Michael Jordan & Arnold Palmer Top Forbes' List of Highest-Paid Retired Athletes

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2014

KILDARE, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 22:  Michael Jordan smokes a cigar and watches the action during the morning fourballs of the first day of the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club on September 22, 2006 in Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

In case you ever doubted it, the rich are indeed getting richer as Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer and David Beckham top Forbes' list of the highest-paid retired athletes. 

Kids, start practicing your jump shots and short game. 

Forbes' Kurt Badenhausen compiled a list of some of the most recognizable stars who once dominated their respective sports. As it were, they are dominating retirement in much the same way. 

Here are the top five, including their remarkable earnings: 

  1. Michael Jordan: $90 million
  2. Arnold Palmer: $40 million
  3. David Beckham: $37 million
  4. Jack Nicklaus: $30 million
  5. Magic Johnson: $22 million

The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Player, Wayne Gretzky, Greg Norman and Pele. 

Sorry, would-be NFL superstar retirees. It seems that it is far more profitable to have played a different sport. In fact, the first time the most popular sport in the country makes an appearance on this list is at No. 12 with Roger Staubach. 

Badenhausen doesn't stop with the seemingly outrageous tidbits, writing about Jordan, "His 2013 payday was more than any retired or current athlete, outside of Floyd Mayweather." Money May, for those curious, made about $90 million in 2013, according to Sports Illustrated

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 02:  Basketball star Michael Jordan laughs on the first tee during the pro-am at the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club on May 2, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

As Badenhausen notes, Jordan's biggest cash cow is still Nike, a brand that continues to benefit from their partnership. These are the same shoes that not only draw crowds, but cause those crowds to break down doors as they rush eagerly to gobble them up.

Palmer's name might be a surprise to some, but he reportedly draws a great deal of wealth by licensing his name. However, more deliciously, his "Arnold Palmer" line of AriZona Tea represents a reported 25 percent of revenues for their company. It's essentially the Jordan sneaker line in beverage form. 

Beckham offers one of the more intriguing entries on the list, coming in as the youngest (38) retiree to prove his brand is doing quite well just about a year into retirement. 

His most recent endeavor is the push to bring MLS football to the Miami area. CNN reported earlier in the month that the former LA Galaxy star was about to head back into the MLS fray, promising a Miami franchise. 

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 05: David Beckham attends a press conference to announce their plans to launch a new Major League Soccer franchise at PAMM Art Museum on February 5, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images)
Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

Beckham stated at the time, "I want to make it my own team. We are very excited, Miami is a vibrant city with a lot of passion. I am looking forward to spending a lot more time and my family being here."

According to the report, Beckham's previous MLS contract provided for the option of starting a franchise for the cost of $25 million. It seems Beckham isn't about to foot the entire bill. 

He continues: 

When you have the right investors, with passion for the game, that is the place to start. We are making a soccer club that is going to loved by millions of people. We plan on this being a global team. We don't want public funding. We will fund the stadium ourselves.

That should be great news to those still feeling the sting of the new Marlins Park

While most can't lay claim to millions in earnings during their career, there is some wisdom to glean from these rare success stories. Alicia Jessop, in writing about retired athletes for Forbes, gives some sound advice for many, regardless of sport or career. 

Jessop writes, "The truth remains, though, that by seeking out sound investment advice, surrounding themselves with legitimate advisors and realizing that NFL careers and the associated paychecks do not last forever, there is no reason for any NFL player to go broke."

Again, that's just sage wisdom for anybody looking to maintain their financial comfort when the grind of their respective career is done. 

Then there are those, like the ones listed, who have taken their game—both athletic and financial—to an absurd level. 

Next year's list might look similar, because it seems like Jordan's shoes, Palmer's ventures and Magic Johnson's knack for business will only yield more profit. 

In time, the names will change as today's superstars retire and head into a life that, while less physically taxing, is just as profitable. 

Each would do well to take note of these All-Stars of retirement. 


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