When two great players compete in the same sport at the same time, it’s almost a sure bet that a rivalry will form. Some are based on team alliances, some are based on individual grudges and others are mostly manufactured by the media, but no matter what the source, these rivalries are always exciting to watch play out.
You might have an opinion about which athlete is a “better” player in these legendary rivalries — but do you know which of these athletes is richer?
Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan
As star players in the rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing have a long, competitive history. Unfortunately for Ewing, he’s always gotten the short end of the stick — Ewing was eliminated from the playoffs by Chicago and Jordan on five occasions. The Knicks were only able to overcome the Bulls in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals after Jordan’s first retirement.
But now that they’re both off the court, which basketball great has the higher net worth?
Michael Jordan Is Richer
- Patrick Ewing’s net worth: $85 million
- Michael Jordan’s net worth: $2.1 billion, according to Forbes
Jordan takes the top spot in the rivalry once again with a net worth in the billions. He earned a career salary of $90 million and another $1.7 billion from corporate partners, including Nike, Hanes, Gatorade and Upper Deck, Forbes reported. He is also a majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, a team that is now valued at $175 million.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rivalry dates back to college when they competed against each other in the 1979 NCAA championship game. They then went on to play for teams that already had a long-standing rivalry — the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The two rivals have since become friends, even penning a book together — “When the Game Was Ours.”
But is it Bird or Johnson who has racked up the most riches?
Magic Johnson Is Richer
- Larry Bird’s net worth: $55 million
- Magic Johnson’s net worth: $600 million
Bird went on to coach the Indiana Pacers after retiring as a player, but Johnson has made more lucrative moves. Since leaving the NBA, Johnson has added to his wealth as an entrepreneur and investor. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment conglomerate valued at an estimated $1 billion dollars, according to his website. Johnson is also a co-owner of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club.
Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer
Before there was Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, there was the original golf rivalry: Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who first competed against each other in 1958, the Golf Channel reported.
”Arnold and my rivalry became more from the two us,” Nicklaus told the TV station. ”We would play together a lot. We were paired a lot. And usually we beat each other up and we ended up giving the tournament away. That’s why they talk about the rivalry. Everyone was interested in who won that day, not who won the tournament.”
Find out which golfer is wealthier.
Arnold Palmer Was Richer
- Jack Nicklaus’ net worth: $320 million
- Arnold Palmer’s net worth (deceased): $700 million
Nicklaus has gone on to be a very successful golf course designer and entrepreneur, but Palmer was the wealthier one. He amassed 92 championships in professional competition over the course of his career and was also a big moneymaker off the course, too. Palmer was the president of the global business organization Arnold Palmer Enterprises, was involved in automobile and aviation service firms, and was the principal owner of a car dealership in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s 1971 boxing match has been called the “Fight of the Century.” After Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to join the military due to his religious beliefs, Frazier emerged as the new heavyweight champion of the world. But in 1970, Ali was permitted to box again, and the two champions faced off in a much-hyped match the following year.
The fight took place in Madison Square Garden in front of celebrities that included Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, and after 15 rounds of back and forth jabs and knockdowns, Frazier was declared the winner.
But who wins in the battle of riches?
Muhammad Ali Was Richer
- Muhammad Ali’s net worth (deceased): $50 million
- Joe Frazier’s net worth (deceased): $100,000
Although Frazier was a boxing legend, he was never very wealthy, CBS reported. Meanwhile, Ali was a master of self-promotion who continued to bring in money throughout his lifetime. According to Forbes, he brought in $4 million to $7 million annually through endorsement deals, and in 2006, he sold the rights to his name and image for $50 million to licensing mastermind Robert Sillerman.
At the Top: Today’s Richest Athletes in the World
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova
There might be no greater rivalry in women’s tennis than Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova. The two athletes have often faced off in the finals of majors, where their playing styles historically clashed — Evert playing a powerful baseline game and Navratilova mastering the serve and volley.
Evert and Navratilova played each other 80 times from 1973 to 1988, Bleacher Report reported. That includes 14 Grand Slam finals, 10 of which were won by Navratilova. Overall, Navratilova holds a 43-37 edge in their head-to-head matches.
But does she edge out Evert when it comes to their wealth, too?
Chris Evert Is Richer
- Chris Evert’s net worth: $16 million
- Martina Navratilova’s net worth: $15 million
Much like on the tennis courts, the two women are neck and neck when it comes to their wealth, with Evert having a slight edge. After retiring from the sport, Evert has added to her net worth as a TV commentator, tennis academy owner and magazine publisher.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao
In 2015, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao faced each other in a record-breaking fight. It has the largest grossing live gate — $72 million — and the most pay-per-view buys — 4.6 million — in combat sports history, ESPN reported. Mayweather was named the victor in the fight, and although fans are clamoring for a rematch, it’s unlikely that it will ever happen, Forbes reported.
