U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 2 mins

States That Produce the Richest Athletes

Joel Anderson

Few things drive sports in America quite like regional rivalry. It’s one thing to enjoy watching your favorite team win a game, it’s another if it includes the guy from your hometown downright embarrassing the competition. As such, there’s a different type of pride associated with success for someone who hails from the same place you do. But can you quantify that? Are there certain states that are just better at churning out elite athletes?

That’s why GOBankingRates conducted a study to see which states can lay claim to producing the top athletes. The study took the 95 highest-paid athletes in the four major American sports — a list that no hockey player was able to crack, unsurprisingly — and then found the state where they were born, the state where they attended high school and the state where they went to college. Each instance was counted once and combined for a final tally that should give a better sense of which states can claim to have played the largest role in the development of some of the world’s most elite athletes.

32. Delaware

  • Born in state: 0
  • Attended high school in state: 0
  • Attended college in state: 1

The lone entrant for Delaware would be Denver Broncos — née Baltimore Ravens — quarterback Joe Flacco, who was drafted by Baltimore following his time at the University of Delaware. Flacco ultimately led the Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2012.

31. West Virginia


  • Born in state: 0
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 0

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins was born in Toronto and played college ball for the University of Kansas, but before that he was playing for Huntington Prep in West Virginia during his high school years. And well, he won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball USA awards.

30. Maryland


  • Born in state: 0
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 0

Kevin Durant is one of the NBA’s most recognized names — winning two titles in three seasons with the Golden State Warriors before signing with the Brooklyn Nets this offseason. He originally hails from Washington, D.C., but played his high school ball in nearby Rockville, Maryland, at Montrose Christian School.

29. Mississippi


  • Born in state: 0
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 1

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hails from Louisiana — his father, Archie, spent all but three seasons with the New Orleans Saints — but he attended Ole Miss for college. Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker may have been born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and attended the University of Kentucky, but he played his high school ball for Moss Point.

28. Kansas


  • Born in state: 0
  • Attended high school in state: 0
  • Attended college in state: 2

Kansas may lack for home-grown talent, but the college basketball powerhouse that is the University of Kansas helps land them on this list. Two of the highest-paid NBA big men — Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins — both spent their college basketball days enjoying “rock chalk, Jayhawk” chants.

27. Hawaii


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 0

What would make anyone who grew up on the island paradise of Hawaii want to leave home? Well, a scholarship to be the starting quarterback at a major program en route to becoming an NFL star could do it. That’s what enticed now Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to leave his hometown of Honolulu for the University of Oregon.

26. Washington, D.C.


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 0
  • Attended college in state: 0

While neither of the elite athletes born in the nation’s capital stayed for either their high school or college careers, both Kevin Durant and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hail from there.

25. Arkansas


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 0
  • Attended college in state: 1

Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley is one of the few players on this list who has a different state for his birthplace, high school and college, but it all started in Arkansas where he was born. Meanwhile, pitcher Dallas Keuchel — formerly of the Houston Astros but now playing for the Atlanta Braves — was an Arkansas Razorback for his college years.

24. Colorado


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 1

Unlike Mike Conley, left tackle Nate Solder of the New York Giants enjoyed a certain degree of stability in his youth. He was lucky enough to play high school and college football in his home state of Colorado.

23. Wisconsin


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 2

Jordan Zimmermann has struggled mightily since he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 2015, despite the move bringing him much closer to home — he was born in Wisconsin and played his high school and college baseball there.

22. Washington


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 1

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester — who also spent his high school years in state — and Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith were both born in Washington. Smith made his way to California for college, but Warriors guard Klay Thompson went the opposite direction — hailing from California but going to Washington State University to play hoops.

21. Virginia


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 1

Astros pitcher Justin Verlander’s status as a future Hall of Famer seems largely certain at this point, and his plaque is likely to note that the Virginia native stayed home for both high school and college.

20. Tennessee


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 2

One of the highest-paid pitchers in the MLB, David Price has bounced around for his professional baseball career, coming up with the Tampa Bay Rays before becoming a deadline acquisition in consecutive seasons — from Tampa Bay to Detroit in 2014, then from Detroit to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 — and then signing with his current team, the Boston Red Sox. However, relocating is the new norm — Price spent almost all of the first 20 years of his life in Tennessee.

19. South Carolina


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 2

Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram might have ruffled some feathers locally when he decided to attend the University of South Carolina for college. He was born and raised in North Carolina before opting to become a Gamecock.

18. Kentucky


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 0
  • Attended college in state: 3

Kentucky’s decent showing on this list has a lot to do with the college basketball powerhouse located in the state. NBA stars John Wall, Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns were all Kentucky Wildcats in college.

17. Illinois


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 1
  • Attended college in state: 1

New England Patriots backup-turned-San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was born and bred in the Land of Lincoln. He attended high school in Rolling Meadows before attending Eastern Illinois University.

16. Oregon


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 2

Jacoby Ellsbury might not be especially popular with New York Yankees fans after sputtering in the Bronx following his successful stint with the Red Sox. However, one place he likely gets a warm welcome is back in his home state of Oregon where he played high school and college ball.

15. Oklahoma


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 1

Plenty of people remember Oklahoma native Blake Griffin electrifying crowds with massive dunks during his time with the Sooners. Braves pitcher Dallas Keuchel also hails from Oklahoma and played high school ball in state.

