Tabloid Athlete #1: Alex Rodriguez
A-rod is one of the foremost examples of celebrity in sports. Long considered one of the top players in the game, his move to the Yankees in 2004 made him a tabloid staple. His place in the (non-sports related) headlines reached its peak in 2008 with rumors about a troubled marriage and an alleged affair with Madonna. He has a net worth of $300 million
Counterpart: Albert Pujols
Pujols is considered by many to be the best player in Major League Baseball. Yet his net worth of $50 million is considerably less than A-rod’s, and he is essentially ignored by the tabloids.
There are multiple reason’s for this. First, A-rod plays in New York, a much bigger market than St. Louis, where Pujols plays. Second, A-rod has been an elite player longer than the younger pujols, and the heated speculation over his trade in 2004 became national news. A-rod also became a star (as a power-hitting shortstop) in the wake of the McGuire-Sosa fueled home-run phenomena, a time of tremendous exposure for the games stars. Pujols, on the other hand, came into prominence while rumors about steroids were circling and fans became less enchanted with big-time hitters.
All these factors contribute to the pop-culture status of each player, which has a hand in both tabloid exposure and net worth. While Pujols has a number of endorsements, most are baseball or at least sports related. A-rod, on the other hand, has advertised for products such as pepsi and guitar hero, again putting him in front of a non-sports audience.
Tabloid Athlete #2: Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq has extended his influence far beyond the basketball court. Beginning in the 90s, The Big Aristotle has starred in movies, videogames, hosted his own television show and released a number of rap albums. He has a net-worth of $250 million. Other than a divorce, Shaq has generally avoided serious tabloid controversy. His place in pop culture instead comes from his gargantuan personality, and even after his skills have faded he has managed to stay relevant through entertaining all-star appearances or by fanning the flames of his supposed “beef” with former teammate Kobe Bryant.
Counterpart: Tim Duncan
Duncan has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the court, and in that respect is certainly comparable to Shaq. His net worth is only $75 million, however, and his public persona basically non-existent when compared to O’Neal’s. Both men have played on a large stage (although Shaq’s time in L.A. undoubtedly helped further his conquest of pop culture), and the NBA is much less regional than MLB in terms of marketing.
The difference is mainly personality. Shaq’s appeal on the court is rivaled and even surpassed by his outgoing and charismatic presence. The media character he created helped him become a brand of his own. Duncan, on the other hand, is more soft-spoken. A determined competitor on the court, Duncan is the epitome of class and political correctness off of it. And while he has deservedly garnered the respect of many basketball fans, a humble post game interview doesn’t draw interest like a rap lyric aimed at Kobe.