Anytime there is a top tier athletic event that focuses more on the athletes than the competition, you can be rest assured that the compensation athletes receive also vary significantly. On one side we have athletes that take the lion share of the remuneration on offer, while other lesser name athletes scramble for whatever is left.
The truth is that professional sports is neither as lucrative nor as glamorous as we make it out to be. It does take a lot of discipline, talent and effort to become a professional athlete but there is absolutely no guarantee that the rewards will follow, especially when the talent levels aren't extraordinary enough to propel one into the spotlight.
Many athletes are instead somewhat appreciative of the fact that they even have the opportunity to make a living out of their professions that they don't bother to question the disparity between earnings. Take for instance an undrafted pick who makes it to the NBA and is offered a contract. No matter how basic, it is the start of something and miles better than being undrafted.
The capitalist in me has no bitterness towards this situation, as such is the nature of most businesses. Yet why I bring this up is because of the sad assumption many people make about every professional athlete out there who might be given an opportunity in the spotlight. Most of the people around them (save for their inner cycle) also make this assumptions and perhaps even try to extract resources from them.
How to Finish Well
It is why many athletes who retire venture into other business or educational ventures long before their retirement. There are many who even become more successful in this venture than their professional careers. Jose Mourinho wasn't an extraordinary player as a footballer, but he did become quite exemplary as a coach. There are tons of other examples to this effect. What Ultimately matters is that the professional carrier can be a springboard for something better in the future.
Getting better is also another proposed solution, but it is a lot easier said than done. Talent levels are set for the most part, and it will take some effort to upscale in a relatively short period of time and start performing at a high level, high enough to get noticed and drawn into elite conversations. Some athletes miraculously manage to pull it off, but this isn't just the norm.
Apprehend the Future
There is also a lot of apprehension that comes when an athlete isn't a top talent or a top sell. In the NBA that means you could get cut at any moment and your career could be over. Other sports It means a reduction in opportunities and eventual compensation that follows. There is certainly a lot of pressure that follow professional athletes who know they have a limited time to accomplish big things before their careers are over.
You cannot blame them for trying to maximize the opportunities that come their way. Take for instance the new trend of mixed martial artists crossing over to boxing events which offer bigger prize money. Athletes travel to places like China, Saudi Arabia or wherever the money is offered most just so they can accumulate as much as they can before their careers inevitably end.
For Superstar athletes like LeBron James who have life endorsement deals there is little reason to put money irrationally ahead of every action they take, but the reality for the vast majority of athletes is different. To be a professional is a highly competitive and sometimes brutal career.