Chris Bosh, ranked 46th on this year’s Fortunate 50 list, doesn’t like the Fortunate 50 list.
“I wish they would stop doing that,” Bosh, the Miami Heat forward, told Fox Sports just after last year’s list came out. “People are like, ‘Hey, you’re making this much money.’ It’s like, ‘Golly, I don’t even know how much you make.’ […] But we’re under the public eye.’’
Bosh’s teammate, LeBron James (No. 2 on this year’s list) isn’t a huge fan of the list either—he told the same outlet, “That has nothing to do with basketball.” (That statement is either true or untrue, depending on how much you believe a player’s salary affects his play and that of his teammates.)
So, some of the athletes that land on our earnings list don’t like the list. And many of their agents don’t like the list either—some of them help us in our reporting process, but some of them won’t comment at all.
Who does like these lists? You, the readers.
That’s clear by the traffic and response that this feature gets every year, but also by the sheer volume of athlete-wealth lists that now exist these days, both online and in print. Broad, big-name magazines do them and narrow, sport-specific websites do them. This year, ESPN put one out for the first time ever, though it measures salary only.
You might look through our list and grumble that athletes are overpaid, or you might feel that considering the ever-rising TV broadcast rights fees, merchandise revenues, and general big business of big sports, they deserve what they make. Either way, readers seem to enjoy athlete-earnings rankings.
This year, across all sports, salaries have gone up, up, up.
Compared to last year, MLB salaries of those on the list have gone up 4.63%, from an average of $21.66 million to $22.67 million. The average NBA salary on the list went up 6.9%, from $19.20 million to $20.53 million. And NFL salaries climbed the most of all—up 16.73%, clearly due to the continuing rise in quarterback signing bonuses—from an average of $23.52 million to $27.45 million. (Again, keep in mind these are not league-wide averages, but averages of those on our list.)
Even as MLB salaries on the Fortunate 50 rose, the total number of ball players dropped, from 25 to 20. The number of NBA players rose, from 13 to 15, and the NFL added two as well, from 8 to 10.
In terms of the top ten, last year’s list had three basketball players, two baseball players, and two quarterbacks. This year’s top tier is up to a remarkable four QBs, and again three basketball players, but this time, no baseball players cracked the top 10. Chalk that up to fat signing bonuses for pigskin slingers Rodgers, Brady, Stafford, Flacco, Ryan and Romo. It pushed high-earning MLBers like Zack Greinke and Ryan Howard lower than they’d be otherwise.
Our No. 1 earner is a three-peat, but three of this year’s top 10 weren’t there last year. After a couple of years with no women on the U.S. list, Serena Williams is back on after a huge 2013. And over on the international list, there’s one more tennis player than last year and one fewer racecar driver.
The Fortunate 50 has been in existence for 11 years now; we hope you continue to enjoy it, whether you eye the figures in horror or in delight.
Reporter associate: Cameron Chisholm