Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant Divorce: The Most Costly Athlete Breakups Ever

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIDecember 23, 2011

Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant Divorce: The Most Costly Athlete Breakups Ever

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    When Kanye West sang "if you ain't no punk, holla we want pre-nup!" on his hit song "Gold Digger," there can be no doubt he was speaking to, among others, athletes: fabulously rich and famous athletes who will eventually pay (both literally and figuratively) for failing to recognize that their relationship may not have a fairy-tale ending.

    With the news that Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa filed for divorce, and that the couple never signed a prenuptial agreement, it's clear that the Black Mamba will be forking over a large sum of cash to his soon-to-be ex-wife.

    Good for Vanessa. Truly idiotic for Kobe.

    Since the couple married in 2001 (when Vanessa was only 19), Kobe has earned $173 million in salary, and that doesn't take into consideration his considerable endorsement deals. According to Forbes, Kobe raked in $25 million in endorsements in 2010 alone.

    Under California's community property laws, his earnings are just as much Vanessa's property as they are Kobe's. When the divorce is finalized, she will take half of whatever Kobe earned during their marriage.

    Kobe apparently thought his marriage was the exception to the rule: that he could do as he pleased, and that Vanessa would fall in line and just enjoy life as a superstar's wife and the millions of dollars that goes along with it.

    But, Kobe and Vanessa weren't the exception to the rule. More precisely, Kobe wasn't the exception to the rule, as Vanessa alleges that he was repeatedly unfaithful (I knowtruly surprising stuff). And Vanessa is certainly enjoying her millions now...millions that Kobe will never have any control over because he failed to see the error of his ways.

    It appears Kobe should have listened to his parents, who apparently didn't want their son to marry so young.

    But, if the Bryants' divorce settlement is going to break any records, they have some stiff competition. Here are 10 more outrageously costly athlete divorces, from the most high profile (paging Tiger Woods) to the most expensive (Michael Jordan, Kobe's predecessor as the face of the NBA).

Jose & Esther Canseco | Jose & Jessica Canseco

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    No one ever mistook this former Bash Brother for a Mensa member, but you would think he could learn a lesson after getting burned once.

    In 1992, Canseco divorced Esther Haddad, his wife of four years. Four years later, he married former Hooters waitress Jessica Sekely, only to have that marriage also end in divorce. Not only did Wife No. 1 take Canseco for a large divorce settlement, but so did Wife No. 2.

    The world's first 40-40 man paid out an estimated $7 million to $8 million combined to Esther and Jessica, while apparently blowing the rest of the $45 million he made during his playing years, leaving him to earn a living playing and coaching in various independent leagues and making endless reality TV appearances.

Justine Henin & Pierre-Yves Hardenne

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    It's not just male athletes that walk unprepared into marriage. Belgian women's tennis star Justine Henin married Pierre-Yves Hardenne in 2002 and took his name (even if it was the hyphenated Henin-Hardenne). Not five years later, the couple separated and eventually divorced, with Henin returning to non-hyphenated status.

    Henin, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, paid dearly for her short-lived marriage, which cost her 6.5 million euros (approximately $9 million in 2007) and a residence in Monaco. Adding insult to injury, the marriage allegedly caused a major rift between the star and her family that ended only after the divorce.

    Yup...not only did Hardenne take Henin's money and home, he ruined her relationship with her dad. Impressive.

Hulk & Linda Hogan (Bollea)

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    After more than 25 years of marriage, the Hulk's wife filed for divorce in 2009 when it was revealed that the wrestling great had been unfaithful with a woman working on their daughter's reality show Brooke Knows Best.

    The messy aftermath resulted in Hogan giving his ex-wife 40 percent ownership in his business enterprises. Linda also received $7.44 million of the couple's cash and investment assets, plus an additional $3 million property settlement.

    At least the Hulkster's not paying alimony. Can you say that when the guy forked over more than 10 million bucks to his ex AND she continues to have a say in his future business forays?

Lance & Kristin Armstrong

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    Lance Armstrong met his future wife Kristin Richard in 1997, one year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs and brain. Armstrong had already completed chemotherapy and went into total remission by 1998, and the couple married that same year.

    One year later, Armstrong won his first Tour de France, and then won four more before the couple divorced in 2003. According to Daniel Coyle's book Lance Armstrong's War, Kristin received $14 million through the divorce settlement, after having given birth to three children in five years of marriage.

