Photo: Wikimedia Commons
That athlete’s salaries have increased over the last 20 years isn’t news.But the dynamics of these athletes’ evolving earning power is.
Forbes recently documented the contrast of 1991’s 20 highest paid athletes versus today. And the shift in bankable stars is dramatic.
Two decades ago, athletes in individual sports dominated the endorsement and annual salary scene. Four boxers landed in the Forbes list, including the top two earners, Evander Holyfield (#1) and Mike Tyson (#2). The list also included five tennis players, three golfers, and four F1 drivers.
Thanks to a dramatic increase in television money and a shift in consumer focus, the script has flipped completely.
Michael Jordan was the lone NBA player on the 1991 list. This year, five basketball players (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard) made the list. These athletes can thank huge endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Adidas and Coca-Cola for the increased income.
They can also thank ownership.
Bryant earned $24.8 million from the Los Angeles Lakers last season. Conversely, Patrick Ewing, the NBA’s highest paid athlete in 1991, made $4.3 million with the New York Knicks.
And you wonder why the NBA is mired in a lockout.
The past two decades has also been unkind to women.
Tennis players Monica Seles and Steffi Graf made the 1991 list, but the same cannot be said for Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova. No female athletes are on the 2011 list.
Interestingly enough, the total value of the #1 spot hasn’t seen an overwhelming change. Evander Holyfield grossed a total of $60 million two decades ago while Tiger Woods – yes, that Tiger Woods – earned $75 million.
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