When it comes to a battle of wealth, however, the fight still wages on. Find out who’s on top.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. Is Richer
- Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s net worth: $505 million
- Manny Pacquiao’s net worth: $220 million
Unlike their face-off in the ring, this match isn’t even close. Although both boxers are extremely wealthy, Mayweather’s net worth is more than double Pacquiao’s. Most of Mayweather’s wealth comes directly from boxing — in 2017 he earned $275 million as a competitor and promoter for his fight against Conor McGregor, Forbes reported. He also earned an additional $10 million for the year in endorsements.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been pitted against each other throughout their careers, but Ronaldo has said there are no hard feelings and the “rivalry” has actually pushed him to be a better player.
“Messi makes me a better player and vice versa,” he said in an interview with Portuguese television station TVI, according to Goal. “I have an excellent professional relationship with Messi because we have been sharing the same moments for 15 years.”
As for who is actually the best player in the world, that depends on what stats you look at. For example, Ronaldo has won the UEFA Champions League title five times, while Messi has won it four times, Bleacher Report reported. Messi has 10 league titles and Ronaldo has six; Messi also leads with more club honors — 33 vs. 27.
But do you know which one is the richer player?
Cristiano Ronaldo Is Richer
- Lionel Messi’s net worth: $400 million
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s net worth: $500 million
Although Messi was named the highest-paid athlete in 2019 by Forbes (with Ronaldo coming in second place), Ronaldo has a higher net worth. He took a pay cut in 2018 to join Juventus, but still raked in $109 million in 2019 between his salary and endorsement deals. Ronaldo is also the most followed athlete on social media with 219 million followers on Instagram alone.
Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras
The rivalry between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras defined men’s tennis in the ’90s. They racked up 22 Grand Slam titles between the two of them, with Sampras beating Agassi in the Open finals three times, Vanity Fair reported. Their rivalry was also marketing gold — the players often made commercials together, including the memorable “guerilla tennis” Nike ad directed by Spike Jonez.
Find out who the winner has been off the tennis court.
Andre Agassi Is Richer
- Andre Agassi’s net worth: $175 million
- Pete Sampras’ net worth: $150 million
Sampras has more Grand Slam titles — 14 compared to Agassi’s eight — but Agassi is richer. Since retiring from tennis, he’s focused his efforts on philanthropy with the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education.
Take a Look: Richest Athletes From Every Decade
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell
NBA.com called the rivalry between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell “unquestionably the greatest individual rivalry in NBA history.” No one had ever seen a player like Russell — until Chamberlain came along. The two sparred on the court throughout the ’60s, with Chamberlain smashing records while pushing Russell to become an even better player than he was before, continuing the “Bill Russell reign of terror.”
Russell and Chamberlain played for the Eastern Conference title in 1960, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968, and for the NBA championship in 1964 and 1969. Russell won nine championships while Chamberlin won one, though Chamberlin has the better individual record: an average of 28.7 points and 28.7 rebounds a game versus Russell’s average of 14.5 points and 23.7 rebounds per game.
See which baller is more balling.
It's a Tie
- Wilt Chamberlain’s net worth (deceased): $10 million
- Bill Russell’s net worth: $10 million
The two legends are equally wealthy.
After retiring from the NBA, Chamberlain worked as a coach, dabbled in acting and tried his hand at a number of other sports, including boxing and polo. He died of heart failure in 1999.
Russell also worked as a coach, tried his hand at acting and also had a stint as a television commentator.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s tennis rivalry has spanned 16 years and 40 matches. Of those, Nadal has won 24 vs. Federer’s 16 — but Federer has only admiration for his long-time opponent.
“We have a great story together,” he told CBS46. “We are having very long careers and facing each other in the most important tournaments for such a long time. It is a rivalry, of course, but at the same time it is a friendship.”
Can you guess which tennis pro has the higher net worth?
Roger Federer Is Richer
- Roger Federer’s net worth: $450 million
- Rafael Nadal’s net worth: $180 million
Nadal may have more wins in their matchups, but Federer has more cash. He has earned $124 million in prize money over the course of his career, but he has made much more in endorsements and appearance fees, Forbes reported. In 2019 alone, Federer made $86 million through partnerships with Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex — more than any other athlete.
