From budding NHL star Connor McDavid to the NBA game-changer Stephen Curry, 2017 was a banner year for supersized sports contracts. In a bid to keep its 30 teams competitive, the NBA has raised the salary cap and is allowing teams to offer unprecedented “supermax” contracts that dwarf any salaries that have come before.
The two most recent blockbuster MLB deals — the Anaheim Angels signing Shohei Ohtani from Japan and the New York Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton — don’t make this list because Ohtani didn’t sign for very much and Stanton was traded and didn’t sign a new contract. As the offseason progresses, though, massive new MLB contracts will be coming.
You might notice that the title of largest NFL contract or richest soccer player was bestowed more than once. That’s because in a year like 2017, where massive contracts are the norm, salary records are destined to be quickly broken. Click through to learn about the biggest sports contracts of 2017 and see who is on track to become one of the richest athletes of all time.
Contract: 1 year, $12 million
Looking to crawl out of the basement of the National League West, the San Francisco Giants exercised a contract option to retain starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. With his five-year contract up in 2018, the option keeps him through 2019 at the same $12 million salary he earned in 2017 and will earn in 2018.
The Giants have two stars on the list of the highest-paid players in baseball.
Contract: 6 years, $30.6 million
Dmitry Orlov avoided free agency when the Washington Capitals kept the defenseman in D.C. with a contract worth $5.1 million a year. It’s hard to argue that he hasn’t earned it. Orlov maintained a plus-30 rating in 82 games, all while scoring 33 points. His contract includes a $12 million signing bonus.
Contract: 2 years, $53 million
It’s not surprising that Kevin Durant signed a contract to remain with the Golden State Warriors. What’s surprising is how little the small forward accepted. According to Sports Illustrated, Durant will now earn less than he did during his very first season with Golden State. He could have maxed out at $34.5 million a year, but was expected to sign for about $31.8 million. Instead, he settled for $25.63 million — about 20 percent less. Durant, according to Sports Illustrated, accepted this offer so management could spread more money around and retain the team’s core players.
It Pays to Be an All-Star: What the NBA’s Best Players Earn
Contract: 5 years, $54 million
Baltimore defensive tackle Brandon Williams agreed to stay with the Baltimore Ravens when he penned a contract that will pay him $54 million over five years. The Ravens were eager to keep their front line together, and Williams is a big piece of that puzzle. The durable 340-pounder hasn’t missed a single game in three seasons. To sweeten the deal, his contract included what NFL.com called “a whopping $27.5 million in guarantees.”
Contract: 3 years, $60 million
Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year deal that includes a $5 million signing bonus, for a total of $60 million. He’ll earn an average annual salary of $20 million and enter free agency in 2021. The fan favorite is more than just a slugger, though: A lucrative package of attendance incentives stands testament to Encarnacion’s popularity in Cleveland.
Contract: 8 years, $68 million
In August, the Edmonton Oilers secured forward Leon Draisaitl for eight more years through the close of the 2024-25 season. When two $7 million signing bonuses are included, Draisaitl will earn an average salary of $11.33 million per year. The 21-year-old was one of the hottest offseason free agents, and now Draisaitl will remain with Connor McDavid as what is widely considered to be one of the best offensive duos in hockey.
Contract: 4 years, $68 million
When Antonio Brown signed on the dotted line in February 2017, he not only extended his contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers for four years, but, according to ESPN, he became the highest-paid wide receiver in football. Considered one of the best receivers in the game, Brown’s $68 million deal will pay him $18.5 million for the first three years and $12.5 million for the fourth. In the past, Brown has incurred steep fines for his elaborate touchdown celebrations.
Contract: 5 years, $81 million
About six months after Antonio Brown became the NFL’s highest paid receiver, Houston Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins was crowned as the new holder of that title. In what he described to Sports Illustrated as a “bittersweet” moment, Hopkins finalized the deal just as Hurricane Harvey was devastating his team’s home city. His five-year contract, which includes a $7.5 million signing bonus, will pay him an average salary of $16.2 million per year.
Contract: 8 years, $100 million
Edmonton Oilers superstar forward Connor McDavid will earn $12.5 million a year for the next eight years, the most lucrative contract in the history of the National Hockey League. The first six years of the contract, which pays McDavid until he becomes a free agent in 2026, is front-loaded with eight-figure signing bonuses. By most accounts, he’s well worth it. According to SBNation, he’s the best player to enter the league since Sidney Crosby was drafted more than a decade ago.
More Hockey Stats: The Net Worths of the Top NHL Players
Otto Porter Jr.
