12 Best Paid Sports Careers
Professional Basketball Player
Competing as a professional basketball player involves much more than playing in scheduled games. Successful players maintain rigorous exercise and weight training regimens to achieve the top conditioning necessary for competitive performance in fast-paced games.
Players practice regularly with their team and work on individual shooting and ball handling skills on their own. The National Basketball Association (NBA) season includes 82 regular season games as well as several rounds of playoffs for winning teams, so players are subjected to a challenging travel routine in addition to the physical demands of the sport.
According to Basketball Reference, NBA players will earn an average salary of $7,422,823 in 2018-19, making them the highest paid athletes. NBA rosters include fewer players than baseball and football teams, allowing franchises to devote more resources to recruiting players. Players typically sign guaranteed contracts so that even if they become injured or are cut from a team, they still receive their compensation.
Top players in the most prominent international basketball leagues in places like Spain, Greece, Italy, China, and Argentina also garner high salaries exceeding 1 million dollars, though the average player receives much lower compensation.
Professional Baseball Player
Successful Major League Baseball (MLB) players have implemented rigorous off-season training programs to improve strength and flexibility. The MLB season contains 162 games, as well as several rounds of playoffs, so players must cope with a taxing travel schedule. Many experts believe that hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult tasks in sports, requiring players to practice their batting skills to maintain an edge continually.
MLB players averaged an annual salary of 4.52 million in 2018. Backed by a strong union, players are afforded the security of guaranteed contracts and a generous pension program. Most of the professional baseball players in the United States play for one of over 240 minor league teams.
They receive much lower compensation, between $1,000 – $3,000 per month, with no guarantee that they will ever make the big league team. However, the top 100 players drafted from college or high school receive bonuses ranging from $500,000 to two million dollars.
Professional Hockey Player
Pro hockey players must maintain high levels of conditioning to compete in games that are often very physically taxing, even combative. In recent years, off-season condition requirements have increased for players to withstand a grueling 82 game schedule and several rounds of playoffs. Skating, puck handling, and shooting skills are refined in practice drills.
Average salaries for players on various NHL teams ranged from 2.35 million to 3.67 million, in part due to the relatively small roster size of 23 players and a 50-50 split in revenue between owners and players.
Most pro hockey players in the United States and Canada play for one of the over 150 minor league teams. They are compensated at the rate of $40,000 to $90,000 per year depending on the minor league level.
Professional Football Player
National Football League (NFL) players engage in one of the most physical sports, in which athletes collide at high speed. Strategy in football exceeds most other sports in its complexity. Players must study and master extensive playbooks to prepare for a myriad of potential game situations. Injuries are common, and players spend considerable time in physical therapy and other treatment settings to repair the damage.
Recent attention has centered on traumatic brain injuries, and the NFL has instituted limits on player contact during practice sessions. The average length of a player’s career in the NFL is by far the shortest of all major sports, only about 3.5 years.
Although the NFL is America’s most popular and lucrative sport, NFL players are compensated at a much lower level than other major sports. Average salaries for NFL players on various teams ranged from 2.07 million to 2.99 million in 2017/18.
Football rosters are much larger than other sports, totaling 53 players, so salary money must be divided among multiple team members. NFL contracts are not guaranteed beyond the current season, so teams can cut a player whose skills have diminished without awarding compensation.
Players do typically receive guaranteed signing bonuses which are non-refundable. Colleges serve as the minor leagues for football, so most of the paid jobs are in the NFL or Canadian Football League.
Sports broadcasters announce live sporting events and provide commentary and analysis of teams and athletes. They prepare for broadcasts by researching and studying the performance of athletes, as well as stories of personal interest.
The emergence of sports television and radio networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports has created opportunities for hosts on sports talk shows as well as sports highlights and news broadcasts. Successful hosts develop interesting takes on current sporting trends and personalities and often introduce an element of humor into their broadcasts.
The top 10 leading sportscasters earn an average of over 5 million dollars (2017). The vast majority of sportscasters receive more modest compensation while working in less prominent positions, earning an average of $106,080 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.