Contrary to popular belief, being a professional athlete is not a privilege its a business. A lucrative business, but a business nonetheless.
Each athlete is in charge of their own individual business interests so logically the scoreboard shouldn’t be the only measure of success. People don’t determine their own individual career success based off how well their company is doing so why do we do it to athletes?
There’s no other industry where you would call a millionaire unsuccessful because the company he works for doesn’t meet expectations. In the words of the legendary Jalen Rose, “I can’t be a scrub if I bought my mother a house.”
I’ve compiled a short list of players who fans may not look at as “winners,” but won big in the business of sports and the game of life.
3. J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith has been cashing NBA checks since he was 18 years old. He was drafted straight out of high school in 2004.
He’s well known, even among non-sports fans, for having fun and enjoying everything that come with being an NBA player. Smith has been linked with a number of models, singers and actresses throughout his career.
Many fans criticize him for having too much fun. People say he’s not focused and underachieves but in any other business they would say he creates a good work/life balance for himself. In his 13 year career he’s made over $100,000,000 dollars, won 6th man of the year in 2012, and won an NBA championship in 2016.
2. Lou Williams
Lou Williams was drafted straight out of high school by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2005 at the age of 18. He was a part of the last NBA draft class that allowed high school players to declare.
Landing in Philadelphia as a rookie gave him a chance to explore his passion for music. He recorded several songs with Philadelphia native and multi-platinum selling artist Meek Mill.
Throughout his career he’s gotten to live and play in some of the most desirable locations in America, his home town of Atlanta, Toronto, L.A. and Houston. He’s also made over $57,000,000 in his 12 year career and was voted 6th Man of The Year in 2015.
On the 2015 multi-platinum selling album, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” by Grammy Award Winning Rapper Drake, there’s a song dedicated to Williams called “6 Man.” The song was played during his 6th Man of The Year Trophy Presentation.
Not many people can say they made songs with Meek Mill and had Drake write them a theme song.
For further proof of how much Lou Williams is winning just refer to the first verse of “6 Man.”
1. Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson has enjoyed a career of getting superstar money without having to deal with superstar expectations.
Even in the social media era, he’s been able to avoid all of the scrutiny and criticism that comes with being the best and highest paid player on a team. It’s a combination of his calm demeanor and playing for teams that haven’t been historically great that’s allowed him to maintain relative anonymity.
While most athletes chase the spotlight, he avoided it while still maximizing his earning potential. In his 16 year NBA career he’s made over $214,000,000 in salary, which puts him slightly behind Lebron James for second among active players.
He’s also made seven all-star appearances, scored over 20,000 points and landed a Jordan Brand sponsorship.