When a player like Kawhi Leonard leads a team all the way to the championship — and wins, his $23 million a year salary certainly seems worth it to management, and to fans. The question now is how much the Toronto Raptors would offer Leonard to keep him there. Though a large share of pro athletes in the four major American sports leagues never become multi-millionaires, many others sign eye-popping contracts that make them fabulously wealthy.
Mike Trout made headlines when he signed a 12-year extension with the Los Angeles Angels worth a reported $430 million — the richest deal in sports history. While Trout has continued to be one of the best players in the majors, these contracts can sometimes prove to be shortsighted and leave teams without enough money to sign other players in the future.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed both the salary and performance of all players from the four major U.S. sports to determine the most overpaid athletes across the four leagues. Performance data came from the Sports Reference family of sites, while salary data came from various sources, including Spotrac, Over the Cap, and more.
This list is largely populated by players at the end of enormous contracts. These players, who sign in their primes, can demand long-term deals, knowing full well they cannot keep up the production of their peak years forever.
Teams know this as well but still have to bid hundreds of millions of dollars for the services of high-priced free agents. This can sometimes result in a championship or even the best season in team history, but franchises are often hamstrung by aging players with huge contracts. One bad deal can turn into years of futility, turning the franchise from a contender to one of the hardest teams to root for.