We all want to be rich. Every single one of us has had the dream at some point of winning millions on the lottery and being able to do whatever we wanted to do. Every week we buy a ticket and then crumple it up in disappointment when we didn't match a single number. But somebody has to win, we tell ourselves, and the next week we buy yet another ticket. The cycle continues.
But what if there was another way to make a lot of money? No, we're not talking about going all Walter White in Breaking Bad and starting your own drug empire. We're talking about professional sports.
Sport for Cash
The USA has a long history of rewarding its best athletes with huge financial incentives and if you're good at sport you can be made for life. This has caught on in the rest of the world, mostly within soccer, but American sporting stars are still the best paid.
According to Forbes, who have named the top 25 earners of all time in sport, only five are not American. Tennis star Roger Federer is not a surprise inclusion on the list, nor is Formula 1's Michael Schumacher. The other three are soccer players. David Beckham many will remember had a stint at LA Galaxy, along with periods at four of Europe's most successful soccer teams. The other two are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, pretty much the only two names you'll hear when asking someone who the best current player is.
Thanks mostly to his multiple endorsement deals, Michael Jordan tops the list of top earners with an impressive estimate fortune of $1.85 billion, but what about other basketball players? Are they going to earn as much as him?
Teams that feature among many people's free NBA picks are loaded with stars, many of whom attract pretty large salaries. The top 10 of earners for the 2017-18 season features a staggering eight names who earn over $25 million a year.
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers has earned around $100 million in the last five seasons alone and while it's unlikely that he'll surpass Jordan based on current earnings he won't have to play for fifty years to reach a billion as his salary is sure to continue to increase – it's already gone up by over 50% the last five years.
Even Kobe Bryant, who had a playing career lasting 20 years, solely at the LA Lakers, picked up a cool $25 million in 2015-16 and was the league's top earner that year.
The Future of Basketball Money
You need to ask where it all comes from. There's a limit to how many people you can sell tickets to for a basketball game and there's a limit to how many jerseys and vests and associated merchandise that a sports team can sell.
One thing's for sure, there's money in it. Sponsorship and TV rights mean that the mega salaries will continue for as long as we can see