In the world of professional sports, contracts only seem to be growing more and more lucrative every single year. We’re witnessing record-breaking contacts in all major professional sports and it goes to show just how much money an athlete can make in the modern world today.
Athletes spend their entire childhood perfecting a craft in hopes of making it big one day and only a select few go on to have illustrious careers in their respective sport. Those select few have the opportunity of a lifetime – one that could set themselves up for life if they play their cards right.
Not only do athletes make a lot of money through their sport, but they have the ability to sign lucrative endorsement deals as they begin to build a profitable brand off their successful athlete career. Of course, that only sets those athletes up for more opportunities down the road.
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Athletes Who Went On to Be Successful Elsewhere
I always say there are two types of athletes – the ones that disappear once they retire and the ones that find success elsewhere. A majority of athletes fall into the first category. It’s not that they aren’t doing successful things, but we don’t seem to hear about it or talk about it much.
The second category is where athletes take their fortune from sport and turn it into an even greater fortune – an empire. Athletes who went on to be successful elsewhere usually have the biggest net worths and they end up making way more money than they ever did as an athlete.
We’re going to discuss 25 of those athletes that fall into the second category. Some of them were more successful than others in their respective sport, but they all share one thing in common – they continued that success outside of their career as a professional athlete.
**The names below are in no particular order**
25. Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest point guards of all-time and enjoyed an illustrious, 13-year Hall-of-Fame career with the Detroit Pistons. Outside of basketball, he’s the owner and CEO of Isiah International LLC, a holding company that dives into a number of ventures. His three primary businesses are Gre3n Waste Removal, Re3 Recycling, and Eleven Capital Group.
24. Jim Brown
Jim Brown is one of the greatest running backs of all-time. Very few have accomplished what he did in his short, nine-year Hall-of-Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. He retired after the 1965 season to pursue his acting career, which turned out well for him. He had his first lead role in 1968 and continued to earn leading roles throughout the 1970s.
23. Carl Weathers
Carl Weathers only spent two years in the NFL after going undrafted in 1970 and never recorded any stats, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing success elsewhere. His acting career took off when he earned the role of Apollo Creed for Rocky in 197 – a role he kept for Rocky II, Rocky III, and Rocky IV. He also appeared in Happy Gilmore, Predator, and Action Jackson.
22. Jason Statham
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about Jason Statham – he was a professional diver for 12 years as a member of Britain’s National Swimming Squad. He competed in the 10 metre, 3 metre, and 1 metre events – the same Jason Statham that starred as Frank Martin in the three Transporter movies. Since then, he has become one of Hollywood’s superstar actors.
21. Terry Crews
Speaking of athletes-turned-actors, Terry Crews is another name that most people forget about. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL Draft. He appeared in 32 games and recorded three tackles before pursuing an acting career. That’s when things took off for Crews, who has appeared in a number of successful films and TV shows.
20. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger began playing sports as a young boy and eventually turned to weight lifting and bodybuilding in his teenage years. Throughout the 1970s, Schwarzenegger established himself as one of the most prominent figures in the history of the sport. He retired in 1980 and became the face of Hollywood before being elected Governor of California.
19. Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He played 12 seasons in the NFL, rushing for 8,225 yards and 61 touchdowns in his career. He later appeared in The Celebrity Apprentice and has entered a career in politics where he currently serves on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition as co-chairman.
18. Jim Bouton
Jim Bouton spent 10 seasons in the MLB as a pitcher, compiling a 62-63 record in 304 games played. He had a career 3.57 ERA and 720 strikeouts in 1,238.2 innings pitched. Upon retiring, he authored a best-selling book about his days in the MLB, gaining him nationwide fame for his honest look into life as a pro baseball player. He also helped invent Big League Chew.
17. Tim Horton
When most people hear the name Tim Horton, they immediately think of coffee and donuts. What many people don’t know is that the name behind the multinational fast food chain used to be an NHL player. After a 20-year, Hall-of-Fame career that netted him 109 goals and 349 assists, Horton co-founded the popular Tim Hortons chain before his sudden death in 1974.