Serena and Venus Williams
The Williams sisters were once ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, and their collective and individual accomplishments have earned them a place in tennis history. They have a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. They have also won three Olympic gold medals in doubles and one gold medal each in singles.
Serena now has more titles than her sister, but she credits Venus with paving the way for her success, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Which sister is richer?
Serena Williams Is Richer
- Serena Williams’ net worth: $200 million
- Venus Williams’ net worth: $95 million
Serena’s career winnings top $92.7 million — which is more than double those of her sister Venus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Outside of her incredible on-the-court earnings, Serena has added to her fortune with her venture fund, her clothing line, stakes in the Miami Dolphins and UFC, and lucrative corporate sponsorships. She was one of the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2019, according to Forbes.
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have both been at the top of the NHL in terms of scoring during their time with the league. In March 2019, Ovechkin scored his 1,200th career point, which positioned him into a tie for 48th all-time scorer in NHL history. At the time, Sidney Crosby was No. 47, hitting the 1,200-point milestone just the week before, NBC Sports reported. But the “rivals” really see the competition as one between their two teams — the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins — rather than an individual rivalry.
“I don’t like turning it into me and him,” Crosby told The Athletic.
Can you guess which hockey pro is richer?
Alex Ovechkin Is Richer
- Sidney Crosby’s net worth: $55 million
- Alex Ovechkin’s net worth: $60 million
In this competition, Ovechkin is the winner. He has been one of the highest-paid athletes in the NHL, with a salary of $10 million for the 2016-17 season, according to Forbes. He also brought in $4 million in endorsements that year.
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson have faced each other in the boxing ring twice — and the second matchup was extremely memorable for what CBS Sports has deemed “one of the most disgraceful actions in modern boxing history.” Holyfield won the first fight between the two in November 1996, and the rivals met again in June 1997. During this match, Tyson was disqualified after biting both of Holyfield’s ears. Now, there’s speculation that the two might meet again for a third match, with both saying that they’re back in fighting shape.
Mike Tyson Is Richer
- Evander Holyfield’s net worth: $500,000
- Mike Tyson’s net worth: $3 million
Both boxers experienced money issues after blowing their fortunes, but Tyson has managed to bounce back more than Holyfield has. Although Tyson squandered his $300 million career earnings on jewelry, prostitutes, mansions and cars — even filing for bankruptcy in 2003 — he managed to make up for his losses and rebuild his fortune with a Las Vegas show and his book, CNN reported.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are arguably the two greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. They played against each other 17 times from 2001 through 2015 — and Brady won 11 of those times. Although Manning is retired, Brady is gearing up to play his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I loved playing against him,” Brady said on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.” “We had so many significant games over the years. It was an incredible rivalry.”
Find out which quarterback is worth more quarters.
Peyton Manning Is Richer
- Tom Brady’s net worth: $180 million
- Peyton Manning’s net worth: $250 million
Although Brady is one of the world’s highest-paid athletes — he made $27 million in 2019, according to Forbes — Manning is worth more. He retired in 2016 with $249 million in career salary and bonuses from the NFL, and $400 million in total earnings when you include his endorsements, Forbes reported.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods
When Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996, Phil Mickelson already had nine big wins to his name. Woods dominated the PGA for the next four years, and the two golf greats finally faced off against each other at the 2001 Masters — Woods won. Tensions hit a new high in 2003 when Mickelson publicly shamed Woods’ equipment. The rivalry continued for over a decade, but Mickelson said their relationship changed when they worked together for the Ryder Cup in 2016.
“We ended up spending a lot of time on the phone getting ready, talking about players, picks, statistics, alternate shot, course setup and all these things. And getting an idea to see how prepared he was and how meticulous with each little thing, I had a new respect for him,” he told Golf.com. “When we worked together for a common goal, which was to win the Ryder Cup, it brought us closer. I think that was kind of the turning point.”
Golf’s biggest rivals are going up against each other once more — Woods will pair up with Manning and Mickelson with Brady — on May 24 for “The Match: Champions for Charity” to raise funds for the coronavirus relief.
So, which golfer is richer?
Tiger Woods Is Richer
- Phil Mickelson’s net worth: $400 million
- Tiger Woods’ net worth: $800 million
Woods is worth twice as much as Mickelson. Mickelson came in at No. 19 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes with $48.4 million in earnings for the year, while Woods came in at No. 11 with $63.9 million in earnings for the year. According to Forbes, Woods has earned $1.4 billion from sponsorships since he turned pro.
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Net worths are sourced from Celebrity Net Worth unless otherwise indicated and are accurate as of May 15, 2020.
About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.