-year-old will be earning about $1 million a week, the highest professional athlete salary for a soccer player. Even with that large income, he falls behind golfer Tiger Woods, who reportedly earned over $97 million in 2006 (according’s list of athlete salaries and incomes, putting him in first place of the top 10 highest paid athletes.

While that may seem outrageous, debates over pro athletes AND salaries are really not that new, as mentioned on Baseball great Babe Ruth reportedly earned a larger annual salary than President Hoover during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Ruth defended his $75,000 annual salary by replying, "Why not? I had a better year than (President Hoover) did." Athlete salary statistics were headlines in 1962 when Wilt Chamberlain shocked the NBA in 1962 by turning down an offer of $25,000, which was the more than highest-paid player at the time, Bob Cousey, who earned $22,500.

How do you and your salary compare to athletes and their salaries?  Play ball with our salary survey.

Sports Illustrated List of Athlete Salaries and Compensation

According to, the second highest paid on their list of athlete salaries and income is another golfer, Phil Mickelson who earned $5,971,710 in salary and winnings, and then took home another $40 million in endorsements, bringing his par up $45,971,710! At number 3 is Miami Heat basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who earned $20 million in salary and winnings, then sunk another $14 million in endorsements, to total $34 million. No numbers for residuals from his short-lived rap music career; perhaps that is best forgotten.

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At number 4 is O’Neal’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, whose salary, winnings and endorsements totaled $33,656,932. Carson Palmer, quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals signed a huge nine-year $119 million contract which included $24 million in up-front bonus money, scoring him the number 5 spot at $31,550,000 in total yearly compensation. Another basketball player, LeBron James, comes in at number six with $4,621,800 in salary and winnings, as well as $24 million in corporate endorsements, bringing the Cleveland Cavalier up to $28,621,800.

The last two seem fair: you would have to pay me >$25,000,000/year to live in Ohio too 🙂

More Athlete Salary Statistics

Baseball makes an appearance at number 7, with the New York Yankees Derek Jeter earning $21 million (winnings and salary) and $7 million in endorsements, bringing his ballpark booty up to $28 million. His Yankee teammate, Alex Rodriguez, comes in at number 8. He earned $21 million in salary (and winnings) and $6 million in endorsements, bringing his total to $27 million. Interestingly the Yankees entire payroll in 2006 was $196 million. That means Jeter and Rodriguez, together, earned about 25 percent of the entire payroll!

NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives in at number 9 with salary and winnings totaling $5,761,830. He made his big bucks in endorsements, revving up $20 million, giving him a grand total of $25,761,830. Bringing up the rear at number 10 is Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick with $18,400,000 in salary and winnings, and another $7 million in endorsements. His total compensation: $25,400,000. Vick will be scoring financial touchdowns for quite some time with a 10-year $130 million contract that he signed in 2004.

Professional Athletes High Salaries: International

Not mentioned in Sports Illustrated’s list of athlete salaries are international stars, but here are a few of note. According to, Russian-born tennis player Maria Sharapova tops female athlete salary statistics, earning “more than $20 million last year as a marketing engine for nine companies.” For playing tennis, the Wimbledon champ earned $1,493,923 in prize money. Because the female athlete only devotes 10-12 days to marketing, per year, she earns a staggering $1,357,144 per work day (Take that Don Imus!).

The 7-time world champion German race car driver Michael Schumacher earned a reported $80 million in 2006, and that’s only winning one race; the rest was endorsements. According to, he will reportedly earn more in retirement than the average income for pro athletes and Formula One drivers. Schumacher is predicted to earn $27 million in endorsements in 2007. However, his retirement income falls far below icon Muhammad Ali who licenses his name to advertisers for $55 million per year, according to Forbes.

Is your salary scoring? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Dr. Al Lee

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