It’s an uncomfortable truth, but a truth nonetheless that money makes the world go round. In sports, athletes have short careers so they often have to make some tough choices in terms of business. The fact is that many stars don’t care about trophies and glory.
They prioritize the money that goes into their bank account. At the end of the day, you can’t look after your family with trophies, although winning absolutely brings more money. Regardless, some pro athletes are marketing powerhouses and know how to play this game better than anyone. So today, we’re going to look at 35 sports stars who value money over glory via The Sportster. Check out these high-priced superstars below.
35. Victor Cruz
Cruz made the Pro Bowl once and captured a Super Bowl ring during his seven seasons with the New York Giants. A highly effective receiver in his prime, Cruz was part of the last great Giants’ team. The franchise wanted to keep him beyond his rookie contract and handed him a deal worth $45 million. Most people would be very happy with it but Cruz wanted more money.
He signed the contract but complained bitterly to the media about his earnings. Cruz described it as ‘tough,’ not realizing that most people in the USA earn less than one-thousandth of his salary. Furthermore, injuries resulted in him playing just six games over the next two seasons because of injuries. It was lucky for the Giants that they didn’t award him more money because it would have been a waste.
The youngest UFC champion of all-time, Jones held the light heavyweight title four times. However, he vacated the title in 2020 with the intention of moving up a division. This excited many fans who believed another belt would make him the greatest fighter in the history of MMA. But there was one major stumbling factor as Jones wanted more money and the UFC didn’t want to give it to him.
To be fair, it’s easy to understand where Jones was coming from. Match-ups against the likes of champion Stipe Miocic or the terrifying Francis Ngannou were dangerous and would attract a lot of eyes. Jones understandably believed that there was a greater risk involved as he would fight bigger men. It seems reasonable to want more money when the risk of suffering a knockout is much greater.
Cano’s resume contains spectacular achievements and controversies. The former Yankees’ second baseman is a World Series champion as well as an eight-time All-Star. Needless to say, this also made him one of the highest-paid baseball players in MLB. But there was a surprise when he left the Yankees for the Seattle Mariners in 2013. But he couldn’t turn down the amount of money they offered him.
He signed a 10-year contract worth $240 million. This insane amount of money made up for the fact that he sacrificed his World Series’ ambitions. In the end, he spent five seasons with the Mariners, including a suspension, before moving to the Mets. Money motivates all professional athletes because at the end of the day, medals and trophies don’t pay the bills.
Leaving Texas was one of the worst things Hamilton ever did. His problems with drugs are well-documented. However, he miraculously overcame this when he moved from the Cincinnati Reds to the Rangers. This ignited his career as he achieved multiple All-Star selections and became one of the best players in MLB. He won the AL MVP award in 2010 and was also the AL batting champion.
But then the promise of more money lured him to L.A. Anaheim offered him a five-year contract worth $125 million, more than the Rangers were willing to pay. Hamilton couldn’t turn down this much money but he probably should have. When he left Texas, he suffered a drug relapse and lost control again. Money is both a curse and a blessing, but Rangers’ fans didn’t care.
VanZant instantly won fans when the UFC signed her in 2014. She looked more like a model than an MMA fighter and Reebok even awarded a coveted individual sponsorship deal over more experienced and arguably more deserving fighters. Furthermore, she enhanced her marketability and bank balance by competing on “Dancing With the Stars” and releasing an autobiography.
But her fighting career never reached the heights the UFC expected. She went 6-4 with the promotion, beating average opposition but losing to the top female fighters. Finally, she neared the end of her contract. When the UFC refused to offer her more money, she decided to test the free agency market. That’s how she signed for BKFC, the leading bare-knuckle boxing promotion. VanZant is all about those dollar bills.
Bruising Brazilian forward Hulk has had one of the strangest careers in modern soccer history. A highly-effective striker for the Brazilian national team, Hulk’s only time in a mainstream European league was with F.C Porto in Portugal. Then he stunned the world by moving to Zenit St. Petersburg in the Russian Premier League on a $50 million deal. Most soccer fans expected him to move to a more mainstream league.
But money is Hulk’s main motivation. So when the Chinese league came looking for quality international players, Hulk was very happy to flee to Shanghai SIPG and take home almost $400,000 per week. Meanwhile, Hulk divorced his wife to be with her niece who was also roughly the same age as his own daughter.
Norman was one of the best cornerbacks in the league during his time with the Carolina Panthers. But then money got involved and things went awry for him. He demanded a bigger payday than the Panthers were prepared to hand him. In the end, this led to a parting of the ways and he moved to the Washington Redskins. A five-year $75 million deal definitely softened the blow of leaving.