14. Michigan


  • Born in state: 1
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 2

Michigan and Michigan State are the only two universities that can claim national titles in basketball, football and hockey, so it’s no surprise that the state has been home to its share of elite athletes at various levels of competition, like Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

13. New York


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 3
  • Attended college in state: 1

Given that it’s among the most populous states in the country, New York’s position halfway down this list might be seen as an indictment of the state’s sporting culture. But, NBA stars Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris were both born and played their high school basketball in the Empire State.

12. Missouri


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 2

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer — arguably the world’s best pitcher — was born and raised in Missouri. Of course, there’s some irony in a guy originally hailing from the Show-Me State armed with a fastball that major league hitters can’t seem to pick up.

11. Alabama


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 3
  • Attended college in state: 2

One might assume Alabama — home to the University of Alabama and Auburn University, two college football powerhouses — would have more than two college stars on this list. However, there are no former members of the Rolling Tide among the highest-paid athletes in the four major American sports. The two elite athletes who played college ball in Alabama both went to Auburn: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson.

10. Pennsylvania


  • Born in state: 2
  • Attended high school in state: 2
  • Attended college in state: 3

Pennsylvania has been affectionately dubbed “the cradle of quarterbacks” for the disproportionate number of star passers from the Keystone State. However, its position on this list is primarily secured by Los Angeles Rams defensive standout Aaron Donald and Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry — both of whom were born in state and stayed for high school and college.

9. New Jersey


  • Born in state: 4
  • Attended high school in state: 4
  • Attended college in state: 0

If you’re familiar with collegiate sports, the fact that the best college for athletics in New Jersey is probably Rutgers should tell you all you need to know about why none of the four highest-paid athletes who were born and attended high school here — the NBA’s Karl-Anthony Towns, the NFL’s Joe Flacco and the MLB’s Rick Porcello and Jason Heyward — stayed in state for college.

8. Indiana


  • Born in state: 3
  • Attended high school in state: 3
  • Attended college in state: 3

While visions of Bobby Knight and Hoosiers basketball might spring to mind when you think of Indiana, the reality is that neither of the two top athletes who played there through their early 20s attended the Big Ten school. Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short was a Purdue product while Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward attended Butler.

7. Georgia


  • Born in state: 3
  • Attended high school in state: 5
  • Attended college in state: 2

Cam Newton, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones were all born in Georgia and stayed there for high school. None of them, however, stayed for college — despite Newton playing for colleges in three other states during his collegiate career.

6. Louisiana


  • Born in state: 4
  • Attended high school in state: 4
  • Attended college in state: 3

Louisiana is right in the middle of the pack in terms of population — ranking 25th out of the 50 states — so their position near the top of this list speaks to the state’s impressive ability to produce elite athletes on a per capita basis. Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and Eli Manning were all born and attended high school here. Of those four, only Manning went out of state for college.

5. North Carolina


  • Born in state: 3
  • Attended high school in state: 4
  • Attended college in state: 4

If this seems curious to you, remember that Duke University is located in the Tar Heel State — along with a few other ACC basketball powerhouses. Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Davidson all have alums among the NBA’s elite, including the league’s two highest-paid players for the 2019-2020 season: Warriors guard Stephen Curry and newly acquired Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul.

4. Ohio


  • Born in state: 6
  • Attended high school in state: 4
  • Attended college in state: 4

College football coaches in the upper Midwest understand that the recruiting in Ohio is critical to their success, so the fact that one-ninth of the highest-paid athletes were born there shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. That said, it’s not all football — there’s an even split between NBA stars (LeBron James being the richest and most famous of the bunch) and football stars for the Buckeye State.

3. Florida


  • Born in state: 6
  • Attended high school in state: 6
  • Attended college in state: 4

Warm weather states tend to produce a much higher volume of baseball stars as sunny climates allow athletes to play year-round. And, of the four athletes among the highest-paid in American sports who were born and attended high school in the Sunshine State, three are baseball players — Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, recently acquired Astros pitcher Zack Greinke and San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer.

2. Texas


  • Born in state: 8
  • Attended high school in state: 11
  • Attended college in state: 6

Much has been made of the friendship between Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford while the two were growing up outside of Dallas. But it speaks to a simple truth about Texas: it has a sports-mad culture that tends to bring out the best in its young athletes, performance-wise. Both are among the highest-paid players in their respective sports.

1. California


  • Born in state: 15
  • Attended high school in state: 15
  • Attended college in state: 10

In fairness, California has a big of advantage by way of being the most populous state in the country — with about 10 million more “potential athletes” than in Texas, the next closest state. But California still dominates the list, with literally a third of the nation’s top athletes — such as new Los Angeles Clippers teammates Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the MLB’s highest-paid pitcher Stephen Strasburg — originally hailing from the Golden State.

More on Wealth and Making Money

Methodology: GOBankingRates found the states that produce the richest Athletes by sourcing salary data from Spotrac.com, a site that tracts contracts, salaries, salary caps, bonuses and other sports transactions. Using Spotrac, GOBankingRates found the 95 highest-paid athletes in terms of (1) cap hit for the 2019 or 2019-20 season, across Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL). Once this data was gathered, GOBankingRates used Sports-Reference.com to find in which state each of the 95 athletes (2) was born, (3) attended high school and (4) attended college (if applicable). GOBankingRates then tallied up the number of times each state appeared in the final three factors. All data was collected and accurate as of Aug. 6, 2019.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: States That Produce the Richest Athletes