16. Rob Dyrdek
Rob Dyrdek is known for many things, but his career started as a professional skateboarder at the age of 16. He was sponsored by DC Shoes, EA Skate, Monster Energy, and Silver Trucks before retiring from skateboarding. The grind didn’t stop as he founded Street League Skateboarding, became a reality TV show sensation, and has a number of business ventures.
15. Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer is one of the greatest golfers of all-time and was one of the sport’s first superstars during the television era. He turned pro in 1954 and retired in 2006 with 96 pro wins to his name. Since retiring, he has continued with a number of business ventures, including designing and owning golf courses, an automotive business, and the Arnold Palmer beverage.
14. Jack Nicklaus
Speaking of the greatest golfers of all-time, let’s not forget about Jack Nicklaus. He turned pro in 1961 and retired in 2005 with 117 professional wins to his name. During his playing career and beyond, he has found worldwide success with Nicklaus Designs – one of the largest golf course design companies in the world. He’s also an author and runs a PGA Tour event.
13. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. He spent 18 seasons in the NBA and averaged north of 20 points per game in each of his first 13 seasons. Since his Hall-of-Fame career came to an end, Olajuwon has dominated the Houston real estate market with cash-only purchases and has earned himself well over $100 million in estimated profits.
12. John Madden
John Madden was a star football player in high school and college, but an injury ended his playing career during his first training camp after being drafted to the NFL. That didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest coaches in NFL history and one of the greatest broadcasters in NFL history. Not only that, but his Madden NFL video game is one of the most popular ever.
11. Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters the MLB has ever seen. He hit 696 home runs in his 22-year baseball career, which ranks fourth all-time. Since retiring, A-Rod has devoted himself to his business career. He’s the chairman and CEO of A-Rod Corp, but is also an owner for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and a chairman for Presidente – a brand of Pilsner beer.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant basketball players of all-time. He spent 19 years in the NBA and won four championships before retiring in 2011. Since then, he has followed a number of business ventures, including the release of four rap albums (one of which went platinum), reality TV, podcasts, film, touring as a DJ, advertising, and so much more.
9. David Beckham
David Beckham is one of the most recognizable names in football history. He played a total of 720 games over his senior career, which included stints with Manchester United, LA Galaxy, and Real Madrid. In addition to being the co-owner of two football clubs, Beckham has achieved success in fashion and a number of other business ventures through DB Ventures Limited.
8. LeBron James
LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of his generation and one of the greatest of all-time. While he’s still dominating the league to this day in his 19th season, he has also achieved a lot of success elsewhere. For example, he recently starred in Space Jam 2. He also owns a production company, has a number of endorsements, and is always making moves.
7. Michael Jordan
Speaking of the greatest basketball players of all-time, let’s talk about Michael Jordan. No athlete has ever made more money in their playing career than Michael Jordan. After 15 seasons in the NBA, Jordan has established himself as a business icon. He not only owns the Charlotte Hornets and 23XI Racing, but he makes a ton of money from his Jordan sportswear.
6. Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson, also known as ‘The Rock,’ originally wanted to pursue a career in football, but that didn’t work out. Instead, he made a career for himself as a professional wrestler and became one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. He has since retired, but is now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. He also owns the XFL and Teremana Tequila.
5. Vinnie Johnson
Vinnie Johnson won two NBA championships during his 13-year playing career. He averaged 12.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 984 career games played. After retirement, he founded Piston Automotive in 1995 – a major automotive parts supplier, namely for GM and Ford Motor Company. He also serves on the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.
4. George Foreman
George Foreman spent 30 years in the world of boxing. Between 1967 and 1997, he was a two-time Heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. He finished his boxing career with a 76-5 record. After retirement, he became an entrepreneur and is best known for the George Foreman Grills – which he sold the rights for $138 million back in 1999.
3. Junior Bridgeman
Junior Bridgeman is one of the richest athletes of all-time, but he didn’t earn a majority of his riches from playing basketball. After a decent 12-year career in the NBA, Bridgeman invested in over 100 fast food chains (including Wendy’s and Chili’s) before selling them all in 2016. He’s also the owner of Bridgeman Foods Inc and Bridgeman Sports and Media.
2. Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach is a Hall-of-Fame football player that spent 11 seasons in the NFL. Over that time, he amassed an impressive 85-29 record as starting quarterback, throwing for 22,700 yards and 153 touchdowns. After retirement, he founded The Staubach Company and achieved a great deal of success in the real estate industry. He’s one of the richest athletes of all-time.
1. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is widely regarded as the greatest point guard in NBA history. He spent 13 years in the NBA, winning five championships and averaging 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He retired early due to his battle with HIV, but he continued his success as a businessman. He’s part-owner of the Dodgers and Sparks, but also owns Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Not All Athletes Are One-Trick Ponies
Athletes that make it big will likely enjoy 10-20 years playing the sport they love most – if they’re lucky. While they’ll make a lot of money in those 10-20 years, it’s important to understand that most athletes are 40 years old or younger at the time of retirement – they have a lot of life left.
Some athletes retire in style – they make a few small investments and enjoy the rest of their early retirement. With that said, not all athletes are one-trick ponies. Some athletes continue that grind and realize that their money-making days are only just beginning once they ‘hang ‘em up.’
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We hope you enjoyed our list of 25 athletes who went on to be successful elsewhere and we hope it inspires you to find success in places you never thought possible. Remember, it’s never too late to pursue something, especially if you’re passionate and dedicated to that something!
What These 20 Well-Known Athletes Have Done Following Retirement
Retirement can be a difficult thing for any professional athlete that has devoted their entire life to the sport – leaving the game is never easy, even when you know it’s your time. That’s why so many athletes today start planning for retirement early, making the transition much easier.
We’ve seen it most recently with Tom Brady, who announced a 10-year, $375 million contract to be the lead football analyst for FOX Sports – the only catch is that the contract doesn’t start until he officially announces his retirement from the NFL and we have no idea when that’ll be.
And then there are those that juggle two jobs at once – being a professional athlete, while also starting another career. Chiney Ogwumike is a WNBA player and full-time sportscaster, while Russell Westbrook has his own clothing line and is the Creative Director of True Religion.
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Life After Retirement for Famous Athletes
Since most athletes retire between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, they still have so much life left to live. Of course, they also usually have lavish lifestyles and families that they need to maintain, which means they need to have some source of income after announcing retirement.
Some athletes will find their second calling after retirement, while others will prepare for it before retirement. Either way, it’s always surprising to see what professional athletes are capable of when they put their time, energy, and effort towards something outside of their respective sport.
The cool thing to do right now is broadcasting – look at the energy Draymond Green, Patrick Beverley, and CJ McCollum bring to the news studio. Of course, that’s far from the only thing – in fact, you’ll see everything from politicians to photographers, financial advisors, and more!
20. Kerri Strug
Kerri Strug is a former American gymnast that represented Team USA in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics. She won a bronze medal in the team event in 1992 at the age of 14 and was a member of the Magnificent Seven that won the gold medal in the team event in 1996.
Perhaps best known for sticking her landing at the vault with an injured ankle, which clinched Team USA’s gold medal. Since retiring, she graduated from college, spent time as a school teacher, and is a member of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
19. Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao is a former Filipino professional boxer that announced his retirement in 2021. He had a 62-8-2 record throughout his 25+ year career, including becoming the only boxer to win world championships in eight different divisions – he won a total of 12 major world titles.
Pacquiao began a career in politics when he was elected to the House of Representatives in his home country of the Philippines. He later became a senator in 2016, was named the president of the PDP-Laban party in 2020, and recently ran for president of the Philippines – though he lost.
18. Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson is a retired starting pitcher that spent 22 seasons in the MLB. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, but not before becoming a 10-time All-Star, five-time Cy Young winner, 2001 World Series Champion, and World Series MVP that very same season.
