Athletes Who Got Paid Way More Than They Should Have

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2014

Athletes Who Got Paid Way More Than They Should Have

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    It's only right that in professional sports some guys will be overpaid. Teams are always looking to win games, which means general managers and executives will often extend the old olive branch out there in order to quench that thirst.

    Overpaid players comes in all shapes and sizes. They can be former stars who were permeated by injuries or role players who never should have generated that type of money in the first place—heck, even rookies have been overpaid.

    Using that criteria, here's a look at some of the most notorious athletes who got paid way too much with a few Hall of Fame contracts sprinkled in just for good measure.

Josh Smith

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    Welcome to part one of the Joe Dumars show.

    The former Detroit Pistons general manager, who helped bring this team an NBA title 10 years ago, ended up driving this franchise into the ground.

    Dumars used his last summer at the helm to sign power forward Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal and erratic point guard Brandon Jennings to a three-year, $24 million deal of his own.

    While both signings were suspect in retrospect, let's focus on Smith for the time being.

    Smith was a former high school star who took the leap directly to the NBA—before the league banned that sort of thing and created the infamous "one-and-done" era in college hoops.

    He became a member of the Atlanta Hawks and developed into a pretty good player. The problem Smith has always faced—even in Atlanta—was that he is one of the most inefficient players in recent memory.

    Don't take my word for it. Check out the chart Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.com built during the middle of last season.

    In that article, Goldsberry wrote, "I have always claimed that if Smith would only focus on offensive rebounding, attacking the basket, and operating on the blocks, he’d be a really great player." That is as accurate of a description of Smith as you'll ever read.

    The man shot .264 percent from beyond the arc.

    Until he stops hoisting up jumpers without remorse and the Pistons figure out a place to maximize his talents—hint: it's not playing small forward—Smith will go down as a guy with one of the most bloated contracts in recent memory.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    The sheer volume of coin Alex Rodriguez has made during his MLB career is mind-bending. His original big-money deal came in 2000 when Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks gave Rodriguez a 10-year deal worth $252 million.

    In any time period, that deal would be deemed excessive. Just this past offseason, Robinson Cano signed on to play with the Seattle Mariners to the tune of 10 years and $240 million.

    Rodriguez's production during his tenure in a Rangers uniform was astronomical. He won the American League MVP award in 2003, and in the three-year span with the club, he hit 156 home runs and knocked in 395 RBI.

    After being traded to the New York Yankees in 2004, his dominance continued. Two more MVP awards later, even though the price tag was steep, Rodriguez was still at the top of his game.

    In December of 2007, after he hit 56 home runs and drove in 156 RBI, the Yankees signed Rodriguez to another 10-year deal. This time, at age 31, Rodriguez was set to make $275 million, shattering his own contract record from his previous deal with the Rangers.

    The rest, as they say, is history. A-Rod never got back to his MVP-like ways. He was injured at times, exposed for using steroids in 2011 and then got linked to the whole Biogensis scandal—which resulted in the 162-game suspension he's serving this season.

Rick DiPietro

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    Former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro was once the beneficiary of a 15-year deal worth $67.5 million.

    As a former No. 1 pick of the team, DiPietro was supposed to the team's savior in net and a player the Islanders could build a winning culture around. The problem is, he never lived up to that potential or the money the team gave him.

    DiPietro struggled to overcome injuries, which resulted in him playing just 50 games between the 2008 and 2013.

    Handing out a 15-year deal in any sport is risky, outrageous business. DiPietro proved that with his deal. Looking at the contract in retrospect, Adam Gretz of CBS Sports wrote:

    He made his NHL debut during the 2000-01 season and, starting from there and going up through the end '05-06 season, his career save percentage to that point was exactly .900. How did that compare to his peers at the time? Of the 57 goalies who had appeared in at least 82 games over that stretch, DiPietro ranked 48th. 

    Essentially, the Islanders were paying for hype instead of you know, actual production.

Rashard Lewis

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    Of all the outrageous contracts signed in the NBA over the last 10 years, most of them don't hold candle to the one the Orlando Magic gave Rashard Lewis.

    In 2007, the Magic acquired Lewis from the Seattle SuperSonics in a sign-and-trade deal that paid him $118 million over the course of six years. That's $118 million dollars to come to the Magic and play alongside a then-budding superstar center in Dwight Howard.

    To put that contract into perspective, the New York Knicks just signed Carmelo Anthony to a five-year, $124 million deal seven years later.

    The Magic wanted a spot-up shooter who could help Howard maximize his ability down low and turn the Magic into an elite Eastern Conference powerhouse.

    Despite his team reaching the NBA Finals in 2009, Lewis performed more like a role player rather than a superstar. According to former ESPN analyst John Hollinger's advanced statistics (Insider subscription required), his player efficiency rating sunk to 16.54 during the first year of his contract. That was good enough to rank him 84th in the NBA—when he was the Sonics the season prior, his PER was 20.78.

