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Sports Stars Turned Entrepreneurs

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Magic Johnson

When we imagine the lifestyles of athletes, we imagine these men and women jet-setting all over the world with bling around their necks and a Kardishian on their arm. This fantastical reality is short-lived for most sportsmen. After five years of retirement, 60 percent of NBA players go broke. For NFL players, it only gets worse with 78 percent going bankrupt or being financially unstable after only two years of retirement.

In a tell-all riches to rags profile of the lives of pro athletes, ESPN’s 30 for 30: Broke examines the financial conditions of sports superstars after their final games.

But with so many pro athletes ending up in the red after their playing days are over, others have been more successful when they swapped their coach for a financial consultant. These players were able forgo the lavish lifestyles, freeloading entourages, and bad investments and transfer their competitive nature to the conference room.

Magic Johnson

Rated as the greatest NBA point guard of all time by ESPN and named one of America’s most influential black businessmen, Magic has seen his share of success on and off the court. One of the most memorable moments in Magic’s basketball career came when he announced that had contracted HIV. Later that year in 1991, Johnson retired from the NBA. After a year in retirement, Johnson was voted to the NBA’s All-Star team and the U.S.A.’s Olympic “Dream Team”. Johnson would later make several successful comebacks in the NBA, eventually retiring for good at 36.

Though Johnson’s basketball career may have been turbulent, his career as a businessmen has been solid throughout his life. His company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a net worth of $700 million. The enterprise includes a production studio, a chain of movie theaters, a movie studio and numerous other ventures. Upon these businesses, Johnson also owns stake in the Los Angeles Lakers and recently took part ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

George Foreman

The former KO king is known for two things: his right fist and his lean, mean, fat reducing grilling machine. “Big George” Foreman made name for himself after taking the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics. He would later go on to knockout the then-undefeated heavyweight champ, Joe Frazier in 1973. After losing the belt to Muhammad Ali a year later in “The Rumble in the Jungle”, he was unable to regain the title for another 20 years. At the age of 45, Foreman made an incredible comeback to knock out champion Michael Moorer. He is still the oldest Heavyweight Champion in history and was named one of the 25 greatest fighters of the past 80 years.

Foreman owed his sensational comeback to his eating habits, a comment which caught the ear of appliance manufacturer Russel Hobbs Inc. With Foreman, the company designed and released The George Foreman Grill. Although Foreman has never disclosed exactly how much he’s earned from the endeavor, it was noted that he received 40 percent of profits from the over 100 million grills that were sold. On top of this, Foreman received $137 million from Salton Inc. in 1999 for the right to use his name.

Michael Jordan

Of course, His Airness is on the list. Well, to be fair, what list isn’t he on? Michael Jordan is undoubtedly the greatest basketball player of all time (step up Lebron!). MJ has a long list of basketball accolades: one NCAA championship with the UNC Tarheels, six NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and countless MVP and All-Star awards.

Still, it seemed this much success wasn’t enough for the man. After the awards and rings came, the endorsements and business ventures soon followed. Jordan became the spokesman for brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Gatorade, McDonalds, Hanes, and Wheaties. However, his most iconic and profitable venture was with Nike on their Jordan Brand. The Jordans section at Sneaker News is proof enough that the sneakers are going on strong even after his (most recent) retirement. According to Forbes, the Jordan Brand generates over $1 billion for Nike. Michael is also the majority owner and chairman for the Charlotte Bobcats. Unfortunately, he hasn’t quite figured out how to make them successful, as the Bobcats are the least profitable franchise in the NBA.

Dave Bing

After being nominated as an All-American at Syracuse University, Bing was selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1966 and earned the coveted Rookie of the Year award. He went on to lead NBA scoring in 1968 and numerous All-Star appearances while playing for the Pistons, Washington Bullets, and Boston Celtics. He would later be named as one of the NBA’s Greatest Players.

While Bing many not have made as much money as the other players, he showed incredible will and determination to be successful after his basketball career ended. In 1966, his contract was only worth $15,000 (close to $110,000 today)—a stark difference from the exuberant amounts of money today’s players are paid. After retiring, Bing launched Bing Steel in 1980. He would go on to lose everything in the business only to bounce back and build the business from the ground up. Bing Steel went on to become the 10th largest African American-owned industrial company in the nation with sales reaching $61 million per year.

Bing took his leadership skills to a new level when he was elected as the Mayor of Detroit. Bing has stated he will not run for re-election after his current term ends.

Whether they built their own empire or inked millions of dollars’ worth of endorsement deals, these athletes showed that their competitiveness could be used to put numbers in their bank account as well as the scoreboard. It just goes to show, brains really are more important than brawn.

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