It’s likely that the world of professional sports has created more rags-to-riches stories than any other industry, but not all athletes started at the bottom. Some, in fact, could have taken it easy and inherited fortunes small and large but instead chose to pursue their talents and passions and make their own money on the court, the field or the track. Take a look at these star athletes who started life with a little financial cushion.
Last updated: October 7, 2020
Laila Ali fought professionally from 1999-2007 before retiring undefeated after 24 fights. She won 21 of those fights by knockout, giving her a far better knockout-to-win percentage than many famous champion male boxers — including her father, the great Muhammad Ali. The man born as Cassius Clay is not only one of the greatest boxers of all time, but one of the most significant athletes of the 20th century across all sports, and a man whose political, civil rights and anti-war activism transcended boxing and athletics in general.
The Andretti family is well-known in open-wheel racing. The current generation is anchored by Marco Andretti, a successful IndyCar racer. His father was Michael Andretti, one of the greatest open-wheel drivers in history and a successful team owner — but the lineage didn’t start there. Michael is the son of the great Mario Andretti, one of the most celebrated names in racing history and one of only two drivers to win races in NASCAR, World Sportscar Championship, IndyCar and Formula One.
Kobe Bryant moved to Rieti, Italy, when he was 6 years old as his father settled into a new life playing for the Italian national team. The story of the late Kobe Bryant’s ascension to NBA glory is well documented, but the story of his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, is not as well-known. The elder Bryant played in the NBA from 1975-83 for the 76ers, the Clippers and the Rockets before moving the family to Italy. After retiring from playing, Jellybean went on to a long and successful coaching career.
In the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, the New York Mets took the charismatic and consummately talented Pete Crow-Armstrong, an 18-year-old left-handed center fielder whose hitting is as impressive as his arm and his speed. His family is no stranger to the spotlight. His mother, Ashley Crow, is an actress who appeared in “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise and “Heroes” on NBC, but her most famous role, ironically enough, was in a baseball movie — she played Jenny in 1994’s “Little Big League.” His dad, too, is an actor, boasting roles in “House,” “American Horror Story” and “The Young and the Restless.”
Warriors star point guard Steph Curry is not only one of the greatest three-point men in NBA history, but arguably the best shooter of all time — and his dad was no slouch either. Dell Curry played in the NBA from 1986 through 2002, and he remains the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leader in three-pointers and points. His son, Steph, entered the league just seven years after his father retired. Salary information for the elder Curry is not available, but Celebrity Net Worth estimates his fortune to be $8 million.
Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s NBA career spanned 15 years between 2002-17. Nicknamed “The Natural,” the power forward/small forward/shooting guard played for the Warriors, Raptors, Pacers, Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers and Hawks. Basketball was a family affair. His father is Mike Dunleavy Sr., who played in the NBA between 1976-85 and then retired, only to come back and play two more seasons between 1988-90. After his second and final retirement, he went onto a coaching career and served as general manager for the Clippers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most famous and accomplished champions in racing history, but his career was built on the shoulders of giants. His father, Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhardt Sr., died during the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001 in a hideous crash that was broadcast live to horrified audiences across the world. The elder Earnhardt earned nearly $43 million during his NASCAR career. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the son of Ralph Earnhardt, a famous short-track racer who racked up 16 top-10 finishes for a total of $23,550 in career earnings — not a bad haul for a racer in the 1950s and early ’60s.
Nick Foles no longer plays for the Eagles, but he’ll always be a hero in Philadelphia after leading the Birds to Super Bowl glory — he was named Super Bowl MVP — as a backup quarterback over the mighty New England Patriots in 2018. He was born into wealth, but life on easy street as a kid only bolstered his work ethic. His parents, Melissa and Larry Foles, are successful restauranteurs. Larry dropped out of high school and frequently worked 80-100 hours per week, a fact that wasn’t lost on the future NFL star. In 2011, the year before Nick Foles entered the NFL, Larry earned $59 million from the sale of 11 restaurants.
