ESPN The Magazine

ESPN recently released a list of the top paid athletes in 31 sports based on salaries and or prize money from 2011.  The earnings represent salaries and/or prize money from 2011 or most recent season; excludes endorsements, appearance fees, sponsorships and other income sources.  After perusing the athletes we found some surprises which left us scratching our head.   Of course, the list featured many of the usual suspects such as Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, and Wayne Rooney but it is the inclusion of the lesser-known athletes and sports which really peaked our interest.  Let’s dig into some of these surprises:

–  Who made the most money in 2011 in the NFL?  I had to reread the list a few times in order to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me but Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson is #1 in overall pro football compensation.   Johnson earned a ridiculous $34 million during the 2011 season which is due to a front loaded first year  of a six-year, $72 million contract.

–  I am immediately going to start training my first born to be the best driver in the world.   Fernando Alonso banked an incredible $40,000,000 last year for his part in Formula 1,  his Ferrari sponsorship, his 2011 salary and prize money.  That is silly money.

– At the top of the list is none other than the sport of boxing.  Manny Pacquiao led the world of athletes by raking in an astounding $50,000,000.  What may be even more incredible is that that money was only from the guaranteed minimum for two 2011 WBO title bouts.

– These are large amounts of money, but surprisingly expected:  (Kobe Bryant made $25,244,000),  (Alex Rodriguez made $30,000,000), and (Wayne Rooney made $20,821,300).

Kelly Slater who is by far the most recognizable surfer in the world netted $556,250 at the ripe age of 40 and is a 11 time ASP World Champion.

– Leading the Sumo wrestling category is Hakuho who netted a cool $1,100,000 for his work as a rikishi.

– Poker has always been a high stakes game, by nature, but in 2011 is came true in terms of salaries.  Pius Heinz landed $8,876,067 in earnings for his work at the tables.

– Bull Riding may be the most dangerous sport on the list, so even though the 2011 earnings for Silvano Alves were $1,461,964, we would need a few more zero’s to throw our proverbial hat in the ring.

– My kids also may now be handed a set of darts as soon as they are born.  Phil Taylor made just under a million dollars for his accurate profession.

Please do read the rest of the list as I am sure you will find some more surprises.