I cover sports business with rare dip in education & local economies
The NBA and its Players Association reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement this month where players are expected to have average annual salaries of $10 million by the 2020-21 season, up from the current $6.2 million average. Owners and players can thank TNT and ESPN for inking a nine-year, $24 billion TV deal in 2014, triple the previous pact.
The story is the same in the NFL and MLB, two leagues awash in cash from blockbuster media contracts that boost revenue and player compensation. MLB had 36 players this season earn $20 million from their playing contracts. NFL owners spent more than $1 billion this year in the first two days of free agency in March. It is a good time to be be able to hit a 99 MPH fastball or run a 4.4 40-yard dash.
Colts QB Andrew Luck has the top compensation from salary and bonus in 2016 among U.S. athletes. (Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
In a world of soaring player salaries, we decided to look at who is the top-paid athlete born in every state as well as the District of Columbia. Half the states have an athlete making more than $20 million in salary and bonuses this year. Topping the charts is D.C.-native Andrew Luck with $44 million (we included the part of Luck's signing bonus to be paid in March 2017). The Indianapolis Colts quarterback has a base salary of $12 million and received a $32 million signing bonus as part of the $140 million contract extension he signed in June.
D.C. has a bigger population than only two states, Vermont and Wyoming, but Luck's haul stands in sharp contrast to the highest-paid athlete in those states. Vermont doesn't have any active athletes playing in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB. The best-paid Vermonter by our count is Keegan Bradley with $899,995 in prize money this year on the PGA Tour. Pro athletes from Wyoming are also scarce, but Cheyenne-born James Johnson is earning $4 million from the Miami Heat this season.
Montana is the only other states besides Vermont without a seven-figure athlete this year. Brock Coyle, who was born in Bozeman, makes $862,500 this season as a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.
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We only considered at salaries and bonuses and not endorsement incomes. The figures cover 2016 for the NFL and MLB, as well as the 2016-17 seasons for the NHL and NBA based on data from Spotrac.
Baseball (19 players) and football (17) are represented most heavily among the highest-paid in each state. Texas-native Clayton Kershaw leads the MLB players with his $32 million salary pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Luck is the top football player.
The NBA landed 11 players led by LeBron James, who was born in Akron, Ohio, and earns a salary of $31 million this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Goalie Corey Schneider heads a trio of hockey players with a salary of $6 million.
State populations vary dramatically with California home to 39 million people and Wyoming less than 600,000. The contrast shows up on team rosters. California had 187 players born there on the NFL's opening-day rosters and 221 in Major League Baseball. Alaska, Vermont and Maine did not have an NFL player this year and Alaska (one player) and New Hampshire/Wyoming (two each) were close behind. Florida was tops with 193. Montana, Utah and Vermont were not represented on MLB rosters this year. Alaska, Maine, North Dakota and West Virginia all had one each.