But he arguably only had one good season in Washington. His first year was strong, but after that, he continuously suffered injuries and the Redskins never got full value for money. Nobody can blame any NFL player for leaving a franchise for more money though. They risk their short-term and long-term health in every game and deserve to maximize their earning potential.
Assou-Ekotto was an effective left-back for Premier League soccer teams Tottenham Hotspurs and Queens Park Rangers. However, the Cameroonian defender made no bones about the fact that he only played for the money. Music, not soccer, was his overriding passion. He made waves in an interview with The Guardian when he described his lack of feeling for the sport and how it was just a job.
First, he explained that he didn’t understand why players pretended to care. He said: “All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it’s for the money. So I don’t understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he’s a mercenary. Every player is like that.” Assou-Ekotto deserves some respect for his honesty because at least fans knew his motivation.
It might be more accurate to say that Iverson was addicted to spending money than making money. An 11-time All-Star and the 2001 MVP award winner, Iverson was one of the best players of his generation. When an athlete plays as well as he did, their earning power shoots through the roof. This was both a curse and a blessing for Iverson because he was addicted to his lavish lifestyle.
A ridiculous number of NBA players go broke. Iverson added his name to their ranks as he blew a $200 million fortune. He even moved to Turkey because he was desperate to make more money. If he could have managed his lifestyle better, he would have stayed with the Philadelphia 76ers. But his crazy spending habits resulted in him seeking contract after contract.
Howard laughed all the way to the bank in 2011. The Golden Sombrero record-holder was magnificent for the Philadelphia Phillies but tore his ACL the same summer as his extension. As a World Series champion and three-time All-Star, Howard was a phenomenal player. Meanwhile, the Phillies clearly believed that he was worth the money even though it wasn’t well spent.
His five-year, $125 million contract was nonsensical. There was no way that he would be the same player after returning from injury. In fact, he continued to suffer more and more as he became older. But the Phillies lacked the foresight to see this and the franchise deteriorated as a result of poor planning. Howard was more than happy to pick up his paychecks without contributing massively.
A divisive figure throughout his career, Owens cared about himself over everyone else. He also feuded with many quarterbacks he played with. Of course, he was an excellent wide receiver during his prime, but he was also a volatile personality and a nightmare to deal with.
After leaving the San Francisco 49ers, where he spent the bulk of his career, Owens bounced around the NFL from team to team. He played for a total of six franchises as he chased contract after contract. With his reputation as a terrible teammate, it wasn’t surprising.
For Beckham, his brand has always been the most important thing. Yes, he has played for some of the most successful clubs in the world and achieved great things. But he stopped caring about winning trophies when he married his pop star wife Victoria.
From then on, it was all about maximizing his commercial value. It was a massive success as he became a global superstar. The clubs he played for became a platform for him to promote his products and generate as much revenue as possible. It worked brilliantly.
Recent history isn’t kind to the Houston Astros. However, even they fell victim to the type of malpractice that baseball does so well. Clemens came up with an ingenious if immoral way to make as much money from them for as little effort as possible.
In 2006, he waited until midseason to return so that the Astros would pay him $22 million for four months’ work. In doing so, he also started a new trend that several other players have jumped on. The Astros were a better team with him back, but it was still frustrating.
One of the most respected quarterbacks of all-time, Favre made his name with the Green Bay Packers. But then he proceeded to infuriate their entire fanbase by pursuing riches over loyalty to his former franchise. After playing for the New York Jets he went to the side of Packers’ rival Minnesota Vikings.
A two-year, $25 million contract with no bonuses was just too good for him to turn down at that point in his career. Sure, he achieved a lot of glory before this. There’s no denying that, but you can definitely argue that he tarnished his legacy by betraying his former team in such a way.
There’s something disappointing about a player moving to a weaker league in their prime. But that’s exactly what Oscar did. The Brazil international was a regular starter for Chelsea in the Premier League. However, the promise of riches beyond his wildest dreams turned his head.
He now plays for Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League. They pay him a stunning $500,000 a week. It’s no wonder that he no longer cares about his legacy. At the end of the day, this kind of money is just too good to turn down. Furthermore, he’s still young enough to return to Europe one day.
Former two-weight champion Malignaggi was a great boxer back in his day. Never the most physically gifted athlete, he made up for it with excellent technique. After retiring, he made the move into media where he worked for Showtime and became a respected analyst.
