Money or Rings? A decision every athlete has a to make once contracts are finalized in the professional sports world.
Most fans believe the guys who compete in sports for a living are far overpaid, but those same dudes are the ones that give us a reason to grill up on the weekend and watch a show. The leagues they play for make billions of dollars so if anyone is getting overpaid it's the guys in charge.
From the Premier League to the Association to the NFL to The Show, teams are filled with one of two types of players. One that wants to cash in on the pay day and one that wants to win the championship. Sometimes you get a mix of both. The spectrum is broad, whether it's an absolute grinder who leaves it all on the floor like a Kevin Garnett, to the man at No. 1 on our list who publicly states that he plays for the money. More often than not it's pretty easy to know which type of person a player is.
Nonetheless, as immortal as they look, athletes are humans and have plenty of financial responsibility off the field to take care of, which makes sense as to why they want to maximize their brand.
But at what point do we as a sports community draw the line between the ethics of winning and the cash cows of athletics?
Find out how as we break down the top 15 athletes who are in it for the money.
15 Robinson Cano
A seven time All-Star, Home Run Derby champ, Gold Glove winner and 2009 World Series Champion, Cano is overqualified to be one of the highest paid athletes in sports.
In 2013 Cano signed a 10 year $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners that became tied for the fourth largest contract in league history. The deal raised his net worth considerably as well as a few eyebrows. And for good reason.
Cano left a Yankees team that was clearly aging but was in a much better position to make a run at some hardware rather than a Mariners squad that has yet to reach the playoffs since 2001. It was a clear attempt that Cano was playing the free agent market in his favor. A classic case of "show me the money and I’ll go wherever you want."
14 Allen Iverson
As one of the most controversial names in sports history, Allen Iverson was just as influential to the game of basketball. He led the way for little guys but his big spending led to little in his bank account.
It's nothing new to hear news of a high profile athlete go broke, yet it's more of a reason to assume that they were in it just for the dough. Iverson blew through over $200 million that he earned through contracts and endorsements over his 14 year career. After a few years away from game, Iverson found himself turning down small overseas contracts with hopes to cash in as an NBA free agent.
Once he ran into financial trouble it became obvious the dude was just in it for some moolah.
13 Josh Hamilton
The North Carolina native has had a career filled with as many ups and downs as 12-6 curveball. From his drug addiction days in the mid 2000s to his MVP season in 2010 there is no doubt Hamilton has been a great comeback story.
Following his MVP year, Hamilton earned his fourth and fifth nod as an All-Star in 2011 and 2012 before cashing in on a five-year $125 million free agent deal. Can you really blame an aging slugger who probably knows he doesn’t have many good years left before getting that last paycheck?
Rangers fans could as they had nothing but hard feelings for the guy who left them for more money. Hamilton eventually was traded back to Texas after a drug relapse and sub par production on the diamond.
12 Evander Holyfield
Similar to Iverson, Evander Holyfield became part of the list of athletes who had a Real Deal spending problem.
The former heavyweight champion boxed into his 40s and by the time he was dead broke, he made a comeback attempt at 51. There is no question he will go down as one of the greats, so why the comeback? It’s not like he didn’t leave every stone unturned, especially after multiple fights in his mid to late 40s. There must have been something else involved…. Oh! That’s right, the money!
In recent years there have been reports of him auctioning off his medals and fight gear to rekindle his bank account. Let’s just be thankful he didn’t accept anymore fights with unworthy opponents who could have sent Holyfield into a world of massive medical problems.
11 Albert Haynesworth
For a guy who was once a ferocious defensive end that would curb stomp opponents if they upset him, it's hard to believe he became known as one of the worst free agents signings… ever.
After signing a $100 million deal with the Redskins, which was at the time the biggest defensive contract in the game, Haynesworth quickly got the pre modonna rep around the team. He reportedly was constantly bickering with coaches and never saw eye-to-eye with teammates.