    Lewis continued to decline and never was able to blossom into the superstar he was pegged to be.

    Was Lewis a quality role player? Yes. Was he worth $118 million? Absolutely not.

Sam Bradford

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Before the NFL put a cap on the madness that was the albatross rookie contracts, first-round picks were making reams of money.

    No one made out quite like St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. The year before the NFL eviscerated those types of deals, Bradford—the first overall pick in 2010—was signed to a six-year, $78 million deal with $50 million of that being guaranteed.

    In his four years in the league, Bradford has played 16 games twice and never passed for more than 21 touchdowns in a single season. By no means is Bradford a terrible quarterback. At times he's even been first-rate. The issue here is that he's been way too inconsistent to warrant all of that money.

    Looking at Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) advanced grading system, last year Bradford was ranked alongside players like Alex Smith, Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    None of those guys deserve a contract worth $78 million.

    Bradford won't ever live up to the money he was given in 2010; that much is clear. Even if he turns the corner and eventually becomes everything the Rams hoped he would be, the loot he's stacked in the past makes him overpaid.

Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    It's a shame that Ama're Stoudemire is going to be remembered for the five-year, $100 million contract he signed with the New York Knicks rather than how explosive he was during his pick-and-roll days with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.

    When talking about that contract, it's important to note that Stoudemire's deal is complex. In his first year with the team, he was one of the top power forwards in the game. Hollinger's PER rating ranked him No. 4 in efficiency behind Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love.

    Aside from that, had it not been for him making the trip to New York City, Carmelo Anthony could have wound up scoring 27.4 points per game elsewhere.

    Bleacher Report NBA Senior Writer Jared Zwerling talked to the Knicks power forward earlier this year about his time with the Knicks:

    I mentioned a few players to Mr. Dolan who would be fun to play with, and Melo was one of them. Mr. Dolan and I talked about, 'Which players in the near future are going to be available?' Then we said, 'Let's make the move and try to trade for Melo.' That's how things first started with the Knicks going after Carmelo Anthony.

    Stoudemire isn't worth $100 million at this point in his career, but he was still vital in luring free agents over to Madison Square Garden. He was overpaid yet still important—funny how things work out sometimes.

Ryan Howard

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    Ryan Howard is another perfect of example of general managers paying for legacy over future production.

    In 2010, Howard had established himself as one of the team's most commanding hitters. From 2006 until 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies first baseman was doing nothing but crushing the cover off the ball.

    At 30 years old, he was offered a huge five-year, $125 million extension that would make him one of the highest paid players in the game.

    Cork Gaines of Business Insider discussed the Howard deal at length, pointing to a few warning signs the Phillies may have overlooked at the time:

    However, the deal was worrisome at the time because Howard was 30 years old and had what many in baseball refer to as 'old man skills.' That is, he hit a lot of home runs, but he also struck out a lot, did not run very well, and did not play good defense. Those players don't tend to age well without the help of performance enhancing drugs.

    Howard's decline has been astonishing. Factoring injuries into the conversation, the former National League MVP hasn't aged gracefully at all.

Ben Gordon

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    Poor Joe Dumars finds himself back on this list because of his decision to throw a ridiculous amount of money in the direction of guard Ben Gordon in the summer of 2009—which Detroit Pistons fans can call the "summer of Charlie Villanueva."

    It wasn't that Gordon was a bad player. Before he came to Detroit, he had a nice three-year run with the Chicago Bulls where he averaged 20.2 points per game. It was that Dumars wanted a productive shooting guard, and he opted to pay Gordon $55 million over five years, giving up a first-round draft pick in order to pull it off.

    At the time you, could somewhat justify the money. Gordon's PER prior to signing with the Pistons was 17.02, which put him right below quality players like Ray Allen and Michael Redd.

    As we know now, it all went downhill for the former Bulls guard after he put his John Hancock on the paper in the Motor City. Gordon's stint in Detroit was a cataclysmic disaster. His first season with the team, his scoring dropped to just 13.8 points per game, while his PER plunged to 14.09.

    The Gordon experiment ended after three seasons when the Charlotte Bobcats—now the Hornets—picked up the remaining two years on his lucrative deal.

    Things didn't get any better from that point on. Management eventually reached a buyout with Gordon and sent him on his way—he later signed with the Orlando Magic last season.

    Life in the NBA is full of bloated, terrible contracts. Ben Gordon is just another example of that mentality.

Kobe Bryant

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    Being a basketball fan, it's painful to realize that Kobe Bryant has now fallen into the realm of being "overpaid."

    Understand this: Bryant is the Los Angeles Lakers. He is the face of the franchise who sells tickets, merchandise and brings this team a sense of relevancy. When Bryant tore his Achilles in 2013—the final year of his contract—the Lakers were forced to figure out what to do.

