Highest Paid Athlete

March 24, 2012 by staff 

Highest Paid Athlete, From 24/7 Wall St.: On March 8th, Peyton Manning is set to make $28 million from the Indianapolis Colts, the highest amount ever paid to an NFL athlete, despite missing all of last year due to injury. It will also put him in the rarefied group of star athletes who make more than ten times the average salary in their sport, according to 24/7 Wall St’s independentanlysis.

Top athletes are now paid more than ever before. In fact, even when adjusting for inflation, older salaries fail to compare to current ones. As a result, nearly all of of the highest-paid athletes in current dollars are playing or have retired in the last decade.

Still, even in earlier times – when sports teams made far less money – they paid the best players much more than others. A better way to look at athletes’ pay requires examination of all salaries since modern professional sports began. By comparing the salaries of the top-paid athletes from each era with the average salary of the sport at that time, the highest-paid players of all time can be counted. Based on ananlysis of the highest salaries in the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL in the last century, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the top-paid athletes that made at least ten times the average player’s salary when they played.

When looking at the highest salaries of all time based on current dollars, the lists are dominated by players from the last decade. Of the highest single-season salaries in baseball, the top 100 paid players are all from the last twelve years. It is no different in the other major sports. Even when adjusting for inflation, current salaries are much higher than those paid to elite players in the past.

Babe Ruth, who was paid $80,000 in 1930 by the New York Yankees, would make just over $1 million in 2010 dollars. However, he was paid over ten times the average salary of other baseball players during the 1930 season. By contrast, while Kobe Bryant is currently the highest-paid player in the NBA with a salary of $25 million, he makes less than five times the league average, and barely makes the top 10 for the NBA using our metric.

The phenomenon of massive salaries is driven by over-spending in the professional sports with limited or non-existent salary caps – frequently fueled by only a few teams. Baseball, which has no salary cap, has more highly-paid players than any other sport.

In 2000, Kevin Brown was the highest-paid baseball player of all-time, with a salary of $15.7 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The following year, Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers worth $252 million, which paid him $22 million during the 2001 season. Rodriguez became the highest-paid player again in 2009, when he signed a new contract with the New York Yankees that paid him $33 million that year – an increase of 50 percent in less than a decade.

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