We all know that players in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and PGA are well compensated for their athletic abilities. They make millions of dollars and enjoy the adulation of fans across the country. You may not have known, however, that athletes in lesser-known sports are highly paid as well. Although they do not receive all of the national attention of their more famous counterparts, they are able to make a nice living toiling away in anonymity. (Find out about overpaid athletes in Top 10 Most Hair-Raising Sports Contracts.)
In Pictures: 8 Money-Saving Tips For Sports Fans
Walter Ray Williams Jr. has the most wins in the Professional Bowling Association's (PBA) history with 47 tour wins. He has the single season earnings record raking in $419,700 in the 2002-03 season. Williams Jr. has made over $4.2 million dollars throughout his bowling career.
Unlike NBA, MLB, NFL stars, Williams can continue in his career despite his advanced age. At 50 years of age Williams plans to continue bowling for the foreseeable future. Bowling has produced other multimillionaires such as former PBA Tour champion Pete Weber. Weber has earned over $3.2 million in his playing career.
Phil Taylor is as popular in England as Michael Jordan is in the United States. Taylor has won an impressive 15 Professional Dart Championships (PDC) and over 150 professional tournaments throughout his illustrious career. Taylor has been rewarded handsomely for winning 15 of the last 21 PDC Championships earning over $5 million pounds (or $7.7 million dollars) in career earnings.
Table tennis is full of great players such as Ma Long and Wang Hao of China. Long and Hao are the number one and two ranked players in the world. They have both won the International Table Tennis Federation's (ITTF) Pro Tour Grand Finals Championship. Their reward for winning first place in the ITTF Men's Singles Championship was $40,000. (Check out Sports Stars Worth Every Penny.)
Table tennis players can win purses ranging from $2,800 to $33,000 for winning tournaments during the season.
Do you think skateboarding is just a fad? Well, tell that to Tony Hawk, Paul Rodriguez Jr. and Ryan Sheckler. Hawk has built a multi-million dollar empire on the action sport. He is the highest paid extreme sports star generating $12 million dollars a year in income according to Forbes. Hawk makes money on everything, including skateboards, clothing apparel and videogames.
Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler earned $5 million in 2008 and scored a reality show on MTV. Paul Rodriguez Jr. is one of the most popular skateboarders going. P-Rod earned over $2 million dollars and has his own Nike shoe and a clothing line. P-Rod has been featured in Tony Hawk videogames as well.
Cricket players now make the salaries of NFL, NBA and MLB players. The highest paid cricket player in the world, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, makes over $10 million dollars a year. He recently signed a two-year, $42 million dollar marketing deal to endorse numerous different products.
Dhoni is not alone. Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar earned over $8 million dollars last year. According to Forbes, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is home to nine of the richest cricket players in the world. Each player's salary is well over a million dollars a season. These players make as much as $100,000 per three-hour contest.
Who knew that there was big money in fishing? Three-time Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam has made over $4.7 million dollars in earnings throughout his career. FLW Champ David Dudley has made over $2 million dollars during his pro career. Angler Skeet Reese has accumulated $2.3 million dollars during his 13-year career. Michael Iaconelli and Gerald Swindle are millionaire anglers as well.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, you don't have to play one of the major sports to strike it rich. There are lots of athletes that toil away in obscurity and manage to eke out a pretty good living. (For the flipside, check out Baseball Greats Who Were Paid Like Benchwarmers.)
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Goldman Fined, Financial Fixes And Apple's "Apology".