There are plenty of athletes who are worth the money. LeBron James brings championships and huge merchandise sales. Tom Brady is the face of the franchise and still leading his team to Super Bowl titles. Floyd Mayweather is a hype machine that sells millions of pay-per-views. These athletes make plenty, but it can definitely be argued that they are worth it to their teams and/or promotors.
Then there are the duds. The athletes who make millions of dollars and the average fan has no idea why. Maybe they had a big year in a contract season. Maybe their team was out of options at a certain position and overpaid due to a lack of choice. Maybe that big PR move completely fell apart when the player got old in a hurry.
These are the problem children that populate this list. The guys who are eating up salary cap space, setting their team back years, and presumably sitting in their ten bedroom mansions bathing in champagne and making it rain on a nightly basis.
As you will see with this list it is very easy to be overpaid no matter what sport you participate in. It is also worth noting that it is very difficult to be at the top end of your sport’s salary range and be defined as anything other than overpaid. In order to do this you would have to provide MVP caliber seasons and deliver titles year in and year out, obviously not the easiest thing in the world to achieve.
Most of the players here are stars, or former stars, just picking up a paycheck. Some are mailing it in, others are just not physically able to deliver the goods as they once were. The truth is though that if you see your chosen team signing a player of this ilk to a high end deal, then you better be prepared for the letdown.
Anyhow… on with the list.
20 Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers: 2014 earnings- $61.5 million
Kobe Bryant was for a long time the greatest player of his kind in the NBA. The problem is that a combination of age and injuries has slowed Bryant to the point that it is hard to see him as anything other than overpaid. His salary alone is nearly $8 million higher than any other player in the league and the whole situation cripples the Lakers' salary cap to the point they can’t even surround Kobe with enough talent to make a run at the playoffs. Their results the last couple of seasons speak for themselves.
19 Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks/Dallas Mavericks: 2014 Earnings- $26.7 million
Amar’e is a big power forward with a long injury history and consistently declining production. A 20-point per game career average score, Stoudemire put up 17.5, 14.2, and 11.9 ppg over the last three full seasons. So far in 2014-15 the former All-Star is averaging only 24 minutes per game to go along with his 12 points per outing. It is hard to see the trend in declining production going away any time soon, which makes Amar’e a lock for this list.
18 Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets: 2014 Earnings- $23.2 million
Joe Johnson is in the midst of his 15th NBA season and at 6-feet-7 and 240-pounds he was once a match up nightmare who was explosive enough to score in any way he liked. A consistent 20 point per game average scorer throughout the late 2000’s, Johnson was shipped to Brooklyn at just the right time by an Atlanta team who saw the end was nigh. So far in 2014-15 Johnson has only averaged 15 points per game as part of a Brooklyn team which is right around ten games under .500. All these facts are hallmarks of an aging, overpaid, former star.
17 Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers: 2014 Earnings- $13.8 million
By sitting on the commissioner’s exempt list for all but one game of the 2014 NFL season, Greg Hardy was able to pocket over $13 million dollars for an output of three tackles and one sack. Hardy found himself the subject of domestic violence charges last fall, charges which will see him part ways with the Panthers during free agency. With the threat of a suspension looming through the league’s hastily cobbled together personal conduct policy, it will be interesting to see what kind of money Hardy will be able to make for himself in 2015.
16 Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes: 2014 Earnings- $7 million
The most overpaid player in the NHL is a guy who once put up 44 points in 44 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. Alexander Semin just isn’t playing effective hockey ask his 16:18 minutes of ice time show. This figure, his lowest since his rookie season as a 19-year-old with Washington, is contributing massively to his total lack of production. His plus-minus number is negative for the first time since 2007-08 and he only averages a goal every 10 games so far this campaign.
15 Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: 2014 Earnings- $27.1 million
This might be a little bit of a controversial call, but the fact that Peyton just took a pay cut goes to show that he didn't play to the level of his contract last season, particularly towards the end, granted he did have a torn quad. Manning has been great, historically so, during the early part of the last two seasons. As the year went on however his play declined to the point that the Broncos were destroyed in Super Bowl XLVIII and bowed out in the Divisional round this past January. Be it the grind of a long and physical NFL season, or Manning’s age catching up to him, he fails down the stretch, with an 11-13 playoff record. Not what you need from a quarterback making this much money.
14 Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: 2014 Earnings- $6 million
Gee, getting paid to do nothing. Now, that's the dream.
A-Rod pocketed a cool $6 million from the Yankees in 2014. This was despite being banned for the entire season and dragging the club through the mud on the way there via the Biogenesis scandal. Assuming Rodriguez does not get himself banned again, the final three years of his Yankees deal are worth a fully guaranteed $61 million. Obviously the endorsements A-Rod took in during his Mariners heyday are long gone, but the fact he will be picking up a base salary of $20 million as a 42-year-old more than makes up for that loss.
13 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG, 2014 Earnings: $40.4 million
It is quite unfortunate for the American sporting scene that Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays soccer in France and not football in New York. The somewhat peculiar Swede is a mercurial talent up there with the very best of them and once compared himself to Jesus to convince his teammates and managers that he would lead them to victory in an upcoming game. The problem is that Zlatan has been paid an extraordinary amount since joining PSG in 2012, but the furthest the club has made it in the Champions League is the quarter final stage. Simply not enough return on investment here. We'll see if Ibra can lead them past the quarterfinal this year, and if so, he may very well be off this list next year.
12 Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: 2014 Earnings- $25 million
The third highest paid player in baseball did become the fastest player in history to reach 1000 RBIs during the 2014 season. That feat though is mitigated strongly by the fact that Howard struck out a league leading 190 times while batting an awful .223. Injuries have completely derailed Howard since he signed his ridiculous 5-year $125 million contract extension in 2009. Sadly Howard has become yet another example of why it is a bad idea to give aging position players that kind of money.