They Can Sit Back and Relax: Maria Sharapova and 43 More Incredibly Rich Retired Athletes
Tim Hardaway Jr.
With a career spanning nearly 15 years between 1989-2003, Tim Hardaway made the All-Rookie team his first year in the NBA, was a five-time All-Star and was named All-NBA five times. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he has a $28 million fortune. In 2013, 10 years after he retired, his son Tim Hardaway Jr. was drafted by the Knicks and remains in the league today. Like his father, the younger Hardaway was named All-Rookie.
Small forward/shooting guard Grant Hill enjoyed a stellar career that spanned 1994-2013. During stints with the Pistons, Magic, Suns and Clippers, the Hall of Famer went to seven All-Star games, was named All-NBA five times and earned the title Rookie of the Year in 1994-95. His father, Calvin Hill, was also named Rookie of the Year — but not by the NBA. The elder Hill played running back for the Cowboys, Redskins and Browns between 1969-81. The four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion was named All-Pro once.
Playing mostly for Detroit between 1980-94, center Bill Laimbeer was famously loathed around the league by most of those who were willing to go on the record about him — but not because of his on-court efforts. He made four trips to the All-Star Game and won two NBA Championships. According to a 1986 Sports Illustrated article that attempted to demystify the widely misunderstood man, Laimbeer was famous for saying, “I’m the only player in the NBA who makes less money than his father.” At the time, William Laimbeer Sr. was an executive with glass and paper giant Owens-Illinois earning more than $300,000 a year plus bonuses.
In 1998, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski became the youngest athlete ever to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. A month and a half later, she went pro — but not because she needed the money. She made the move to unite her family, who had been living apart to support her career. Her father, after all, was Jack Lipinski, a wealthy and powerful oil executive out of Texas. When he retired from CVR Energy in 2017, none other than Carl Icahn wrote a statement thanking him for his service.
French soccer goalie Hugo Lloris originally wanted to play tennis as a child, and according to the Mirror, he excelled with a racket. A country club sport was likely a natural choice, considering the Tottenham star’s pedigree growing up in the south of France. His father, Luc, is a wealthy and successful merchant banker and international law specialist based in Monte Carlo. His mother was a lawyer.
Patrick Mahomes sat out the first year of his three years in the NFL but still went on to rack up a Super Bowl win, two trips to the Pro Bowl and an MVP title — needless to say, the Chiefs star quarterback lived up to the considerable hype surrounding his 2017 draft. An athlete in his own right, his father, Pat Mahomes, pitched for seven teams during his MLB career, which spanned from 1992-2003. Cumulative salary information for the elder Mahomes is scant, but according to USA Today, he made $202,500 in 1996 alone.
The Manning Brothers
Just as racing has its dynasties, so, too, does football. Peyton and Eli Manning are both two-time Super Bowl champions who were among the greatest quarterbacks of their eras. The latter goes down as one of the best play-callers in Giants history. The former is one of the all-time greats across the entire NFL. They’re also the sons of NFL great Archie Manning, whose career, spent mostly in New Orleans, spanned from 1971-84. And the Manning family candle still burns. Archie’s son Cooper Manning is the father of Arch Manning, who at just 15 years old is considered one of the best young football prospects in America.
It was clear in high school that Johnny Manziel was a rare talent with NFL potential, and his standout college career eliminated any doubt. Drafted by the Browns in the first round of the 2014 draft, “Johnny Football” had some success, but his legacy is one of squandered talent. His short career was marred by legal troubles, substance abuse and highly publicized incidents of erratic behavior and off-field scandals. His family history closely mirrors that pattern. He was born into a wealthy and prominent oil family in Texas who traces its lineage back to Manziel’s great-grandfather, Bobby Joe Manziel, a bantamweight boxer and friend of Jack Dempsey who struck it rich in the Lonestar State’s oil fields. Throughout the generations, the family was known for wealth and success — Johnny’s parents are worth $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth — but also for run-ins with the law, eccentric behavior and controversy.
