It’s no big secret that sudden access to wealth often leads to the path of excess. While this essentially applies to the whole of humanity, professional athletes possess certain traits that lead an absurd degree of excess, as the combination of youth and hyper-competitiveness can result in wild and seemingly thoughtless spending. While just about every athlete in a pro locker room can boast about having a garage filled with expensive sports cars and luxury SUVs, only the wealthiest of the wealthy can truly afford a private jet of their own.
As a symbol of wealth, ownership of a private jet is one of the few items that can create separation among the multimillionaires that make up a professional sports team. The costs associated with a private jet are astronomical, as a jet racks up massive fuel costs, requires costly hangar space and needs frequent maintenance -- not to mention the cost of hiring a pilot and flight crew for each and every flight. Even the most indiscriminately spending pro athletes know that buying a private plane is one of the quickest ways to burn through what seems like a limitless supply of cash.
Despite the high cost of ownership, there are indeed many athletes who still believe they can easily afford a private jet and see the convenience a jet offers as well worth the cost. Athletes have to travel often and do feel the need to ensure that their bodies are not adversely affected by the rigors of frequent flying. A private jet also ensures that they will be able to enjoy privacy beyond that offered by even first-class travel, and given the high-profile status of many athletes, privacy alone may make the cost more than worth it. Whether necessary or not, the 15 athletes on this list all own private jets that are expensive, luxurious and undeniably impressive as a means of transportation.
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The young Brazilian footballer spent a reported $10 million on his private jet, which he has used for a variety of purposes beyond just traveling to and from his football-related responsibilities. After having his Copa America tournament cut short due to a headbutt, Neymar took advantage of a little downtime by taking his private plane to Vegas before heading to Japan for sponsorship commitments. The impetus of his purchase may not have been a matter of practicality, however, as Neymar made headlines when he sent a private plane to pick up Soraya Vucelic, a Serbian model who met Neymar in Ibiza in the summer of 2014.
14 David Beckham
As one of the most marketable footballers in the world, it should come as little surprise that Beckham has a private plane at his disposal. Beckham’s Learjet was initially purchased to ease his frequent travel between his overseas playing commitments and his US-based family, but most recently his jet was in the news because he used it to fly players and parents from his young son’s team to a tournament in Germany.
13 Magic Johnson
Johnson owns a Gulfstream G-III that has been at the center of some of his biggest business deals. Johnson reportedly sold his five percent stake in the Lakers while traveling on the jet, and he also used it to fly Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from Boston to Los Angeles when the Dodgers traded for the triumvirate in August of 2012 (Carl Crawford was also included in the trade, but was on the DL at the time and not on the flight). Johnson’s call sign, N32MJ, makes reference to the Hall of Famer’s initials and his jersey number, but unlike Michael Jordan (who also appears on this list), there is no nod to his five NBA titles.
12 Tracy McGrady
You might think that a business manager would advise against buying a private jet, but McGrady’s manager actually supported the purchase of the Falcon 2000 T-Mac bought back in 2005. Gustavson Bass, McGrady’s business manager, said as much to Sports Illustrated at the time, saying, "We're actually saving money by having this plane. With the depreciation schedule and being able to lease it out, this will pay for itself." To make the jet look just right, he had T1 MAC painted along the side of it.
11 Sergio Garcia
One of the best golfers to never win a major championship, Garcia’s career earnings have nonetheless enabled him to buy a private jet to fly him from tournament to tournament in style and comfort. Garcia’s Hawker 850 provides a spacious cabin suitable for up to eight passengers and can cruise at a top speed of nearly 450 knots. A well-traveled golfer, Garcia views his private jet as a practical means of transportation that keeps him well rested for competition.
10 Alex Rodriguez
Though Rodriguez’s private jet is not emblazoned with “King A-Rod” as a recent photoshopped image led many to believe, the New York Yankee does indeed make frequent use of his Gulfstream, often using it to fly to Las Vegas, Miami, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Key West and numerous other locations. A-Rod’s plane once skidded off a runway while landing in Burbank, California in 2006, but that incident has not shaken the slugger’s faith in traveling via his 22-seat private jet.
9 Tiger Woods
Woods’ golf career and endorsement deals may not be as lucrative as they once were, but the 14-time major tournament winner still travels in a jet that reflects the career exploits of one of the greatest golfers to ever walk the links. In addition to several expansive properties and a pair of luxurious yachts, Woods is also the owner of a Gulfstream G550, a jet that is the longest-range business jet available.
