SportsandMoney2

Movin’ On Up: Salaries in Professional Sports

 

Ever since the dawn of professional sports in America, a few things have remained constant. For instance, fans have always filled stadiums and arenas to see their favorite teams. Additionally, outstanding players have consistently amazed their loyal fans throughout the years. And championships have always been a big deal.

The most consistent trend in professional sports is that players have constantly earned more money than the ones that came before them. Way back in the 1930s, many Americans complained when baseball superstar Babe Ruth earned $80,000 per season, more than President Hoover made at the time. Looking back, Ruth’s salary would seem like pocket change to many modern athletes.

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This year, NBA player LeBron James will earn a $24 million salary, many times more than Ruth earned in his entire career. And that doesn’t even include endorsements that will make James tens of millions of dollars more. The same is true of the top players in all the other major sports, as well. In baseball, pitcher Zack Greinke will earn over $34 million in the upcoming season. In the NFL, meanwhile, top players like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton make more than $20 million each year.

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In the hundred years since the start of Ruth’s career, player salaries have displayed a consistently increasing rate of change. Future professional athletes should be happy to know that they’ll almost certainly make more than today’s players.

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Stronger, Faster, Better: Is There A Limit to Achievement?

 

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One hundred years ago, certain athletic feats were deemed impossible. Run a mile in less than four minutes? Sprint 100 meters in less than 10 seconds? You’d have to be crazy to think either of those feats were feasible. What about clearing a bar eight feet in the air or swimming across the entire Atlantic Ocean? No chance.

However, many athletes have since surpassed all of those feats. Many runners have broken the four-minute and 10-second marks, the high jump world record is more than eight feet, and multiple “iron-men” have swum across the ocean.

Many of these previously unthinkable achievements have been made possible by the changing physiques of athletes. Compared to a modern Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, athletes from past decades would look like runts.

The same is true in team sports, where men like LeBron James, Cam Newton, and Bryce Harper are redefining what an athlete should look like. As the NFL’s own Website says, the average player has changed “from ‘everyman’ to ‘superman.’” The median weight of an NFL guard now stands at more than 310 pounds, and those players are expected to nimbly move their feet and protect the quarterbacks behind them.

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However, despite the growth of most athletes, the optimum size to compete in other sports has caused those athletes to decrease in size. The average gymnast, for example, has shrunk from 5’3″ to just 4’9″ over the past 30 years.

Either way, whether they’re getting bigger or smaller, athletes have continually approached the sizes that will allow them to best master their disciplines. Along with other factors like advancing technology, specialized training techniques, and increased mental strength, athlete size has helped pushed the envelope of the types of feats fans can reasonably expect.

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So what will the world’s best athletes look like in 30 years? How about in 100 years? If their physiques continue to change at this rate, those athletes will bear little resemblance to the ones we watch today.

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Learning from The Greatest: Muhammad Ali and Athlete Activism

 

We Remember His Words More Than His Punches

In many of the obituaries written after Muhammad Ali’s death on June 3, very little was said about his most famous boxing matches. Dozens of magazines, newspapers, and Websites that usually feature very little sports content nonetheless published tributes to Ali. That’s because Ali was much more than a boxer, much more than just an athlete.

After rising to prominence as an 18-year-old Olympic gold medalist, Ali fought in some of the most important boxing matches in history, including “The Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier and “The Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman. Ali won 56 professional matches and captured the heavyweight championship three times, during a time period when boxing was still one of the most popular American sports.

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But his actions outside the ring allowed Ali to transcend sports. Ali stood up for African-American rights during the turbulent 1960s. He changed his given name from Cassius Clay, calling it a “slave name.” He also befriended Malcolm X and made frequent statements about black equality.

 

A Boxer Who Refuses To Fight?