    Would they sign Bryant and hope to build around him for one final run? Would they let him walk and open a new era in the process? Or would Bryant serve as a martyr of sorts, who could remind fans of how great this team once was while they attempted to figure out what to do next.

    Management opted to keep their superstar and reward him with a two-year, $48.5 million extension.

    Bryant came back from rupturing his Achilles only to injury his knee and miss the rest of the 2013-14 season. Right now, the money seems more like a golden parachute for a Lakers legend more than anything else. But stacking your chips and betting against the Black Mamba is never a smart idea.

    This upcoming season will be fascinating to watch what the Lakers and Bryant have in store for their foes in the Western Conference.

Albert Pujols

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    Baseball is full of egregious contracts, and one of the game's great hitters—Albert Pujols—was able to take advance of that in 2012 when he left the St. Louis Cardinals and oped to sign with the Los Angeles Angeles.

    Pujols' numbers with the Cardinals were nothing short of amazing. Hit hit 445 homers and batted in 1,329 runs. At age 32 he hit the open market and got himself paid for all of that past production.

    The Angels inked his name to a piece of paper that made a six-year, $212 million official. Pujols' stats have declined since joining the Angels, but more importantly, his wins above replacement have sunk to career-lows.

    In the 99 games he played last season, his WAR was 1.5. Compare that to his best WAR while in a Cardinals uniform—9.4—and you can see why he has become one of the most overpaid athletes in all of sports.

Michael Oher

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    Michael Oher may have an movie based on his life and a Super Bowl ring to go with it, but that doesn't mean the 28-year-old tackle got paid way too much.

    Oher left the Ravens this past offseason and fled to Tennessee, where the Titans rewarded him with a four-year, $20 million deal. Doesn't sound like too steep of a price tag, right?

    Well, when you consider $9.5 million of that is guaranteed and the Titans also drafted Taylor Lewan to play left tackle, you start to figure out that Oher is overpaid. What's even more concerning is the fact that according to PFF, Oher graded out as the 68th-ranked tackle in the NFL last season.

    Say Oher loses the positional battle with Lewan in camp this summer. He's then going to make a nice heap of cheddar sitting on the pine—unless they switch him over to right tackle instead.

Gerald Wallace

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    Once upon a time, the Brooklyn Nets traded a first-round pick to land forward Gerald Wallace. Nets fans remember the deal because that pick was used by the Portland Trail Blazers to draft point guard Damian Lillard.

    The Nets have done their fair share of excessive spending over the last couple of seasons. They signed Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, traded for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and, of course, landed Wallace.

    Wallace was dealt to the Celtics in order to facilitate the arrival of Garnett and Pierce, but that doesn't take away from his horrid contract situation.

    Nets general manager Billy King signed the forward to a four-year deal worth $40 million in 2012, overpaying for an average swingman.

    After just one season with the Nets, fans knew the deal was atrocious. That season in Brooklyn, Wallace finished with a PER of 11.58, according to Hollinger's formula.

    That number is so low that Metta World Peace, Nick Young and Travis Outlaw all ranked higher than Wallace did on the PER scale.

Hall of Fame: Gilbert Arenas

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    If any NBA executive is looking for a cautionary tale on handing out lucrative contracts, the whole Gilbert Arenas situation with the Washington Wizards is a great example of that.

    The Wizards brass in 2008 decided to reward the talented guard with a six-year deal worth $111 million despite Arenas missing the bulk of the prior season due to a knee injury.

    Arenas took the money and at the time even got management to give his buddy Antawn Jamison a four-year, $50 million deal of his own.

    Everything went downhill from there. Arenas played in just 34 games the following two seasons and never was able to become the guy he was prior to signing that the long-term deal.

    How bad was his contract? When he was asked by TMZ Sports about it, Arenas said "it could be" the worst of all-time.

Hall of Fame: Albert Haynesworth

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    Right alongside the Gilbert Arenas deal is the one former defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth signed with the Washington Redskins during the 2009 offseason.

    Haynesworth was one of the most coveted free agents at the time, after putting up huge numbers with the Tennessee Titans.

    Gauging how effective he was during the 2008 season with the Titans, PFF ranked him as the second-best defensive tackle in the NFL.

    As is the case with most overpaid players, there were a few warning signs that came strapped to Haynesworth. Before he signed that deal with the Redskins, he had played just one full season since entering the league in 2002.

    During his first year in Washington, the big man played 12 games and managed to drop just one place in PFF's rankings. After that his contract crumbled into pieces.

    He battled with ex-head coach Mike Shanahan, played just eight games in 2010 and left the team shortly after that.

    Haynesworth never could become that dominant force he was down in Tennessee, leaving Redskins fans disappointed in what was supposed to be one of the most exciting free-agent signings in franchise history.

     

    All MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL contract information and stats provided by ESPN.com, unless noted otherwise. All NFL advances stats provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), unless noted otherwise. All Hollinger NBA player stats provided by ESPN.com (Insider subscription required), unless noted otherwise.