Contract: 4 years, $107 million
When the Brooklyn Nets offered Otto Porter Jr. $107 million upon entering free agency, the Washington Wizards were expected to match the max offer so they could hang onto the small forward. They did, and now Porter will remain in the nation’s capital. Although the Wizards retain their top young player, the deal puts them in financial trouble with an eight-figure luxury tax, according to Sports Illustrated.
Contract: 5 years, $125 million
When the Oakland Raiders re-signed Derek Carr, the organization made him the highest-paid player in football in terms of average annual pay. The quarterback signed a five-year, $125 million deal that included a $12.5 million signing bonus and $70 million in total guarantees. The two-time Pro Bowler was in the running for 2016 MVP before breaking his leg. He has underperformed so far this season, but he’s still the highest-paid player on the Raiders.
Contract: 5 years, $126 million
When Jrue Holiday returned to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016, the dismal team immediately experienced a rapid reversal of fortunes, according to Bleacher Report. The standout point guard was rewarded with a five-year contract worth $126 million after his time in free agency caused league-wide speculation about his future.
Contract: 4 years, $128 million
After playing his entire career with the Utah Jazz, shooting guard Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics for a deal worth nearly $128 million for an average salary of roughly $32 million a year. The All-Star averaged close to 22 points per game last season. Boston was not by any means the only team gunning for Hayward, according to NBA.com, so the Celtics maxed out his contract and gave him the opportunity to play once again under the stewardship of his old college coach Brad Stevens. Unfortunately, Hayward broke his leg six minutes into the 2017 season and is out for the year.
Contract: 5 years, $135 million
Although it might be hard to believe that the richest NFL contract is with the Detroit Lions, it’s true. In August 2017, quarterback Matthew Stafford became the highest-paid player in the NFL history. Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million deal that includes a $50 million signing bonus and will pay him an average annual salary of $27 million. Stafford had a stellar few years with the Lions before he signed, and so far this year, the team retains a winning record and holds the No. 2 spot in the NFC North division.
Contract: 5 years, $173 million
The Los Angeles Clippers will hang onto power forward Blake Griffin, thanks to a five-year deal worth $173 million, Sports Illustrated reported in June. The deal will pay him an average salary of $34.23 million until he enters free agency in 2022. The 2009 No. 1 overall pick is a five-time All-Star, but he’s been injury prone lately. Griffin suffered an MCL sprain on Nov. 28, and is expected to be out two months.
Contract: 5 years, $201 million
Referred to by Sports Illustrated as “a transcendent talent who changed the game,” Stephen Curry had two recent firsts. He was the first player in NBA history to receive a unanimous MVP vote and he was the first player to sign a $201 million “supermax” contract. The Golden State Warriors, however, bought something with the deal, which pays Curry through the end of 2022 — a superstar who has played in three consecutive Finals and four straight All-Star Games, and brought home two titles and two MVP Awards. That, according to Sports Illustrated, might spell dynasty for the Warriors. On top of his salary, Curry also gets a significant portion of his income from endorsements.
Contract: 5 years, $205 million
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook signed a five-year, $205.03 million contract extension in 2017 that will pay him an average salary of $41.01 million a year until he becomes a free agent in 2023 and increase his net worth significantly. Westbrook could have entered free agency in 2018, according to Sports Illustrated, but Oklahoma City was eager to retain the talented point guard, who averaged a triple-double last season.
Contract: 4 years, $228 million
The Houston Rockets managed to convince James Harden to stick around through the end of the 2022-23 season — and all it took was the biggest contract extension in the history of the NBA. The MVP finalist, who racked up more than 19 points per game, will earn between $37.8 million and $46.8 million per season as part of the $228 million deal, making him one of the world’s richest athletes.
Contract: 4 years, more than $800 million buyout clause
At the end of November 2017, soccer star Lionel Messi ended intense speculation when he committed to Barcelona through 2021. Although he might be a little bit biased, Barcelona’s owner echoed a common sentiment when, according to ESPN, he called Messi “the best player in the history of football.” Messi scored 523 goals in just 602 games and won 30 trophies — but he’s known for his loyalty as much as his skill. By the time his new contract is up, he will have spent 21 years with the same club. It’s unclear yet how much the deal is worth in total, but Forbes reports that his buyout clause is greater than $800 million, he’ll earn at least $650,000 a week and will likely land a $100 million signing bonus. He also earns millions more each year from endorsements, including $10 million annually from Adidas.
Contract: 5 years, $262 million
Neymar is officially the most expensive player in the history of soccer, thanks to a record-breaking $262 million transfer contract that moved the superstar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. The deal was more than twice as valuable as the previous record-holding extension contract. The five-year deal pays Neymar, who scored 105 goals with Barcelona, through June 2022. The Brazilian will earn the equivalent of $1.26 million a week.