With the NBA finals currently underway, a much-anticipated rematch between the Lebron James led Cleveland Cavaliers and the record-breaking Golden State Warriors, the sports world seems to be on everyone’s daily conversation agenda. Especially recently, the NBA has been taking fire from viewers over the perceived incompetence of NBA officials during games. Granted, the hate always seems to stem from the losing team, although it’s still of note how so many people genuinely believe that the NBA is, at least to an extent, rigged.
One of the most common accusations that the NBA faces, is that NBA officials are told (and presumably paid) to sway the outcome of a game. Sometimes, it’s said that this because a win for the more popular team will boost ratings for the game. Other times, people claim that the NBA deliberately tries to extend the length of a seven game series as much as possible, so as to be able to make more money from the series. Considering how much athletes are paid, it’s easy to see why some may believe this to be the case. Extending beyond just basketball, these organizations make a lot of money, thus being able to pay their athletes quite a considerable amount as well. Treating these sports leagues as businesses, the athletes essentially drive viewership, thereby being a key money-making factor for the organizations themselves.
However, not all sports quite share the same level of audience attraction. Thus, and while other factors certainly come into play, it makes sense that some athletes for some sports are paid more than others. With that being said, here are the Top 5 Highest Paying Sports.
5 – American Football
To begin the list is American Football and its most popular parent organization, the National Football League (NFL). In the United States, American Football viewership statistics are some to certainly be desired, definitely showcasing the popularity of the sport. For example, the top 12 shows of the Fall 2012 season, according to ratings and viewership statistics, were all games put on by the NFL. The average viewership of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Sunday Night Football alone is at a whopping 23.7 million viewers. To put this into perspective, NBC’s hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory achieved an average viewership of 19.96 million at its peak. This isn’t even taking into account pro football’s largest event of the year, the Superbowl, which breaks viewership records year after year. In fact, millions around the world tune in simply to watch the event specific commercials, and the extravagant halftime shows, featuring the most popular entertainers. With the kind of following American Football has, it’s no wonder why their athletes are said to be paid an average salary of $1.9 million.
4 – Golf
This list is in many ways difficult to construct. When comparing how much each sport pays, its important to remember that each sport, and it’s given parent organizations, all operate differently. Golf is one of the sports that exemplifies this perfectly, as how much money a player makes is largely dependent on which and how many tournaments he or she may win. This system differs from American Football, for example, as NFL teams are guaranteed to play a certain number of games throughout the regular season, how much a given player may earn isn’t technically on a per-win basis. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) tour golfers end up earning millions of dollars. Famed golfer Tiger Woods, for example, holds the record for being the highest-paid athlete on the annual Forbes list eleven times. On the current 2016 PGA tour money list, all of the top 23 golfers have earned more than $2 million so far, with Jason Day being at the top of the list with roughly $5.6 million in earnings.
3 – Auto Racing
Once again on the list is a sport that pays on a per-win basis, Auto Racing. It’s no secret that this sport in particular is one of high risk. Even in daily life, many are scared to ever get into a car accident, even considering that the average speed one travels in their car on a typically day isn’t really that high. For race car drivers however, the stakes are much higher. Driving at hundreds of miles per hour, the slightest mishandle of the vehicle could mean certain death not only for the diver himself, but also for the drivers he may be competing against. With that being said, the risks of the sport are offset by the amount of prize money that comes with winning a headlined race. In 2013 for example, team Red Bull finished in 1st place, earning a total of $101.5 million for the season. Even the team who finished 8th, Toro Rosso, walked away from the season having pocketed a total of $56 million.
2 – Boxing
Once again offsetting the sport’s danger, this time the risk being potentially beating your opponent to death, boxing likewise has a reputation for paying its athletes large sums of money. Sometimes, even the loser of the fight walks away with more money than the average athlete in one of this list’s prior entries. While earning money from winning or losing fights directly, the boxers also receive money from pay-per-view earnings, which typically fluctuate with how high-profile the fighters are. Perhaps the most notorious example in the sport, would be Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr, who recently retired with a perfect 49 – 0 record throughout his career. In 2015, Floyd finished on top of Forbes’s annual list of highest paid athletes. Throughout his career, Floyd has accumulated of $700 million in earnings, and he continues to make millions even now that he’s retired. Whether you like him or not, Floyd Mayweather Jr. perfectly shows why Boxing finishes second on this list of highest paying sports.
1 – Basketball
For NBA players, ball is life, and life is good. With an average salary of just over $4 million, basketball players earn big bucks to try to lead their team to a championship. Because of the worldwide appeal of basketball, and the NBA’s international viewership basis, NBA players also make more money simply based on their star power. This is to say, that a player doesn’t necessarily have to be on a winning team to make a lot of money. Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, for example, ranks third on the list of NBA players with the highest salaries, earning just under $23 million throughout the 2015 – 2018 NBA season. This paycheck largely comes from the fact that New York is a large market city, and Carmelo is the team’s primary superstar. The amount of money he makes seems to be unaffected by the fact that the Knicks finished with the third worst regular season record in the Eastern Conference. Stephen Curry, who has won the NBA league’s Most Valuable Player award in back to back seasons (as well as being the first player to ever win the award unanimously), plays for the Golden State Warriors, a team that just broke the NBA’s all time record for won regular season games. Regardless of his MVP awards, or the fact that his team has won more games than any other, Steph gets paid less than half of what Carmelo makes in terms of salary. Mind you, none of this has even mentioned what these players take home from endorsements. Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is also has the second highest salary, just signed a billion dollar deal with shoe company Nike. With these examples alone, it’s clear to see why basketball tops this list of highest paying sports.
These athletes make a lot of money, some people would say a bit too much. Just remember though, that these athletes aren’t just paid considerable amounts of money to play a game. It takes a particularly large amount of hard work and dedication to be able to play a sport at the highest level. Even genetics play a role, meaning that some people may or may not have what it takes to be a professional athlete from the moment they’re born. Even so, it’s the athletes that transcend this kind of mentality that often become some of the best of all time. The point is, there are very few people in the world who are ever going to be qualified to do what these athletes do at their level, and considering how much entertainment they bring to fans all over the world, maybe they do deserve to be paid handsomely.