Making the Most of Their Money: Athletes With Major Business Empires Outside of Sports
Like so many other champion racers, Kyle Petty is just one link in a very long chain. When Kyle Petty retired in 2008, it was the end of an era. In 2000, his son Adam was killed while practicing for the Nationwide series, ensuring that after Kyle, no Petty would race in NASCAR for the first time in generations. Kyle Petty is the son of Richard Petty, one of the most accomplished and popular racers in the history of the sport. The elder Petty is the son of Lee Petty, a NASCAR pioneer and stock car racing’s first true superstar.
Mike Piazza’s MLB career spanned from 1992-2007, mostly with the Mets and Dodgers, and he’s remembered as one of the greatest hitting catchers in the game. The Hall of Famer, 10-time Silver Slugger and 12-time All-Star was one of the best-paid celebrity athletes of his era, but even Mike Piazza’s fortune doesn’t measure up to that of his father. A high school dropout and the son of impoverished Sicilian immigrants, Vince Piazza turned a single used-car lot into a $100 million auto, real estate and computer services empire.
Playing first for Manchester United and now Barcelona, Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué is one of the best defensive soccer players in the game. Although his parents weren’t athletes, they were wealthy. His father, Joan, is a successful businessman and his mother, Montserrat, is the director of a Barcelona hospital for spinal injuries. His grandfather, Amador Bernabeu, was the vice president of Barcelona.
In 1944, Oom Hendrik Pistorius founded H. Pistorius & Co. in South Africa, which would grow to become the oldest and largest supplier of agricultural lime on the entire continent. It was the basis of generational wealth that filtered down all the way to Oom Hendrick’s grandson, Oscar Pistorius, who was born into wealth and privilege in South Africa. Oscar inspired the world when he became the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics in 2012. His legacy, however, took a much darker turn when he was convicted of murdering his model girlfriend after one of the most sensational trials of the 21st century.
Worth Reading: 30 Strange Clauses in These Athletes’ Contracts
Carey Price is arguably the best goalie in hockey and might just be the best goalie in the long and storied history of the Montreal Canadiens — no Habs netminder has ever played more games. Before he broke it, that record was held by the great Jacques Plante, a Hall-of-Fame goaltender who was working as the goalie coach for the Philadelphia Flyers when they drafted Carey Price’s father, Jerry Price, in 1978. The elder Price learned the craft directly from the six-time Stanley Cup Champion Plante nearly a decade before his son was even born.
Peter Revson, who died on the track in 1974 at the age of 35, could have been one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. In reality, he could have done anything — or nothing at all. As an heir to the Revlon Cosmetics fortune, Revson shunned a life of privilege and luxury in the pursuit of his true passion: racing. As an American in a sport dominated by Europeans, the deck was already stacked against him, and many in the sport presumed him to be a rich kid trying to buy his way into racing. His work ethic, talent and passion soon won over hearts on both sides of the Atlantic before he was killed on a test session track.
Zara Anne Elizabeth Tindall
Those who are into equestrian racing might know the name Zara Anne Elizabeth Tindall, who won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain. When she received the medal, it was her mother who presented it to her. She is the daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips and the eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II.
Al Unser Jr.
In terms of DNA-based racing dynasties, even the Earnhardt and Andretti families can’t compete with the Unser family’s racing pedigree. The son of Al Unser and the nephew of Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr. retired as a two-time Indy 500 winner — but that was just the latest addition to the massive Unser family trophy room. His grandfather and great uncles — men born in the 1800s — along with his uncles and cousins are all major names in the industry. Incredibly, an Unser won the Indy 500 nine times between 1968-94 — meaning one out of every 11 Indianapolis 500s ever held were won by a member of racing’s first family.
Kellen Winslow II
Tight end Kellen Winslow II had a good NFL career between 2004-13, including a trip to the Pro Bowl. His father, however, was one of the position’s defining players. Unlike the younger Winslow, the senior played tight end for just one team — he was a career Charger between 1979-87. A Hall of Famer, he went to five Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro three times. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the senior Winslow is worth $12 million.
More From GOBankingRates
Net worth information is accurate as of July 13, 2020.