    Armstrong didn't skip a beat, moving on to date singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, eventually getting engaged but splitting before the wedding. He has since had two more children with his girlfriend of five years, Anna Hansen.

Jeff & Brooke Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon's No. 24 car has been a constant force in NASCAR since the mid-90's, winning the Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series four times (1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001) and finishing first in 85 races. Unfortunately for Gordon, his first wife Brooke was a force in divorce court.

    The Gordons married in 1994, after meeting in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway when Brooke was "Miss Winston." After nine years of marriage, the couple divorced in 2003.

    What did the former Miss Winston get for standing by her man as he rose through the NASCAR ranks? $15.3 million, little more than a quarter of Gordon's more than $58 million in career earnings through 2003, but still no drop in a bucket.

Shaq & Shaunie O'Neal

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    The basketball player formerly known as The Big Aristotle and The Diesel married Shaunie Nelson in 2002, and the couple had four children. Shaunie filed for divorce in 2007, but then withdrew her petition, only to refile it in 2009, citing irreconcilable differences allegedly stemming from Shaq's infidelities.

    Despite owning her own production company that created the likes of Basketball Wives and Football Wives, Shaunie scored big in the couple's divorce settlement, reportedly recovering marital property and securing child-support payments in addition to whatever portion of the more than $157 million that Shaq earned in salary alone during the marriage.

Alex & Cynthia Rodriguez

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    A-Rod has broken records throughout his career, not only on the field, but also in salary negotiations, inking two of the three largest contracts ever in all sports. He married Cynthia Scurtis in 2002, and the new Ms. Rodriguez no doubt enjoyed quite the lavish lifestyle in both Texas and New York.

    Shortly after signing his second enormous deal (for 10 years and $275 million with the Yankees) reports of A-Rod's infidelities began to surface, including reports of him spending time with an exotic dancer in Toronto, hiring hookers through the same madam that supplied former NY Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer and leaving Madonna's New York City apartment.

    Not surprisingly, Cynthia filed for divorce shortly thereafter, claiming the marriage was irretrievably broken due to the star's extramarital affairs and "other marital misconduct."

    According to reports, the couple's subsequent divorce settlement netted Cynthia millions of dollars, including a large sum of cash.

Greg & Laura Norman

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    Greg Norman spent 331 weeks atop the Official World Golf Rankings in the 1980s and 1990s, second only to Tiger Woods' record of 623.

    In 1981, one year before he won his first PGA Tour event (the 1982 Kemper Open), Norman married Laura Andrassy, and the couple remained married through his illustrious career for the next 26 years.

    In a shocking move, Norman left Laura in 2007 for family friend and tennis great Chris Evert. The golfer known as the Great White Shark paid the mother of his two children $103 million in their divorce settlement, and then ended up marrying and divorcing Evert within two years.

Tiger & Elin Woods

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    If you missed this story, you've either been in a coma or living in a hole for the last two years. Tiger was smart enough to have a prenup, dumb enough to turn his entire empire on its head because he couldn't keep it in his pants, and then smart enough again to pay Elin a load of money (reportedly $110 million) and let her ride off into the (cold, snowy, Swedish) sunset. 

Michael & Juanita Jordan

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    When His Airness divorced Juanita, his wife of 17 years, it cost him $168 million.

    You read that correctly: $168 million. That's a lot of Gatorade, Big Macs and Air Jordans.

    Not that Mike is now struggling to pay his mortgage in retirement: he continues to rake in the endorsement ducats, reportedly earning $60 million in 2010 from his deals with Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, Upper Deck, 2K Sports and Five Star Fragrances.

    And that doesn't even take into consideration his earnings as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, and whatever other investments a man worth more than half a billion dollars makes.

Kris Humphries & Kim Kardashian

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    Okay, so technically this divorce doesn't qualify. No money changed hands because (in a rare moment of lucidity) Humphries and Kardashian signed a prenup.

    But they're not off the hook because they had their heads on straight about this one thing. Even though there was no monetary cost to Humphries and Kardashian's divorce, their short-lived saga had a great emotional and psychological cost for the American public.

    Everyday, innocent Americans were bombarded with media coverage of these two good-for-nothing twerps and their sham marriage. Then we were supposed to act surprised when it all came crashing down after 72 days.

    That's how dumb the mainstream media believes us to be. Not to mention the time and resources devoted to this media coverage: 72 days worth that we, as a society, will never have back.