Do Pro Athletes Really Deserve Their Salaries?

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IJuly 14, 2008

Pro athletes make astronomical salaries sometimes worth as much as millions of dollars, or as little as hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Here are the salaries that the top players in the NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA will make or made in the 2007-08 season (or 2008 season in the case of the MLB).

·     Alex Rodriguez, third baseman, New York Yankees: $28 million

·     Jason Giambi, first baseman, New York Yankees: $24.3 million

·     Kevin Garnett, forward, Boston Celtics: $23.8 million

·     Shaquille O'Neal, forward/center, Phoenix Suns: $21 million

·     Julius Peppers, defensive end, Carolina Panthers: $14.1 million

·     Carson Palmer, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals: $13.5 million

·     Scott Gomez, forward, New York Rangers: $10 million

·     Daniel Briere, forward, Philadelphia Flyers: $10 million


Do any of them deserve their gigantic paychecks?


A-Rod's 2008 stats include a .312 BA (tied for 8th in the AL) with 19 homers (tied for fifth) and 53 RBI (tied for 19th).


He's having a great year (for most players)—.300 / 20 / 60—just not one worth almost $30 million.  The reason his contract pays so well is that he plays for the Yankees. 


It's amazing that Giambi almost got voted to the AL All-Star team.  He's hitting .253 (tied for 64th in the AL) on the year.  The Yankees first baseman has also hit 19 homers (fifth) and 55 RBI (15th).


Even if Giambi was only getting paid to hit homers and knock in runs, he wouldn't deserve his salary this year.  Almost $25 million on the year for about 38 long balls and 110 RBI is definitely a huge overpay.  The reason he gets paid as well as he does is for the same reason as A-Rod: he plays for the Yankees. 


Kevin Garnett averaged 18.8 points (38th in the NBA) and 9.2 rebounds (17th), and 1.2 blocks (25th) last year. 


While Garnett didn't average many blocks, the Celtics brought him in to be an offensive force and inside presence—and as good as he was in that role, he didn't deserve to rake in $24 million last season. 


Shaq averaged 12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds—a double-double—in 28 games in Phoenix last season.


Maybe if Shaq had averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds I would be more inclined to think that he earned his gargantuan salary.  He wasn't worth $20 million in 2007-08.


Peppers had 2.5 sacks, 38 tackles, and three forced fumbles last year. 


He didn't play well enough to receive one million dollars for his services last season, much less $10+ million.  Peppers's numbers were so bad last year that I knew I didn't even bother to see how his stats matched up against the NFL's leaders' numbers.   


Palmer had 373 completions; good for fifth in the NFL, (575 attempts, 64.9%), 4,131 pass yards (fifth), and 26 TD passes (10th) last year.


Palmer is the first one on this list who actually deserved his millions last year. 


Gomez scored 70 points (38th in the NHL) in 2007-08 on 16 goals (124th) and 54 assists (12th) in 81 regular season games. 


During the playoffs he totaled 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 10 games. 


Gomez played well enough for $7.5-8 million, but not $10 million.  Alex Ovechkin or Henrik Zetterberg would be worth that much.


Briere had 31 goals (26th in the NHL) and 41 assists (48th) for 72 points (28th) in 79 regular season contests.  He also served 68 penalty minutes as an enforcer. 


In the playoffs Briere sat 20 penalty minutes in addition to scoring 16 points (8th) in 17 games.


Briere brought a lot of scoring to his team and often provided the spark for them.  He did that extra bit that makes him worthy of his $10 million salary from 2007-08. 


So only two players listed earlier performed well enough to deserve the money they got paid for the 2007-08 season.  However, all but one still played very well—they just didn't do well enough to earn their full salary.


This shows that pro sports are overpaying their athletes.