Ali’s most important political stand, though, was his refusal to fight in the controversial Vietnam War. As a converted Muslim, Ali claimed that his religion forbade him from fighting in the war. However, the United States government found him guilty of evading his military duty and sentenced him to time in prison. As a result, Ali was stripped of his boxing titles and was unable to fight for the next three years. Because of his willingness to stand up for his beliefs, Ali likely lost several of the most successful years of his career.

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Later on in his life, after the Supreme Court had voted unanimously that Ali had been wrongfully convicted, Ali continued to stand up for his political beliefs. He also became an inspiration to millions of people. After Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, he continued to appear publicly and perform missionary work. Even at the end of his life, when he could barely speak, he showed courage in the face of his debilitating illness.

 

Courting Controversy

However, that’s not to say that Ali steered clear of controversy. On the contrary, he welcomed turmoil and conflict many times in his life. For instance, many people criticized his unwillingness to fight in Vietnam, calling him a “draft dodger.” Ali responded by saying, “I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger.” Critics also disagreed with Ali’s cockiness and tendency to insult opponents. Some civil rights activists accused Ali of preventing racial progress, pointing out that Ali often made segregationist comments.

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Even those who disagreed with Ali would have to admit that the man who many called “The Greatest” changed the way Americans viewed sports. Athletes were no longer expected to keep quiet in the face of political issues.

 

Can Anyone Compare to Him?

Since Ali, no American athlete has had a bigger impact outside of sports. But many have followed his lead in small ways. Recently, Aaron Rodgers condemned religious intolerance, and LeBron James and many other NBA players have spoken out against police brutality.

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But it’s probably safe to say that no athlete will ever have a bigger impact on society than Ali did. Even if we could combine the best traits of multiple athletes, the result still might not reach Ali’s stature. But it’s still interesting to imagine doing just that. What would the ideal modern athlete activist look like?

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Matchup of Legends: LeBron James vs. Larry Bird

 

Many longtime NBA fans are amazed that LeBron James is already playing in his 13th season. At first glance, that number might not seem particularly important, but consider this — Larry Bird played only 13 total seasons in his career.

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Bird, who is frequently referred to as the best small forward in history, was forced into retirement by back problems after the 1991-92 season. James, meanwhile, remains one of the best players in the NBA even though he has already played in considerably more regular season games than Bird.

As a player, James shares many qualities with Bird. Both men were terrific all-around players who filled up stat sheets in almost all statistical categories. Like Bird, James has tremendous court vision and passing skills. While Bird might have been a better long-range shooter than James, LeBron has made up for that difference with his incredible efficiency in finishing plays close to the basket.

Because he came along two decades after Bird, James has benefited from better nutrition, weight training, and travel accommodations. He also had the benefit of entering the NBA straight out of high school, whereas Bird played a full college career first. However, LeBron’s supporters also argue that he is a better athlete than Bird ever was, meaning that he was built for longevity in a way that Bird wasn’t.

lebron training

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The site Land of Basketball shows that Bird and James are almost neck-and-neck in career accomplishments, with Bird holding the edge in championships and rebounds per game and LeBron carrying an advantage in MVP Awards and points per game.

Both James and Bird are among the 10 best NBA players ever, but only LeBron has a chance to add to his legacy. Even before James finishes out his career, LeBron vs. Larry is already one of the best debates in NBA history.

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Matchup of Legends: LeBron James vs. Larry Bird

 

Many longtime NBA fans are amazed that LeBron James is already playing in his 13th season. At first glance, that number might not seem particularly important, but consider this — Larry Bird played only 13 total seasons in his career.

lebron vs bird 2

Bird, who is frequently referred to as the best small forward in history, was forced into retirement by back problems after the 1991-92 season. James, meanwhile, remains one of the best players in the NBA even though he has already played in considerably more regular season games than Bird.

As a player, James shares many qualities with Bird. Both men were terrific all-around players who filled up stat sheets in almost all statistical categories. Like Bird, James has tremendous court vision and passing skills. While Bird might have been a better long-range shooter than James, LeBron has made up for that difference with his incredible efficiency in finishing plays close to the basket.

