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.


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.


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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Lesson Plan

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: This lesson will teach students how to determine rate of change using data about professional player salaries. Students will understand that rate of change can be represented in a table or graph and is synonymous with the term slope. They will use the slope formula to determine the rate of change of player salaries over the years.

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Lesson tags: Basketball, Eighth, Featured, Financial Literacy, LeBron James, Math, MLB, NBA, NFL, Ninth, Rate of Change, Seventh, Sports

Francis Tolan

Francis Tolan Francis is a Special Education and Social Studies teacher in the Bronx, NY. He's a new father but he's not too far from being a child himself. You can find his writing about sports, pop culture, fatherhood, and general nonsense on his blog at