Monday, June 25, 2012

Sports Payrolls

With the economy still in a tough spot, I was curious to see how much money is spent across every major sport in the United States. Being a huge baseball, football, and basketball fan, I really wanted to see who spends the most money on payroll and who is the highest paid player in all sports.

Feel free to play around with this visualization. The insights I found were really interesting and it's amazing how much money there is in sports across the United States. We definitely love our sports and we're willing to pay big bucks for entertainment. Hover over the "Information" icon to get more details on how to interact with this visualization.

My insights and analysis are below this visualization.

Comparing payrolls across baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer, I discovered the following:

  • NFL has the highest total payroll at $3.5B followed by baseball (MLB) at $3B, basketball (NBA) at $2B, hockey (NHL) at $1.7B and soccer (MLS) at $49M.
  • New York Yankees spend the most money on payroll across all sports - this year they will spend $198 million on their players. Lowest payroll in baseball are the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres at $55 million. Lowest payroll in all sports compared is Chivas USA from MLS at $2.11M.
  • Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in sports - making a nice $30 million this year alone.
  • Even though baseball has the highest payroll by team, the sport with the highest total ($3.4B) and avg payroll ($107M) is the NFL. Football does seem to be the most popular sport in the United States.
  • In order of highest payrolls by team, baseball is #1 ($198M) followed by football ($138M), basketball ($90M), hockey ($71M) and soccer ($11M).
  • The disparity between soccer and other sports is quite large, but soccer is definitely not as popular in the U.S. 
  • The team with the highest avg payroll across all sports compared is the Los Angeles Lakers at $6.9M. The New York Yankees have the highest team payroll, but their avg payroll is about $6.2M. No wonder so many people dislike the Lakers and the Yankees! Even the Orlando Magic have a higher avg payroll than the Yankees at $6.4M.
  • If you look at the median instead of the avg, the data really changes! The median is a much more accurate measure versus the avg because you can account for wild swings in the data. Certain players like Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant make so much money compared to others that it skews the data. When we use the median, the Phoenix Suns have the highest median payroll at $4.3M. The Los Angeles Lakers' median payroll is at $4M. The New York Yankees' median payroll is only at $1.9M!
  • Not surprisingly, the New York Yankees have the highest standard deviation payroll at $7.9M. Just goes to show that if you're not a star player in NY, you might not be making the big bucks! Same goes with the Los Angeles Lakers who have the highest standard deviation payroll in the NBA at $7.4M.
  • The most lucrative position in baseball is the pitcher which accounts for 11 of the top 25 players ranked by salary per year.
  • In soccer, the most lucrative position is the midfielder followed closely by the forward (when looking at the top 25 players by salary).
  • In the NFL, it's the quarterback who commands the big dollars and in hockey (NHL), it's the center position.
  • If you're looking for the highest salary per individual, baseball is the sport you want to go with. If you're a star player, you will make the most money with baseball.

And please, let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

  • MLB = Major League Baseball
  • MLS = Major League Soccer
  • NBA = National Basketball Association
  • NFL = National Football League
  • NHL = National Hockey League

All data was taken from USA Today:

  • MLB data from 2012 season
  • MLS data from 2010 season
  • NBA data from 2010-2011 season
  • NFL data from 2009-2010 season
  • NHL data from 2011-2012 season
More information can be found in the Credits tab in the visualization above.


  1. Did you submit it to the Tableau Contest to participate in the Iron Viz and win a chance to go to the User Conference? Deadline is today!

  2. Yes, I did submit this viz in the Tableau Contest! Thanks for the reminder!!

  3. thanks for sharing.

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