Twenty years have passed since the 1990s, but for many of us, the memories are still fresh—especially when it comes to the athletes of that generation. Arguably some of the greatest and most famous sports figures of today made a name for themselves during that decade.
From Michael “Air” Jordan to Emmitt Smith to Serena Williams, these names conjure thoughts of an incredible athletic era. Though we know many professional athletes are paid handsomely today, you might be surprised to find how much these greats are actually raking in!
1. Mia Hamm: After joining the US Women’s National Soccer Team in 1987, Hamm went on to compete in four FIFA Women’s World Cups as well as three different Olympics. That all paid off, as she’s estimated to be worth $10 million today!
2. Emmitt Smith: As the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, this Dallas Cowboy and former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was on top of the sports world during the ’90s. So what did he earn besides his fame? Try $18 million.
3. Monica Seles: Picking up the sport of tennis from the age of five proved crucial to Seles’s success on the court. By the time she was 17, she’d become the youngest player t0 be ranked number one. Her career continued much in that fashion, earning her $20 million smackeroos.
4. Dottie Pepper: Debuting professionally in the LPGA in 1988, Pepper went on to win not only 17 events, but two championships as well. She managed to stay in her prime for more than a decade, and it paid off majorly, earning her millions of dollars.
5. Karrie Webb: This Australian golfer quickly made a name for herself in the LPGA in 1997; just two years later, she became the champion and the player of the year! By the time all was said and done, she’d made just over $20 million.
6. Annika Sorenstam: After joining the Swedish National golf team in 1987, Sorenstam went on to become the World Amateur champion in 1992, launching her pro career. Before long, she was in the LPGA, winning a total of 72 tournaments and earning a grand total of $22 million!
7. Steffi Graff: Until the introduction of Serena Williams, Graff all but dominated female tennis during the ’90s, having one four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal at Seoul. Though she retired at the age of 30, she’s estimated to be worth $30 million today.
8. Anna Kournikova: Kournikova began playing tennis in 1991 at the age of 10. By 1995, she’d become the World Junior Champion, and she made her Grand Slam debut the following year! She went on to have major success… and to build a net worth of $30 million today.
9. Sugar Ray Leonard: Though this highly decorated boxer’s heyday was in the 1980s, he was involved in the sport until 1997. Eventually, he transitioned to become an analyst for several major networks—and made himself $30.7 million in the process.
10. Deion Sanders: A multi-talented athlete, Sanders not only played in the NFL, but in the MLB, too. So what did he rake in? Well, today he’s estimated to be worth about $40 million!
11. Sergei Fedorov: Hockey players might not make headlines the way they did in the ’90s while Fedorov was the star of the Detroit Red Wings, but back in 1995, he was the third-richest athlete in the world. Most recently, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame; he’s estimated to be worth $40 million!
12. Evander Holyfield: Though he defeated Mike Tyson in 1996, Holyfield is perhaps best remembered for having his ear bitten by Iron Mike instead. Nevertheless, he was a highly decorated boxer, and he earned more than $60 million during his heyday.
13. Mike Tyson: Before the infamous ear-biting incident, Tyson was revered. At 20 years old, he was named the youngest undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion. In the ’90s, he was practically unbeatable, winning 50 fights and even having a Nintendo video game made after him. By 1996, Tyson was worth a cool $75 million.
14. Serena Williams: Arguably the best tennis player in history, Williams beat some of the biggest names in her sport during the ’90s, like Monica Seles, when she was a teenager. And she’s still just as relevant! Though she wasn’t as highly paid back then, she is now the highest-paid female athlete in the world and is worth about $170 million.
15. Oscar De La Hoya: Hailing from a family of boxers, it only made sense De La Hoya was so highly decorated in the sport at such a young age; he won the Super Featherweight title when he was just 19. He went on to be one of the most famous athletes of the 1990s and it paid off in a big way. Now, he’s worth about $200 million.
16. George Foreman: Though his boxing career began in the ’60s, the dominant Foreman remained a force to be reckoned with. By 1991, he was the fourth-richest athlete in the world, and it didn’t hurt that he debuted his popular Foreman Grill a few years later. In total, he’s estimated to be worth $300 million today.
17. Jack Nicklaus: Though his career began in the ’60s, Nicklaus continued to play in the sport until 1990, when he turned 50 and had to join the senior tournaments. These days, the highly decorated golfer is estimated to be worth $300 million!
18. Shaquille O’Neal: As a four-time NBA champion and three-time finals MVP, it goes without saying that Shaq was easily the most dominant player in the history of basketball. Luckily for him, he’s got a personality and sense of humor to boot. So how much has that earned him? Try $400 million!
19. Tiger Woods: To say that Woods was the face of the PGA in the ’90s would be an understatement. In 1997, after clinching the number-one position in the world, he made $26.1 million. As of today, he’s estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars.
20. Michael Jordan: Arguably the greatest player in the history of basketball, His Royal Airness went 6-0 in his NBA finals career, made dunking from the foul line possible—and he had the most popular shoe in the world! He was so great that his signature Nike sneakers still fly off the shelves. Now, he’s estimated to have a net worth of $1.65 billion.
We remember the names of these athletes so well because of their incredible accomplishments. Luckily for them, they’re still reaping the benefits today!
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