He had a 303-166 record as starting pitcher – including 16 seasons with double-digit wins. He retired after the 2009 season and while he serves as a special assistant to the President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has also found success in his career as a photographer.
17. Wayne Chrebet
Wayne Chrebet is a retired wide receiver that spent 11 years in the NFL – all of which with the New York Jets. He was a consistent player that recorded eight straight seasons of at least 630 yards receiving. He finished his career with 580 catches for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns.
A legend in the New Jersey area – where he was born, went to college, and played pro football – Chrebet retired from the NFL in 2005 and joined Morgan and Stanley as a financial advisor in 2009. By 2012, Barclays Capital hired him as a financial advisor and Assistant Vice President.
Glenn Jacobs, best known by his ring name Kane, is a popular professional wrestler that was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2021. He first debuted with the WWE in 1995 and embarked on a legendary career that included three world titles and 12 world tag team titles.
While he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, he only makes sporadic appearances and is more focused on his new career as Mayor of Knox County in Tennessee – a position he held since 2018. In 2021, he announced his intent to run for re-election – which he’s poised to do.
15. Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is a former point guard that spent 12 seasons in the NBA – mostly with the Phoenix Suns. He was a three-time All-Star and 1988-89 Most Improved Player of the Year before retiring in 2000 with 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.
Between 2008 and 2016, Johnson served as Mayor of Sacramento, California – he was re-elected in 2012 with 58.74% of the votes. He also founded the Kevin Johnson Corporation, which is involved in a range of business ventures, speaking engagements, and much more.
14. Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan is a former defensive end that spent 15 seasons in the NFL – all with the New York Giants. He finished his career with 854 tackles, 141.5 sacks, 24 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions, and 3 defensive touchdowns. He won Super Bowl XLII in 2008.
Aside from being a Hall of Fame, former Defensive Player of the Year, Strahan has made a name for himself as a media personality – both as a sportscaster with Fox NFL Sunday and as a host with Good Morning America, Live! With Kelly and Michael, and the game show Pyramid.
13. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is a former center that spent 19 seasons in the NBA with the Magic, Heat, Lakers, Cavaliers, Suns, and Celtics. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game, winning four championships and three Finals MVP awards in the process.
Aside from being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, O’Neal has done pretty much anything and everything. He’s a high-profile disc jockey (DJ Diesel), mixed martial artist, professional wrestler, actor, hip hop artist, sportscaster, analyst, sheriff’s deputy, and major entrepreneur.
12. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a former professional wrestler that’s widely regarded as one of the greatest of all-time. He’s a 10-time world champion, five-time Tag Team champion, and the WWE’s sixth winner of the Triple Crown. He made his pro debut in 1996 and retired in 2019.
Aside from his wrestling, Johnson has become one of the most successful, highest-grossing, and influential actors of his generation. He also owns an entertainment company called Seven Bucks Productions, is co-owner of the XFL, and founded a tequila brand called Teremana.
11. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a former professional bodybuilder, widely regarded as the most influential and successful bodybuilder of all-time. He first showed an interest in weights at the age of 15, was named Mr. Olympia at the age of 20, and was a seven-time Mr. Olympia winner.
After retiring from bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger went on to become a famous Hollywood actor and one of the most influential actors of his generation. He also founded Oak Productions and served as the 38th Governor of California, being elected in 2003 and was re-elected in 2006.
10. Junior Bridgeman
Junior Bridgeman is a former guard-forward that spent 12 seasons in the NBA – 10 with the Milwaukee Bucks and two with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in 1987 after averaging 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.8 steals in 25.0 minutes per game (849 games played).
During his playing career, Bridgeman would spend his offseasons learning the fast food industry by working for Wendy’s. After retiring, he owned hundreds of Wendy’s and Chili’s franchises, was President and CEO of Bridgeman Foods, Inc., and owner of Bridgeman Sports and Media.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon is a former center that spent 18 seasons in the NBA – 17 with the Houston Rockets and one with the Toronto Raptors. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time champion, MVP, two-time Defensive POY, nine-time All-Defensive player that was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
After retiring from the game of basketball in 2002, Olajuwon built a real estate empire that exceeded profits of $100+ million. He is of Islam faith and since it’s against his religion to pay interest, he only purchases real estate in cash transactions. He lives in Jordan and Houston.
8. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is a former shooting guard that spent 15 seasons in the NBA – 13 with the Chicago Bulls and two with the Washington Wizards. He was a six-time champion, six-time Finals MVP, five-time MVP, Rookie of the Year, and former Defensive Player of the Year.
Jordan became the first NBA player to reach billionaire status – something LeBron James did recently – and a strong majority of that money came from his life after basketball. Aside from his success with the Jordan Brand, he is majority owner and president of the Charlotte Hornets.
7. Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer is a former professional golfer that made his pro debut in 1954 and retired from competitive golf in 2006. He finished his career with 95 professional wins – including 62 on the PGA Tour and seven major championships. He was a four-time winner of The Masters.
Palmer made a lot of money with his signature Arnold Palmer drink – half iced tea, half lemonade. Aside from that, he earned his pilot certificate – despite having a fear of flying growing up – and logged roughly 20,000 hours over a 55-year period. He passed away in 2016.
6. Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach is a former starting quarterback who played 11 seasons in the NFL – all of which with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. He had a 85-29 record.
A couple of years before retiring from the NFL, he started his own real estate company called The Staubach Company. He eventually sold the business to Jones Lang LaSalle for over $600 million and served as executive chairman of the company until deciding to retire in 2018.
5. Bill Bradley
Bill Bradley is a former small forward that spent 10 seasons in the NBA – all of which with the New York Knicks. He was named an All-Star in 1972-73 and won two championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973. He averaged 12.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
Upon retiring in 1977, Bradley began a career as a politician. He was elected as a United States senator in 1979 and re-elected in 1984 and 1990. He eventually left his role as senator to run for President of the United States – though unsuccessful. He also has several business ventures.
4. Jim Bunning
Jim Bunning is a former starting pitcher that spent 17 seasons in the MLB – mostly with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career with a 224-184 record, was a nine-time All-Star, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a player in 1996.
Bunning retired after the 1971 season and served on the Fort Thomas city council before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 and eventually a United States senator in 1999. He announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2011 and passed away six years later in 2017.
3. Eddie George
Eddie George is a former running back that spent nine seasons in the NFL – eight with the Tennessee Titans and one with the Dallas Cowboys. He had seven seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards, including a career-high 1,509 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground in 2000.
After retiring from football in 2004, George earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and later earned his MBA. He has appeared in a Broadway musical called Chicago. He owns a restaurant named Eddie George Bar and Grille 27 and is head coach of Tennessee State.
2. Becky Hammon
Becky Hammon is a former point guard that spent 16 seasons in the WNBA – eight with the New York Liberty and eight with the San Antonio Silver Stars. She was a six-time All-Star that averaged 13.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in 27.9 minutes per game.
Hammon retired in 2014 and was immediately hired as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. She broke gender barriers in the NBA – coaching Summer League and being the first acting female head coach. She’s now the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA.
1. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is a former point guard that spent 13 seasons in the NBA – all of which with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a 12-time All-Star, five-time champion, three-time MVP, and three-time Finals MVP that led the entire league in assists four times and steals twice.
Johnson retired from the game in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV. He made a brief return in 1996, but it didn’t last long. After retiring, he has enjoyed several business ventures – including Magic Johnson Entertainment, Magic Johnson Enterprises, and Lakers’ team executive.
Famous Athletes That are Nearing Retirement
The athletes listed above had no problem turning their athletic success into a second career, but now we have to turn our attention to the many famous athletes that are currently nearing retirement. Will they have the same success in their second career as those listed above?
Some athletes that could enter retirement within the next five years include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina (confirmed for 2023), Conor McGregor, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and more.
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While we never know when retirement might come for an athlete – some retire after 20 seasons, while others retire after just a few years. With that said, it’s something many athletes must prepare for if they want to live a happy, healthy, rewarding, and purposeful life after retirement.
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