However, bare-knuckle boxing lured him out of retirement. He decided to accept a fat paycheck to fight Artem Lobov, Conor McGregor’s training partner. However, it didn’t turn out well. Malignaggi lost the fight and broke both wrists as well. As a legitimate boxing champion, he was better than that.
The signs were there that Sprewell was a few cents shorts of a dollar. No wonder money was his main obsession. Infamous for choking his former coach and brandishing a gun at him, the man was a lunatic. However, he was also a great player. This was why the Minnesota Timberwolves offered him a $21 million deal.
This potential deal did not impress him. In his words, it wasn’t enough to ‘feed his family.’ As a result, the Timber Wolves withdrew their offer. Sprewell lost everything including his houses, yacht, and cars from bankruptcy. It turns out that greed doesn’t always pay.
First of all, it may seem ludicrous to put Holyfield on this list. After all, he was the only four-time heavyweight champion and the first man to unify two separate weight classes. However, he didn’t fight until he was 50 out of a love of the sport. The main reason was money.
Holyfield’s spending habits are legendary. For example, he ordered the construction of a 109-room house in 1994. It’s no surprise he went bankrupt. Furthermore, 11 children by six different women didn’t help the situation. Money was simply his main motivation.
Canadian MMA star MacDonald is one of the best welterweights in the world. His bloody clash against Robbie Lawler was one of the most exciting UFC fights of all-time, perhaps the most. He always fell short when it came to the title. But nobody expected him to actually leave the promotion.
Yet that’s exactly what he did. MacDonald made no bones about the fact that he wanted to make as much money as possible in his short professional career. He moved to Bellator where he won their welterweight championship and got big paychecks. In his word, he had to think of his family.
Things have not gone well for Irving so far in Brooklyn. A lot of Boston Celtics fans have experienced schadenfreude over the past year. After Irving left Boston the way he did, there really isn’t a lot of love for him in the city. But are the feelings reasonable?
In short, yes. Irving’s commitment to the franchise dissolved as soon as it became clear he was leaving. Meanwhile, the locker room was in disarray. But the attraction of going back to Brooklyn and making more money was too much for him to turn down.
The UK media branded Sterling as one of football’s greediest players when he swapped Liverpool for Manchester City. The Londoner was one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League. City bid over $50 million for him and Liverpool duly accepted.
However, it was highly controversial because City is oil-rich. In short, it looked like Sterling sold his young soul for more money. City won back-to-back Premier League titles so he definitely got the glory too. However, Liverpool has also experienced significant success since then, so money definitely was part of the draw.
One of the most ludicrous situations on this list, Haynesworth’s story is shameless. First of all, his time with the Tennessee Titans was brilliant. When his contract ended, he was the most coveted free agent in the league. But it all went downhill very quickly.
Haynesworth switched to the Washington Redskins on a massive contract worth $100 million over seven years. However, he emerged as one of the worst busts in NFL history when he was a nightmare to deal with. He only stayed there for two years but made every day a nightmare for the coaching staff.
Leonard is an excellent player but it can’t be denied he is a mercenary. Toronto Raptors fans will have mixed feelings about him because of the way he acted when he signed for the franchise and how quick he was to leave. Let’s be real, he thought he was going to be a Laker.
After a year up North and an NBA Championship win, Leonard had enough. Fans hoped that he would feel some kind of affection for the team, but he left at the first opportunity for richer pastures. He finally got his move to LA but with the Clippers instead of the Lakers.
With more than $450 million in career earnings, Rodriguez made more than any other baseball player. However, his combination of greed and lack of ethics made fans despise him. In 2013, New York Yankees fans hoped the MLB would hand him a lifetime ban.
However, instead, they gave him a lengthy suspension. Rodriguez continued to play because of performance increments in his contract. The Yankees were struggling financially but A-Rod didn’t care. He had a massive contract and milked as much as he could from it.
It may seem a bit unfair to put Bale on this list, but there’s no doubt he’s comfortable with his status quo. Real Madrid’s record signing is out of favor with Zinedine Zidane. While the Spanish press has vilified him, Bale did try to move to China in 2019 to escape his contract.
However, Madrid pulled the plug on that deal and kept him around for some reason. Now he just golfs and collects his massive paycheck. But it is disappointing that a player of his brilliance is in this position. Unfortunately, Bale has accepted that this is the situation and he’s letting them fill his wallet.
You could tell that Odom’s heart wasn’t in it after his move to the Dallas Mavericks. First of all, let’s be clear that he was brilliant for the LA Lakers. You don’t become a two-time NBA champion unless you’ve got some skill. However, he went into decline after leaving California.