11 Josh Hamilton, L.A. Angels: 2014 Earnings- $17.4 million
Josh Hamilton had a miserable 2014 season in L.A. For the season he batted a way below average .268, but for a power hitter his 10 home runs and 44 RBIs are much more concerning. Players make their money in the clutch and Hamilton was even worse in the playoffs. He went 0-13 against the Kansas City Royals and was booed several times during the series. Expect Hamilton to be on this list for a long time as his salary increases over the next four years. In 2016 and 2017 the Angels are going to be on the hook for a crazy $32.4 million PER SEASON.
10 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 2014 Earnings: $43.8 million
In 2013 Ryan signed a five-year, $103.75 million contract with Atlanta which was front loaded with signing and option bonuses making 2014 massively lucrative. It isn’t like Ryan is a bad quarterback, but for $20.75 million a year in salary alone you would expect that your franchise player would be able to lead his team to a record better than the 6-10 mark the Falcons put together last fall. When you consider that the only player in the NFL who makes more per year is Aaron Rodgers, then you have virtual proof that Ryan is definitely overpaid.
9 Radamel Falcao, Monaco/Manchester United: 2014 Earnings- $35.4 million
Falcao is an interesting one on this list because all but $3 million of his earnings are from his base salary. After a torn ACL took him out of the 2014 World Cup, Falcao found himself being loaned out from parent club Monaco to English giants Manchester United. The Red Devils are paying a huge percentage of Falcao’s salary, essentially paying him something close to $400,000 a week for one year of his services. All that cash has thus far produced a miniscule four goals in 20 games.
8 Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: 2014 Earnings- $17.5 million
When the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year $126.7 million deal before the start of last season it is safe to say they were expecting big numbers. With the twin monsters Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, along with workhorse running back Matt Forte in the backfield, the horses were there on offense to make the Bears' 2014 season one to remember. Unfortunately it all went wrong in a hurry and Cutler’s biggest number was 18, the number of interceptions he threw to tie for the league lead in that category. Now there will be a total rebuilding in Chicago (Marshall is already gone) but the monster contract Cutler signed is going to weigh the team down for the foreseeable future.
7 Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: 2014 Earnings- $29.4 million
‘Melo is one of the highest paid stars in the NBA due to his combination of salary ($21.4 million) and endorsements ($8 million). His New York Knicks are in the middle of one of the worst seasons in the franchise’s long and storied history, while Anthony is sitting at home missing it all with a knee injury. The Knicks are a sub-500 team since the 2011 trade which took ‘Melo to New York and have advanced past the first round of the playoffs only once while he has been in New York.
6 Bobby Bonilla, Retired: 2014 Earnings- $1.6 million
In what has to be the best series of athlete contracts in the history of sports Bobby Bonilla is still being paid by two clubs despite not having played in the majors since 2001. The key to this deal is Bonilla’s buyout agreement with the Mets which he signed in 1999. For 25 years beginning in 2014, Bonilla will be paid $1.2 million by the club as per an agreement that deferred his $6 million 1999 salary and added an 8% interest rate. This is the main reason Bonilla made almost a cool two million bucks without ever having to step foot on the diamond last season.
5 Gareth Bale, Real Madrid: 2014 Earnings- $36.4 million
It is hard to see exactly where it has all gone wrong for Gareth Bale. When Real Madrid paid a world record fee of $118 million in September of 2013 to acquire the services of the Welshman it looked like a perfect match. Somewhere along the way though the 25-year-old has lost the scoring drive which served him so well at Spurs and he is now routinely booed by the Madrid faithful. With his weekly wage coming in at an astonishing $456,000 per week, Bale is just not justifying his price tag with his form.
4 Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: 2014 Earnings- $33 million
Matt Stafford is an interesting addition to this list as his NFL career is still on an upward trend. The quarterback has actually set the standard for NFL passers over the first 50 starts of a career, holding the records for most passing yards and most competitions in that span. The biggest knock on the former Georgia Bulldog is that for all the millions he has been paid, his Lions are 0-2 in the playoffs and have only enjoyed two winning seasons with Stafford at the helm.
3 Wladimir Klitschko, Boxing: 2014 Earnings- $28 million
Anyone who knew that Wladimir Klitschko is the second longest reigning heavyweight boxing champion of all time should go ahead and take a quick bow. Wlad made millions of dollars in 2014, while only putting his title on the line twice. One of those fights was a messy, ugly holdfest which went to points while the other was a fifth round knockout. Klitschko mainly makes this list because he has been unable, despite his dominance, to make heavyweight boxing matter again outside of his Ukrainian homeland.
2 Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls, 2014 Earnings: $36.6 million
While there is no doubt that Rose is as talented as they come, there is also no doubt at this point that he has to be labelled as injury prone. Rose is the face of the Bulls franchise, and with a $185 million shoe deal in his pocket he is also the face of Adidas, but neither are getting a great return on their investment. It has been one injury after another for Rose who has not played nearly enough meaningful minutes over the last three or four years to be worth close to this money.
1 Tiger Woods: 2014 Earnings- $61.2 million
Has anyone else noticed that Tiger Woods seems to have completely forgotten how to play golf? Of the $61 million plus he made in 2014, $55 million of that was through his various endorsement deals. Somehow he still made $6.2 million through golf even though he hasn’t won a major in almost a decade. At 39 Tiger is not getting any younger and a succession of back injuries has destroyed his swing. It's hard to see him ever recovering and getting back to the point he is worth the money he rakes in.