11 Points

11 Crappiest Salaries in 11 U.S. Pro Sports
written by Sam Greenspan

Sometimes, when I'm feeling good and want to instantly depress myself, I compare the amount of money I make to a professional athlete. For instance, last NBA season, Jermaine O'Neal made $21,372,000 and only played 2,027 minutes... meaning he made $10,543.66 per minute.

At my first job (which I discussed in Monday's list) I made $4.25 per hour -- meaning it would've taken 2,481 hours for me to make as much as Jermaine O'Neal made in one minute last year. And he's not even good.

I caught myself doing drive-yourself-crazy salary comparisons last night and decided to take things in an opposite direction. I started researching the poorest athletes in the country... and once I start digging into something, an 11 Points list often follows.

Here are 11 major (and, a few, not so major) professional sports leagues in the U.S., and the minimum salaries they pay. I avoided minor leagues (like AA baseball or the NBA Development League); and I stuck to sports where salaries are fixed, and aren't contingent on winning tournaments (tennis, golf), races (NASCAR, Major League Eating) or fights (UFC, WBA, foxy boxing).

These are ranked from highest minimum salary to lowest minimum salary. Enjoy comparing yourself to athletes whom, in seven of the 11 sports, quite possibly make less than you do.

  1. A classic Phoenix-Nashville NHL matchup.
    National Hockey League - $500,000 - The fact that the NHL has the highest minimum salary of any American sport is a nice, tidy summation of why that league is in more pain than Adam Banks after a dirty hit by the Hawks.

  2. National Basketball Association - $457,588 - NBA teams don't have to pay that many players -- only 15 -- so they have more money to go around. And since the guys making $457k rarely get into games, they're basically making that money for cheering on the bench, creating elaborate handshakes, and getting thrown in on trades to teams desperately trying to clear salary cap space so they can sign LeBron next year. ("Sure, we're not on his list, but look at all our young talent! Don't you think the number one factor in his decision will be the opportunity to play with Chris Douglas-Roberts?")

  3. Major League Baseball - $400,000 - Also, coincidentally, that's the maximum salary paid by the Florida Marlins the year after they win a World Series.

  4. National Football League - $310,000 - NFL teams carry the biggest rosters of any sport (both in number of people and size of those people), which is why it's the lowest of the major sports leagues. Is it enough money to trade for the inability to walk by age 46? Well you could really be set for life as long as you invest it wisel-- oh wait, you just bought an eight-foot solid gold statue of Tony Montoya. Never mind.

  5. This is Maria, the last wrestler to make the $40k minimum. Also I couldn't find any photos of her in wrestling action, mostly just her in Playboy.
    WWE - ~$40,000 - That's not very much money. No wonder wrestlers always have side jobs as repo men, pig farmers, garbage collectors, models, police officers, genius poets, clowns, hockey players, cowboys, fitness trainers, tugboat captains, barbers, shady IRS agents, country music singers, race car drivers, plumbers, red roosters, dentists and ravishers.

  6. Women's National Basketball Association - $35,190 - As the Internet's only WNBA sympathizer, one might expect me to bemoan this salary... basically the equivalent of a decent-but-not spectacular Sandwich Artist. But I won't. When the league starts making NBA-esque revenue, the players will get NBA-esque salaries.

    Until then, just be happy David Stern's such a bull-headed bastard that he let this league survive a decade of hemorrhaging money until, finally, it actually started to turn a little profit.

  7. United Football League - $25,000 - One of the 5,000 "Arrested Development" lines I adore comes in a scene between shakily-married couple Lindsay and Tobias. The exchange goes like this:

    The UFL incarnate.
    Tobias: As a therapist, I have advised many couples to explore an open relationship, where a couple remains emotionally committed but are free to explore extramarital encounters.

    Linsday: Well, did it work for those people?

    Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but... but it might work for us...
    I think of that every time a new professional football league starts up. Sure, every single NFL rival has failed, from the USFL to the XFL to Arena... but it just might work for us!

    Anyway, the UFL debuted in October of last year with four teams; they play a six-game season; and pay a minimum of $35,000 to skill players and $25,000 to the second-class triumvirate of kickers, punters and long snappers.

    Look for the UFL soon in the hobo obituaries.

  8. Major League Soccer - $20,100 - Ah, the irreconcilably-broken relationship between America and soccer. Should've gotten a full divorce years ago... if only we weren't so damn religious.

    With a World Cup coming up this summer, you can fully expect the tri-annual deluge of "Americans watched the World Cup, are we finally ready to embrace soccer?" articles. And, of course, the answer will again be "no." (Sorry if that ruins your enjoyment of a brilliant column by Woody Paige or Skip Bayless.)

    [Note: When I looked up Skip Bayless to make sure he was still writing and not just yelling on TV, I found this on his Wikipedia page. I've never listened to the Jim Homo Show myself.]

  9. Women's Professional Soccer - $12,875 - This is the new women's pro league, after the former one, the WUSA, lost $100 million and folded. Clearly, this minimum salary is one of the many cost-cutting initiatives they've spearheaded.

    If only Jonathan Brandis and Rodney Dangerfield were still alive, they could've made some nice extra pocket money with this league.

  10. National Lacrosse League - $5,800 - On one hand, it's like five grand below the poverty line. On the other hand, it's some kind of Patriots' Day miracle you're getting paid ANYTHING to play professional lacrosse.

  11. NCAA Football - $0 - This is the minimum salary, a few hundred thousand below what the average player makes at USC.

    Last season, NCAA football had a revenue somewhere around $800 million. And all the players get a degree in communications and a bunch of pairs of free sweatpants. Just sayin'.

This post was originally published on Friday, March 5, 2010 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Sports.

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