Fortunate 50 intrigue
Tiger into nine figures, Shaq and Kobe's rivalry lives
Posted: Thursday May 31, 2007 10:32AM; Updated: Thursday May 31, 2007 10:32AM
For the fourth straight year, Sports Illustrated set out to rank the 50 top-earning American athletes (taking into account on and off the field income), and it's no surprise to see the familiar names at the top of the list. In fact, there are dozens of trends and storylines that make this year's incarnation of the Fortunate 50 one of the most interesting we've ever compiled.
But we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the most obvious: Tiger Woods has reached a plateau that can't be described as anything but otherworldly.
Woods will haul in nearly $112 million this year, making him No. 1 for the fourth consecutive time and marking yearly increases of 13, 13 and 15 percent since the first time we compiled the Fortunate 50 in 2004. Who among us wouldn't love a yearly raise like that?
But as he chases Jack Nicklaus' record for major titles (18) and earns eight figures a year in winnings, Woods is creating a brand name for himself that is unprecedented in sports history. His enormous endorsement portfolio that includes companies such as Nike, General Motors and American Express is further augmented by appearance fees for exhibition events all over the world that pay $3 million each.
Woods has his usual company in his sport from rival Phil Mickelson (No. 3 at $51.3 million), as well as newcomer Michelle Wie (No. 22, $20.2 million), who is the only woman on this year's list.
Boxing is back from the dead (for now), thanks to Oscar De La Hoya (No. 2, $55 million) and his hugely hyped middleweight title fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (No. 21, $20.3 million) -- the latest Golden Boy opponent whom de la Hoya has helped onto the list in the process.
As usual, basketball players dominate the list, with NBA hoopsters comprising half the 50. Former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have long put their feud behind them, but the rivalry lives on here: For the second straight year, Shaq and Kobe are side-by-side in the rankings, Shaq at No. 4 with a total $35 million, Kobe fifth with $33.7 million.
The jovial O'Neal is still close to the highest-salaried in basketball, earning $20 million per season on his five-year deal with Miami that runs through '09-10. And he had been the endorsement king of the NBA until LeBron James, now No. 6, came along.
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