Odom became the third-highest-paid player on the roster when he joined up with the Mavericks. Despite this, he didn’t deliver and was more interested in his acting career than performing on the court. In sum, his lack of commitment led to a heated row with Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban.
Many people will forget that Lavezzi exists. The Argentine became one of Europe’s hottest properties after lighting up Serie A with Napoli before a move to Paris Saint-Germain. However, even oil-rich PSG wasn’t enough for him. He took the next step on the soccer star mercenary trail when Hebei China Fortune swooped for him.
Lavezzi was allegedly the highest-paid player in the world during his time in China where he clearly made his fortune. He took home a ridiculous $830,000 a week during his three-year stay in the Middle Kingdom. It’s good money if you can make it.
Revis is one of the greediest players in the history of the NFL, but that’s okay. Nobody can hate on him because he was open about it. He played the system, bringing home super contract after super contract. In a sport where players end up with memory loss and longterm health problems, you can’t blame him.
The cornerback signed a giant deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but they desperately traded him away to the New England Patriots where he won a Super Bowl. After that, he signed another huge deal with the New York Jets, the franchise where he made his name. He jumped around the NFL and made a lot of money.
Brazil’s Robinho arrived at Manchester City from Real Madrid in one of the most shocking transfer swoops in Premier League history. The club’s owners had just taken over and they wanted to make a marquee signing, so they brought in the exciting forward.
However, it didn’t end well. Robinho thought that Chelsea had signed him, not City. Then after a decent start, his form fizzled out. That’s what happens when money motivates you. In the end, his career at City fizzled out and he left on a nomadic tour of whomever would pay him the most cash.
Anthony is in a special class of greedy. The Denver Nuggets thought that he was going to stay in Denver before the New York Knicks swooped in and offered a mega-contract. Anthony claimed that he flipped a coin to decide whether or not to go. Needless to say, fans did not take this well.
After several seasons of milking dollars from the Knicks, Anthony bounced around the NBA, where he currently plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. His career is frustrating because he is obviously brilliant. Ten All-Star selections prove this, but his lack of ambition costs him legacy points.
In 2017, Neymar made the move that may define his career. The Brazilian superstar was the heir apparent to Lionel Messi, but then PSG tabled a massive $240 million bid. Neymar decided to move to France where he makes one million dollars a week from the club.
However, in doing so, Neymar sacrificed his legacy. Nobody will recognize him as the world’s best player in France. Furthermore, he can’t leave because no team can afford his fee or wages in the current economic climate. While his future is secure, he may look back with regret one day.
Money motivates McGregor like nothing else. The first UFC fighter to truly become a global superstar, McGregor makes no secret of the fact that his bank balance is the most important thing in his life. He has glory in the form of two UFC titles in different weight classes.
However, his failure to defend either belt, combined with his preference for a ‘super-fight’ against the likes of Floyd Mayweather shows where his heart truly lies. To sum up, McGregor is here for a profitable time, not for a long time. That’s why he won’t show up unless the UFC pays its due.
Hall made a massive mistake by failing to move to the New England Patriots. The former NFL cornerback had that opportunity, but money motivated him rather than the opportunity to win a Super Bowl ring. However, he admitted that he regretted the decision when he retired.
He looked at the contract that the Patriots gave to Randy Moss and wanted the same. Instead, he stayed with the Washington Redskins on a longterm deal and Moss failed to solidify his legacy. Later, he recognized his mistake. In the end, a few million dollars cost him a legacy.
Kaepernick’s inclusion on this list will cause outrage. However, there are 40 million reasons why Kaepernick is still happily sitting on the sidelines. To sum up, that’s the estimated figure that Nike has paid him so far. Not bad for a quarterback who walked out on the San Francisco 49ers.
Some will say that this is very cynical but it’s true. The former NFL star is able to make millions without setting foot on the playing field. In 2019 he made a show of working out for a league return. However, the truth is, he’s quite happy with the status quo. Don’t forget that he wasn’t actually good in his last season.
The man’s nickname says it all. In sum, “Money”‘s namesake motivated him throughout his career. There’s no denying that Mayweather achieved both glory and riches, but nobody chased the latter like him. A multi-weight 50-0 fighter, Mayweather had an incredible career.
However, his crazy lifestyle caused him to become bankrupt on several occasions. Meanwhile, he carefully managed his career to the frustration of many fans. For example, his clash against Manny Pacquaio came about four years too late. Add in the likes of the Conor McGregor fight and you can see why he’s the ultimate mercenary.