Highest-Paid Athletes per Minute

Breaking the Million-Per-Minute Barrier

Highest-Paid Athletes per Minute
September 16, 2015

How would you like a job earning over millions of dollars? Per minute? Who would turn that work down? Well, there could be a catch: the job is to be on the receiving end of a flurry of punches from Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. A few of us might reconsider the offer. Sure, you can buy a whole new set of teeth for well under a million, but after the first punch, you would probably be climbing out of the ropes — assuming you still could.

The two boxers top the 2015 ESPN list for the highest paid athletes in the world, and for their 36 minutes of boxing, they were the top dollar earners per minute of any active athlete. Depending on the final take, Mayweather will end up somewhere in the $6 million-$7 million range per minute boxed, and Pacquiao should come in at around $4 million per minute.

How about other sports? Here are some rough estimates based on the ESPN listing and assumptions about actual playing time (all but the NBA require assumptions for translating playing time into minutes).

  • Soccer – Third and fourth on the ESPN list are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with earnings of $56.3 million and $50.2 million respectively. However, top-level soccer players play long seasons, are constantly on the field, and rarely substituted out of the game. The overall minutes played makes their per-minute earnings pale in comparison to boxing. Both players logged in the vicinity of 5,000 minutes on the field, putting their values around $10,000 per minute.

  • Basketball – The two players at the top of the list who played meaningful time (not just paid to sit, which is not a fair comparison) are Kobe Bryant and Amar’e Stoudemire, respectively. Both are veterans that are limited by injury. Kobe earned $23.5 million and played 1,207 minutes for earnings of $19,470 per minute, and Stoudemire earned $23.4 million and played 1,245 minutes for $18,795 per minute.

  • Baseball – Starting pitchers top the salary list, and therefore also top the per-minute list since they see roughly one-fifth of the action of the everyday position player. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the new big spenders in baseball, have two of the three top pitcher's salaries at $31 million for Clayton Kershaw and $27 million for Zack Greinke. At least the Dodgers got more value than the Detroit Tigers did for the other top salary — Justin Verlander at $28 million.

    Assuming ten minutes for the average inning and based on 2014 workload, Kershaw is earning around $15,650 per minute, Greinke is earning $13,360 per minute and Verlander comes in near $13,600 per minute.

  • Football – The highest football contract listed on the ESPN page was the almost $23 million for Joe Haden, the Cleveland Browns cornerback, if that is correct, assuming play in half of the snaps for all 16 games and no playoffs (certainly not for the Browns), Haden earned around $48,000 per minute.

Where are the women on this list? Before suffering a few losses, Ronda Rousey was known for dispatching MMA opponents not in minutes, but in seconds. Her 34-second crushing of challenger Bethe Correia in 2015 likely earned Rousey in the vicinity of $200,000 — pocket change by the standard of the highest paid athletes, but equating to the range or $400,000 per minute. That put her right behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. If you need more credit to buy ringside seats, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.

Now you have a choice. If you do not like the idea of being mauled by Mayweather or pummeled by Pacquiao, how about a nice roundhouse from Rousey?

Photo ©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

  Conversation   |   34 Comments

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Heather | 09.16.15 @ 15:02
That is crazy when you see the breakdown like that.
Chrisitna | 09.16.15 @ 15:03
After reading this, I think I would go into a state of depression if I tried to determine how much I make per minute...
Britt | 09.16.15 @ 15:03
That is so crazy! but really cool at the same time
Kailie | 09.16.15 @ 15:05
That is an insane amount of money for sports!
Kyle | 09.16.15 @ 15:07
These athletes are paid what they are because they're good at their job. Amazing how much they get.
Jo Ann | 09.16.15 @ 15:07
They may get paid high rates per minute., but that isn't taking into consideration all the hours of training and practice they do to prepare for these matches.
Sarah | 09.16.15 @ 15:08
I literally click for pennies a minute... yeah. I am now sad...
Steffanie | 09.16.15 @ 15:09
Zanna | 09.16.15 @ 15:09
What this doesn't really show is how many minutes they prepare when they're not getting paid for the game or fight. It's not exactly like they only work those few minutes or seconds.
Angie Taylor
Insurance Agent in Montevallo, AL | 09.16.15 @ 15:09
This article had a great amount of information. I didn't know just how much some athletes can make.
Morgan | 09.16.15 @ 15:11
This was a great read. Lots of interesting information.
Erin | 09.16.15 @ 15:14
I don't get paid nearly enough. Amazing amounts they are getting paid, but they're putting the effort in too.
Beverly | 09.16.15 @ 15:14
It's nuts how much athletes make whether it's by minute or by year. The saddest part is that most of them just throw that money away.
Kamie | 09.16.15 @ 15:15
If I made even $50 a minute I would be ecstatic.
irene | 09.16.15 @ 15:18
Wow that's just insane!
Elaine | 09.16.15 @ 15:19
Even though it is a lot of money and it is "just a game," so many have health issues years down the road that I don't think any amount of money is worth it.
Jill | 09.16.15 @ 15:20
Way too much money is paid to athletes in general, but this breakdown of it is insane.
Meredith L | 09.16.15 @ 15:26
Geez,, I would be ecstatic for one million in a lifetime!
Alec | 09.16.15 @ 15:31
It's kind of funny if you break it down and look at it like this. It also makes me wonder why Rousey would end matches so quickly if she gets paid more for longer matches.
Daniel | 09.16.15 @ 15:40
Say it all the time we pay these people way too much
George | 09.16.15 @ 16:09
Wow!! I should have tried harder at sports.
Jackie | 09.16.15 @ 16:12
That's a very interesting article showing the breakdown of their incomes.
Christina | 09.16.15 @ 16:19
This is mind blowing, to make that much money playing sports.
Amanda | 09.16.15 @ 16:20
All for a game....crazy!
Nancy | 09.16.15 @ 16:21
A more realistic number would be to include all of the training and practices that go into these performances. Having said that I would imagine the figures are still outrageous.
Sara | 09.16.15 @ 16:36
Man if I even got $50 a minute that would be awesome. That is crazy what they are paid.
trish | 09.16.15 @ 16:39
<--- stay at home mom... Can't calculate that in $
Rindy | 09.16.15 @ 17:01
I cannot even imagine making that kind of money per year much less per minute, crazy!
Chelsey | 09.16.15 @ 17:27
That is crazy how much they make a minute. I think if I could make a few million,I would take a few punches from Pacquiao!
Kelley | 09.16.15 @ 17:31
This is cool, but also depressing. Especially when there was just another article about an athlete who went bankrupt...
Kate | 09.16.15 @ 17:33
It's really unvbelievable when you break down the money that way!! I wouldn't do it, but its ok for some I guess.
Bobbie | 09.16.15 @ 17:35
Lots of money, but goes down significantly when you take into consideration practice, travel, and time not playing when it comes to team sports.
gracie | 09.16.15 @ 17:44
I still find it crazy the things that we place such ridiculous price values on?
Ambar | 09.16.15 @ 18:16
Wao! I'll just go and cry in a corner
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.01.20 @ 11:32