In a 2015 interview on the ‘The Greg Pogue and Big Joe Show’ Haynesworth admitted that he had lost love for the game once he left Tennessee for the nation’s capital. It may be a little hard to focus on the game when you got nine figures in your bank account.
10 Josh Norman
Probably one of the most recent examples of a money hungry athlete, Josh Norman had a very peculiar situation go down with his former Carolina Panthers team.
Norman had a breakout season in 2015 where he led the electric Carolina secondary to their first Super Bowl appearance since 2003. After a huge upset against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, more upsetting events followed in the offseason.
The Panthers, who refused to give Norman the non-exclusive franchise tag, basically told him we aren’t going to pay you as much as you think you are worth. Norman, infuriated, immediately wanted out and became a free agent signing with the Washington Redskins just days later.
On the surface it seemed like an idiotic move to give up your young All-Pro corner, yet without the relentless pass rush, Norman would have never excelled in the secondary. The Panthers took the high road and Norman went to the bank after signing a five-year $75 million contract making him one of the highest paid corners in the game.
Carolina will be back in the hunt for the Lombardi trophy come fall. As for Norman, good luck winning much in the league’s worst division, but props for getting monster money.
9 Ryan Howard
It’s really tough to watch athletes excel so quickly in the beginning of their careers only to see them fall off halfway through. For Ryan Howard, this was exactly the case.
Howard won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and then followed up with the NL MVP award in his sophomore season. As a three-time all-star and a World Series champion before the age of 30, it made sense at the time to deal the big guy some big money.
After a torn left achilles in the 2011 NLDS, it seemed to just go all down hill. That offseason Howard inked a five-year extension worth $125 million that may have been the worst investment in baseball history.
Since the deal, the first baseman has yet to see a season with more than a 100 RBIs and is nowhere near the threat he was once in the mid 2000’s. It doesn’t help that the Phillies have gone from champs to basement dwellers the past five years. At this point Howard is just collecting the paycheck.
8 Jay Cutler
Most football fans would agree that Jay Cutler is the most overpaid quarterback in the league. His post game interviews after terrible performances seem to come off in way that he flat out just doesn’t care. His monotone voice and expressionless face describe what the Bears have been able to do with him behind center; absolutely nothing.
In 2014 Cutler signed a seven-year $126.7 million that cuts into the hearts of every Bears fan. It’s only the third year of his contract and it's pretty clear that Chicago isn’t headed back to the Bowl anytime soon.
As for Cutler, maybe a little attitude change about winning could win over some of the fans. I mean, maybe act like you care.
7 Carmelo Anthony
As the NBA free agency fiasco starts to simmer, it looks like the New York Knicks have finally made some good moves to surround their superstar in an effort to bring back a title to NYC.
Carmelo Anthony has publicly stated that he wants to win a championship, as most athletes claim, but his actions say otherwise. Melo is the type of athlete who has taken full advantage of his success on the court to advance his brand globally. He is business oriented, as is his wife La La Anthony.
Nothing wrong with utilizing stardom to make money off the floor, but an athlete who has the burning passion to win a ring would have never signed with the 2014 Knicks. Although he did sign for less than the max, he took a $5 million paycut to give New York a chance to sign other key free agents, which they never did.
Melo was the game’s second leading scorer in 2013 on a putrid Knicks squad that was at the bottom of their rebuilding phase. Yet Anthony proved that he had plenty of prime years ahead. A tough decision to leave the biggest market in the country for a ring, but an easy choice to stay and collect plenty of money for the next half decade. Clearly he took the green-brick road.
6 Alex Rodriguez
Possibly one of the most hated athletes of all time, Alex Rodriguez is a fairly easy choice for this money hungry list, to say the least.
Despite the hatred and unprofessional approach to his PED use, Rodriguez was a stud when he came into the league and definitely did not disappoint when he arrived. After being drafted No. 1 overall in ‘93 by Seattle and winning Rookie of the Year his career looked more than promising.
