Surprising name tops list of highest-paid athletes of all time

Joe Sakic (19) of the Colorado Avalanche warms up before the hockey game against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Joe Sakic (19) of the Colorado Avalanche warms up before the hockey game against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2007 in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

(CBS) - Star athletes get paid like stars. That was just as true 100 years ago as it is today. Sure the numbers may have gone up (Ty Cobb was making $85,000 in 1927, for example) but there has always been a gap between what the superstars are making compared to the average players. A recent analysis from 24/7 Wall St. is aimed at figuring out the highest paid athletes of all time. Their top ten list has some familiar names (Michael Jordan and Alex Rodriguez are up there) and some very surprising ones. Who did they determine the top-paid player of all time to be?

First, a look at the system 24/7 Wall St. used. Instead of using the raw numbers, or even adjusting for inflation, their analysts decided to look at how much more a star was making compared to an average player. Their list reflects the top athletes who made over ten times as much as an average player in their sport and era. Michael Jordan, for example, had a salary of $33.14 million in 1998 when the average NBA player salary was $2.37 million. So His Airness was making almost 14 times as much as the average player, good enough for No. 2 on the list.

Have you guessed who the number one athlete is? Here's a hint: think hockey. Still no? It's a surprising pick, but according to 24/7 Wall St., the top-paid athlete of all time was Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic. Sakic won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche over his 20-year career and also holds the NHL record for most playoff overtime goals, at eight. In 1998, two years after Colorado's first championship, the New York Rangers offered Sakic a blockbuster contract that the Avalanche were forced to match. The result was a $17 million salary at a time when the average NHL player was making $1.17 million. Sakic was paid 14.56 times as much as the average player, the highest ratio of any athlete in history.

Other names in the top ten include Ty Cobb at number three, Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux at four, and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana rounding out the top five. Check out the complete top ten list HERE.

  • Bailey Johnson

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