Because he came along two decades after Bird, James has benefited from better nutrition, weight training, and travel accommodations. He also had the benefit of entering the NBA straight out of high school, whereas Bird played a full college career first. However, LeBron’s supporters also argue that he is a better athlete than Bird ever was, meaning that he was built for longevity in a way that Bird wasn’t.

lebron training

james tire

The site Land of Basketball shows that Bird and James are almost neck-and-neck in career accomplishments, with Bird holding the edge in championships and rebounds per game and LeBron carrying an advantage in MVP Awards and points per game.

Both James and Bird are among the 10 best NBA players ever, but only LeBron has a chance to add to his legacy. Even before James finishes out his career, LeBron vs. Larry is already one of the best debates in NBA history.

lebron vs bird 2 thumbnail

Matchup of Legends: LeBron James vs. Larry Bird

 

Many longtime NBA fans are amazed that LeBron James is already playing in his 13th season. At first glance, that number might not seem particularly important, but consider this — Larry Bird played only 13 total seasons in his career.

lebron vs bird 2

Bird, who is frequently referred to as the best small forward in history, was forced into retirement by back problems after the 1991-92 season. James, meanwhile, remains one of the best players in the NBA even though he has already played in considerably more regular season games than Bird.

As a player, James shares many qualities with Bird. Both men were terrific all-around players who filled up stat sheets in almost all statistical categories. Like Bird, James has tremendous court vision and passing skills. While Bird might have been a better long-range shooter than James, LeBron has made up for that difference with his incredible efficiency in finishing plays close to the basket.

Because he came along two decades after Bird, James has benefited from better nutrition, weight training, and travel accommodations. He also had the benefit of entering the NBA straight out of high school, whereas Bird played a full college career first. However, LeBron’s supporters also argue that he is a better athlete than Bird ever was, meaning that he was built for longevity in a way that Bird wasn’t.

lebron training

james tire

The site Land of Basketball shows that Bird and James are almost neck-and-neck in career accomplishments, with Bird holding the edge in championships and rebounds per game and LeBron carrying an advantage in MVP Awards and points per game.

Both James and Bird are among the 10 best NBA players ever, but only LeBron has a chance to add to his legacy. Even before James finishes out his career, LeBron vs. Larry is already one of the best debates in NBA history.

lebron vs bird 2 thumbnail

Matchup of Legends: LeBron James vs. Larry Bird

 

Many longtime NBA fans are amazed that LeBron James is already playing in his 13th season. At first glance, that number might not seem particularly important, but consider this — Larry Bird played only 13 total seasons in his career.

lebron vs bird 2

Bird, who is frequently referred to as the best small forward in history, was forced into retirement by back problems after the 1991-92 season. James, meanwhile, remains one of the best players in the NBA even though he has already played in considerably more regular season games than Bird.

As a player, James shares many qualities with Bird. Both men were terrific all-around players who filled up stat sheets in almost all statistical categories. Like Bird, James has tremendous court vision and passing skills. While Bird might have been a better long-range shooter than James, LeBron has made up for that difference with his incredible efficiency in finishing plays close to the basket.

Because he came along two decades after Bird, James has benefited from better nutrition, weight training, and travel accommodations. He also had the benefit of entering the NBA straight out of high school, whereas Bird played a full college career first. However, LeBron’s supporters also argue that he is a better athlete than Bird ever was, meaning that he was built for longevity in a way that Bird wasn’t.

lebron training

james tire

The site Land of Basketball shows that Bird and James are almost neck-and-neck in career accomplishments, with Bird holding the edge in championships and rebounds per game and LeBron carrying an advantage in MVP Awards and points per game.

Both James and Bird are among the 10 best NBA players ever, but only LeBron has a chance to add to his legacy. Even before James finishes out his career, LeBron vs. Larry is already one of the best debates in NBA history.