He spent extremely productive years in Arlington with the Rangers before signing a 10-year $275 million deal with the New York Yankees. But to put the icing on the cake and to solidify his spot on this list, A-Rod has even more opportunities to make money with added incentives to his contract.
Rodriguez could potentially earn an extra $30 million on homerun milestones if he beats the all-time record of 755. It’s no wonder he has tried to make a difference in the lineup even passed the age of 40.
5 John Daly
This heavy hitting righty has always been about the money; from the greens on the course to the green tables in casinos.
John Daly has five PGA tour wins and in 1997 became the first golfer to average more than 300 yards per drive in a season. He might have some records in Vegas as well.
In his autobiography Daly stated that he gambled away between $50 and $60 million in career earnings. He mentioned that he blew through millions of dollars in just a few hours on slot machines in Sin City.
If a guy can’t control his gambling it’s very obvious they are about the money. Nonetheless he’s taken advantage of fame and created his own clothing line and even his own music. Not to mention he is still competing on the Tour at 50-years-old.
4 Latrell Sprewell
Although Latrell Sprewell had a consistent NBA career, he is known more as the guy who assaulted his coach.
In 1997 while playing with the golden State Warriors, Sprewell snapped and choked head coach P.J. Carlesimo. He returned to practice 20 minutes later. Just an addition to Sprewell’s rap sheet which features a reckless driving arrest and another verbal threat with a Warriors teammate involving a 2x4.
In 2005 after a stint with the Knicks, the Timberwolves offered him a three-year $21 million contract which he turned down because $7 million wasn’t enough to feed his family.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press quoted Sprewell saying, "Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I've got a lot at risk here. I've got my family to feed."
Despite his dark side off the court, the dude still got paid as Sprewell raked in over $100 million in his career. Unfortunately financial problems haunted his post playing days and reportedly is living very modest. Add in the fact that he publicly stated he cared only about money, and those four All-Star appearances dwindle faster than P.J. Carlesimo’s oxygen intake.
3 Terrell Owens
T.O. was always about the spotlight during his record making career. He was superstar on three different teams, finishing second all-time in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. Owens ranks sixth in all-time receiving which is makes him a front-runner for the Hall of Fame.
He wouldn’t be T.O. without his egotistical T.O. comments. Last July on the The Rich Eisen Show, Owens downplayed his selection to the Hall so much, you just have to wonder how true it is.
“I can’t wrap my head around that whole process because it really, literally, doesn’t mean that much to me. I understand what I’ve done on the field and it’s probably well deserving of [the Hall], but I’m being honest, it really doesn’t bother me whether I get in or not.”
T.O.’esque at its finest. “But me, personally, it really doesn’t do anything for me because I never played the game for that.” Well if that’s the case Mr. Owens, it must have been the money and fame, which are both long gone from your life.
2 Floyd "Money" Mayweather
The guy’s middle name is money. He’s all about the money. His goal is to make the most money. The only reason why he isn’t at No. 1 is because of his dedication to be the greatest at his sport. So he has the drive to succeed in the ring, but the driving factor are the Franklins.
As much as people hate on him, he knows how to cash in on a pay day. Mayweather is notorious for waiting for the prime super fight where the advantages are all in his favor to not only win, but make the greatest amount of money.
The guy by no means is the greatest fighter of all-time, but can take home the belt as the most effective bread winner.
1 Benoit Assou-Ekotto
This French soccer player tops our list at No. 1 for clear cut reasons but he may have a point.
In an interview with The Guardian, Assou-Ekotto states that football isn’t his passion and that he does it for a job.
"The president of my former club Lens, Gervais Martel, said I left because I got more money in England, that I didn't care about the shirt. I said: 'Is there one player in the world who signs for a club and says, Oh, I love your shirt?' Your shirt is red. I love it. He doesn't care. The first thing that you speak about is the money.”
You hit it right on the header Benoit. Got to give him props for being honest about his job and the cold-hard business of sports.
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