It’s common knowledge that athletes make a ton of money, and most make more in a single season than many of us will make in our lifetime. Every year it seems there is a record breaking free agent signing that dwarfs a previous contract we thought would never be topped. Just this past year we saw the largest figure ever, with MLB’s Giancarlo Stanton signing a 13-year $325 million dollar contract with the Miami Marlins. Quite a nice payday for the 25-year-old Stanton.
Sometimes it’s not all about the money for certain athletes. After signing huge contracts with fledgling franchises, we’ve seen some of the best players in their respective sports fail to win championships due to lack of a supporting cast around them. Charles Barkley, Dan Marino, and Karl Malone are still considered elite in their sports, but they all have one thing in common; no championship hardware. There seems to be a movement taking place the past few years, where veteran athletes who have already received that one big payday, are now opting to take severe pay-cuts in order to free up some money for the franchise to add better talent around them in hopes of making a run at a championship.
Maybe it’s not all about the money or championships either. Often times we see athletes take a pay cut to stay in a particular city they have grown accustomed to, or to be closer to home and not have to uproot and move across the country. The following list is a group of athletes who are definitely NOT in it for the money.
15 15. Jered Weaver
From the fresh-out-of-the-ocean hair to the laid back mentality, Jered Weaver is the epitome of a SoCal dude. The Los Angeles Angels didn’t hesitate drafting him in the first round of the 2004 MLB draft, despite the massive signing bonus his agent, the much maligned Scott Boras, was pushing for. Weaver quickly moved up through the minor leagues, and found himself pitching for the big-league squad in 2006.
14 14. Peyton Manning
13 13. David West
David West was a first round draft selection coming out of Xavier in 2003, being selected 18th overall by the (then) New Orleans Hornets. After two disappointing seasons, likely due to him getting acclimated to NBA style of play, West began to deliver on his first-round hype, and averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds in his 2005-06 season.
12 12. Jerome Bettis
11 11. Shaquille O’Neal
10 10. Pat Tillman
9 9. Dirk Nowitzki
8 8. Ilya Kovalchuk
7 7. Marian Hossa
6 6. Russell Wilson
5 5. LeBron James
In the summer of 2010, the biggest blockbuster was not at the box office, but rather in the NBA off-season when the Miami Heat made a huge splash in free agency. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James announced they were signing with the Heat, each on six year deals (with player opt out clause after the fourth year). The most stunning aspect of this mega-deal, is that each player took a pay cut in order to play alongside each other.
4 4. Tom Brady
3 3. John Tavares
John Tavares could have waited out his first contract, then gotten out of a bad situation in Long Island the first chance he got. Instead, Tavares signed a six-year, $33 million deal with the Islanders while their future was still in limbo. Tavares noted wanting to stay loyal to the team that drafted him first overall and to this day, Tavares remains one of the best bargains in the NHL. The Isles' captain's loyalty has started seeing rewards, with GM Garth Snow bringing in a multitude of talent and with the team's move to Brooklyn, it might be a more sought after destination.
2 2. Steph Curry
Consider this; the reigning NBA MVP, who just led his team to their first NBA title in 40 years, isn't even the highest paid player on his own team. Sure, Steph Curry isn't struggling by any means, as his $11 million salary is far more than many would ever make, but by NBA standards he's grossly underpaid. He has two seasons left on his current contract, where his pay will eventually exceed $12 million, but this is a player whose pay should easily be doubled, considering Joe Johnson is making $24 million.
1 1. Tim Duncan
It’s a tough task keeping an NBA dynasty together given the salary cap restrictions. With the amount of money a league-average player can make in free agency, the landscape of the league can greatly change at any given moment. There has been a bit of a trend the past five-or-so years, where we are seeing veteran players, who have already earned a hefty sum with previous contracts, take huge pay cuts in order to give their team flexibility to sign other talent around them.
All three of the Spurs trio (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) could have made it here, but we'll reserve the no.1 spot for The Big Fundamental. At some point throughout their decorated careers, have tested free agency and without a doubt received more money than they got from the Spurs. The sacrifice of cash allowed the Spurs to go all-in on LaMarcus Aldridge this offseason, whom they hope can lead them to another championship(s).
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