8 Michael Schumacher
The career leader in Formula One wins with 91 in total, Schumacher’s net worth approaches $800 million, and he spent some of those career earnings on a Falcon 200 private jet. The Falcon 200 seats nine passengers and tops out around 460 knots while boasting luxury accommodations that include a full galley. The jet cost Schumacher approximately $22 million, which is somehow more expensive than the $7 million man-made island that was given to the driver as a retirement gift from the crown prince of Dubai.
7 Arnold Schwarzenegger
The seven-time Mr. Olympia and action movie star is the owner of a $38-million Gulfstream III, which he once used to commute from his home in Los Angeles to Sacramento, the state capitol where Schwarzenegger served as the Governor of California. In 2007 alone, Schwarzenegger was reported to have spent a huge chuck of his campaign contributions just on travel, despite not even actively campaigning at the time. The astronomical figure does not even include his regular private jet commute, which Schwarzenegger paid for out of pocket.
6 Tom Brady
Tom Brady’s private jet is actually owned by his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who bought a Gulfstream G550 in 2008 and planned to take delivery of the jet in 2010. It’s possible that Gisele let her husband borrow the jet recently when the Patriots quarterback flew to both the Kentucky Derby and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in the same day with a group of Patriots teammates that included Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Given the rowdy reputation of Brady’s travel companions, it’s probably a safe bet that it was a chartered jet and not Gisele’s.
5 Kobe Bryant
Bryant makes the list not because he owns a private jet, but rather because he owns a helicopter that he uses to travel to home games. With three homes in Orange County, his commute could indeed be lengthy if he chose to drive, especially when factoring in the potential for heavy traffic in Los Angeles. Using his exorbitant wealth on a helicopter to avoid what could be hours sitting in traffic actually makes some sense.
Of course, most would just move closer to their place of employment rather than buy a helicopter to commute, but what fun would a fourth house or an LA apartment be for one of the highest-paid players in the NBA? Besides, owning a helicopter allows Kobe to prove he is a thoughtful and caring teammate by lending it out when a teammate needs a ride, like when he let Steve Blake take the helicopter to get to a doctor’s appointment.
4 Mark Cuban
Cuban is the only non-athlete to make the list, but the owner of the Mavericks’ private plane is so lavish that it warrants inclusion. Cuban’s Gulfstream V was bought for $41 million (via the Internet -- it is believed to be the largest purchase made online) and is outfitted with 12 screens that get DirecTV, a service the Mavs’ owner paid $500,000 to have included. It has heating pads in the floor, 24-carat gold plating throughout and makes extensive use of rare Etimo Tiger wood imported from the Ivory Coast. Cuban once used his private jet to get his players to a game in Boston when the team’s charter was grounded due to snow, allowing them to get a taste of what it is like to have a net worth of $2.6 billion.
3 Phil Mickelson
As one of the best golfers of his generation, it is no surprise that Mickelson’s career earnings and endorsement deals have allowed him to live a life of luxury that includes a spacious estate in Rancho Santa Fe, California worth over $7 million. Like many other golfers, Mickelson’s demanding PGA Tour schedule led him to buy a Gulfstream jet worth $60 million that is equipped with a pair of Rolls Royce engines. Up to 14 passengers can enjoy Internet access, TV and media players while traveling on Mickelson’s private jet.
2 Michael Jordan
There would be no mistaking Michael Jordan’s jet as belonging to anyone else, as the Gulfstream IV features a Carolina Blue color scheme that includes the iconic “Jumpman” logo on the tail. The jet’s call sign, N236MJ, features Jordan’s initials, his uniform number and the number of NBA titles he won as a player. The customized jet can reach a speed over 500 knots and is powered by dual Rolls Royce engines.
1 Floyd Mayweather
When your self-applied nickname is “Money” and you bill yourself as the head of an entourage known as “The Money Team,” it is not too hard to figure out what motivates you. As one of the wealthiest athletes in professional sports, Mayweather is not shy about showing off the spoils of his boxing success, which includes two private jets worth an estimated $40 million each. The Gulfstream IV is reserved for his sizable entourage and the Gulfstream V is used by Mayweather as he travels from his homes in Miami and Las Vegas.
In at least one instance, Mayweather attempted to convince his pilot to use the private jet to race Ricky Hatton from Michigan to New York. The exchange was overheard on the radio by Hatton’s pilot, who called the fighter over to have a listen. According to Hatton in an excerpt from his book, the exchange went like this:
“'Hey Ricky, listen to this idiot.'
He turns on the speaker and over the radio I hear Floyd arguing with the pilot in his plane behind: ‘I’m not letting that motherf— get there before me, f—ing overtake them!’
‘We can’t do that, Sir’
‘Overtake the motherf— — I’m the champ. I got to get to New York first. I’ll pay whatever you want.’
‘Sir, we can’t. We’re 30,000 ft in the air. We’ll lose our jobs.’”
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