Pitcher Nolan Ryan made headlines in 1979 when he became the first player in U.S. team sports to sign a guaranteed $1 million annual contract. That figure is a mere pittance to today’s pro athletes; dozens of players now earn more than $10 million per year. Money plays such a critical role in pro sports that some fans have become veritable experts about salary caps, collective bargaining agreements and other business details. But you don’t need a business degree to enjoy these memorable quotes about money in sports.
10. “I’ve got a family to feed.”
— Former NBA all-star Latrell Sprewell
In October 2004, after the Minnesota Timberwolves offered Sprewell a three-year, $21-million contract extension, the four-time all-star expressed contempt for the deal, exclaiming, “I’ve got a family to feed … ” Sprewell didn’t stop there, saying if he didn’t get a new contract offer, “… you’re going to see (my) kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon.” Sprewell would be out of the league less than a year later, and in recent years has undergone financial woes, including the repossession of his yacht in 2007.
9. “I spent 90 percent of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted.”
— Manchester United and Irish soccer legend George Best
Best was notorious for his hard-living lifestyle, which he often described with a variation of the above quote.
8. “Stick with me, kid, and we’ll have diamonds as big as horse turds.”
— Former NASCAR crew chief Jake Elder
Elder was pure country, a far cry from the sport’s modern crew chiefs who hold engineering degrees, meet and greet Fortune 500 sponsors and host racing panels on ESPN. But Elder knew racing talent, so after his rookie driver, Dale Earnhardt, won his first NASCAR Cup race in 1979, Elder uttered his famous quote. Earnhardt, of course, went on to become arguably the greatest driver in the sport’s history.
7. “I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok.”
— NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal
O’Neal thrilled fans and sportswriters alike with his propensity for uttering outrageous or funny quotes.
6. “There is an old saying that money can’t buy happiness. If it could, I would buy myself four hits every game.”
— Baseball legend Pete Rose
Rose loved the game of baseball so much he probably would have played for free, once claiming “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” But he did come to appreciate the money in the game in his later years, once noting, “If someone paid you $6,000 a game, you’d have fun as well.”
5. “When you’re rich, you don’t write checks. … Straight cash, homey.”
— Former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss
This one speaks for itself.
4. “I was thinking of telling Mr. Robinson, ‘I’ll tell you what: I’ll take your contract and you can have my franchise.’”
— Former Milwaukee Bucks owner and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl
This was Kohl’s response to 1994 No. 1 draft pick Glenn Robinson’s request for a multi-year contract worth an unprecedented $109 million. Robinson eventually signed a $68 million deal, a record that still stands as the NBA instituted a rookie salary cap a year later. Robinson played 11 seasons in the NBA, earning a total of $80.2 million, according to Basketball-Reference.com. As for Kohl, some political analysts believe the quote helped him earn re-election to the U.S. Senate later that year. He eventually served four terms before retiring.
3. “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, and singles hitters drive Fords.”
— Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner
The Pittsburgh Pirates star smacked 369 career home runs from 1946 to 1955, an impressive figure for that era. The quote itself has been attributed to both Kiner and other players talking about Kiner, but either way, it voices a common theme in the sport that sluggers earn more than other players.
2. “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover.”
— Babe Ruth
The Yankee legend uttered this famous quote when someone pointed out that his $80,000 salary in 1930 was $5,000 more than U.S. President Herbert Hoover earned that year.
1. “Show me the money!”
— Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie Jerry MacGuire
Does it matter that the greatest sports quote about money happened in a movie and not a lockerroom or press conference? The American Film Institute ranked “Show me the money!” No. 25 on its list of all-time greatest movie quotes.