10. Sonny Bill Williams (league/rugby)
Code-hopping superstar Sonny Bill Williams has created the blueprint for how to make maximum dollars during his limited years as an athlete.
It hasn’t always made him a popular figure, but it has made him a wealthy one.
Now on a Roosters contract estimated to be worth $750,000, Williams will take a considerable pay cut when he returns to New Zealand to link up once more with the Chiefs (and in the interim, Counties and the All Blacks). He hopes to help the All Blacks defend their world title in the UK next year, before ending his career – he’ll be 31 – with Olympic gold in the Sevens in Rio.
It was in his younger years that Williams really cashed in on his athletic talents. In 2008, he walked out on a $400,000-a -season deal with the Bulldogs to join French rugby side Toulon for a reported $2 million.
In 2010 Toulon offered him a $6 million contract extension for two seasons, but with dreams of being an All Black, Williams turned it down for a relatively modest $550,000-a-year deal with the NZRU.
He was permitted a stint in Japanese rugby, where he made $1.2 million for 12 games for the Panasonic Wild Knights.
While in New Zealand he also propped up his income with a series of high-profile, low-skill boxing bouts, for which he was reportedly paid $1 million a fight.
Williams has a lucrative endorsement deal with Powerade, and this year signed an individual deal with adidas.