Having the skillset to make it big in professional sports is a big deal, but with so much physical wear and tear on the body, famous athletes are often forced to retire early. Since only a rare few have what it takes to stay at the top of their game long after calling it quits, Wonderwall.com rounded up Hollywood's most successful former athletes, starting with the late Kobe Bryant. In his 20 years playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, the basketball legend also known as the Black Mamba broke numerous records with the highest number of total points, free throws and turnovers for any guard in NBA history (not to mention the most points scored — 81 — in a single game). The four-time MVP hit the court for the last time in 2016 but stayed in the spotlight until his tragic passing in 2020. Keep reading to see how Kobe and more former sports stars remained victorious after retirement!
The entire world was shocked and saddened by the news of 41-year-old Kobe Bryant's death on Jan. 26, 2020. He and daughter Gianna, 13, were two of nine fatalities in a freak helicopter crash while en route to one of Gigi's basketball games. Kobe left behind his wife of 19 years, Vanessa Bryant, and three other daughters: Natalia, Bianka and Capri. But before his tragic passing, the retired baller found much success off the court as a Hollywood filmmaker and author with his own production company, Granity Studios (along with a $100 million venture-capital firm). In 2018, the hall of famer became the first former athlete to be nominated for and win an Oscar. His "Dear Basketball" — a poetic piece based on an open letter about his love of the game — won best animated short film. The same year, he developed a TV series for ESPN called "Details" and wrote an autobiography about his career, "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play." Kobe also penned a series of young adult novels in his effort to encourage underprivileged youth through sports. Including endorsement deals and numerous investments, Kobe's net worth was estimated to be upwards of $600 million by Forbes in 2020.
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Dwayne Johnson developed his larger-than-life persona as a professional wrestler as part of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he was known as The Rock. The 10-time world champion raked in the highest sales ever for the network's pay-per-view events as the headliner for Wrestlemania XXVIII before officially retiring in 2019.
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Dwayne Johnson's secret to success was that he dipped his feet into the Hollywood pond while still part of WWE. Toggling between wrestling and acting for years, The Rock was already a movie star when he retired from the ring — he made his feature-film debut way back in 2001's "The Mummy Returns." As of 2019, he was the fifth-highest paid entertainer in the world according to Forbes, having made $89.4 million the previous year with a non-negotiable upfront salary of $23.5 million per movie. Some of his recent action blockbusters include "Jumanji: The Next Level" and his own "Fast & Furious" franchise spinoff, "Hobbs & Shaw." The Rock's also a major small-screen name who made $700K per episode of HBO's series "Ballers." He also hosted the athletic competition show he developed for NBC, "The Titan Games." He started his own production company, Seven Bucks Productions, and now has separate but equally as successful branches in digital media and creative advertising, which helps promote his booming clothing line with Under Armour. But one of Dwayne's biggest draws is his soft side: He often shares sweet photos with wife Lauren Hashian and their girls, Tiana and Jasmine (as well as older daughter Simone with manager ex Dany Garcia), with his 178 million Instagram followers.
David Beckham wasn't just soccer-star eye candy during his 20-year career as a professional midfielder. Before retiring in 2013, the hunky hall of famer became the first Englishman to win league titles in four different countries while playing for England's Manchester United, Spain's Real Madrid, America's LA Galaxy and France's Paris Saint-Germain.
David Beckham earned a whopping $50 million the year he retired, which made him the highest paid soccer player in the world, but his cash flow hasn't stopped since hanging up his cleats. He and his wife of 20 years, Spice Girl-turned-designer Victoria Beckham, are reportedly worth $450 million combined. The power couple own a majority stake in their $150-million investment company, Beckham Brand Holdings, which includes Inter Miami CF (the Major League Soccer club team David purchased in 2014) and Victoria's eponymous fashion label. The former sports star even has a company, DB Ventures, just to handle his bountiful endorsement deals as he's starred in ads for Adidas, H&M, Pepsi and Samsung over the years. But the dad of four's actually become more of a fashion icon (and total sex symbol) in Hollywood these days with his own men's fashion line through Kent & Curwen and grooming brand House 99.
Danica Patrick broke down barriers for women behind the wheel in the realm of professional racing, becoming the only female to ever win an IndyCar series race and NASCAR Cup Series pole position. She officially retired in 2018 but still holds the record for most top-10 finishes by a woman with seven under her belt.
Danica Patrick might have recently retired from racing, but she's already started building a strong foundation as a successful entrepreneur with a net worth estimated at $60 million. She reportedly still rakes in $5 million a year in endorsement deals and gets the rest of her cash from profitable business ventures — she owns her own vineyard in Napa Valley called Somnium, she bought into organic CBD (cannabidiol) company Beam and she launched a line of women's apparel, Warrior by Danica Patrick. In 2017, the former race car driver also published her first motivational book, "Pretty Intense," and she hosts a weekly podcast as an extension of its motivational life-and-wellness messages. While she's not behind the wheel professionally anymore, Danica continues to be an inspiration for female empowerment in both sports and Hollywood (in 2018, she became the first woman to ever host the ESPY Awards). She's also remained in the spotlight thanks to a cameo in 2019's "Charlie's Angels" movie remake and TV voice-over work for "Mickey and the Roadster Racers." She's also made headlines for her serious romance with NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Shortstop and third baseman Alex Rodriguez played 22 seasons of professional baseball — most notably for the New York Yankees — before ultimately hanging up his bat in 2016. The three-time American League MVP still holds the record for most grand slams in MLB history with a whopping 25 during his career.
Alex Rodriguez's high-profile romance with singer-actress Jennifer Lopez might have helped keep him in the spotlight just a little bit (they got engaged in 2019 after two years of dating), but he'd already been uber-successful on his own since retireing from baseball. Naturally, the charismatic athlete went on to become a broadcaster for Fox Sports and ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," though his main focus is investing nowadays. While still playing for the MLB, Alex founded his own investment and development firm, A-Rod Corp., in 2003. The CEO has since majorly grown the company to deal with industries like real estate, media, entertainment, sports and wellness. Along with his Newport Property Construction company (which has developed more than $1.5 billion in projects) and his stake in the Florida-based yoga-fitness franchise TruFusion, the baseballer-turned-businessman is reportedly worth $350 million. And with a fierce female like J.Lo by his side, A-Rod's star power is only getting stronger! Alex frequently shares footage of his newly blended family on social media: He has two daughters with ex-wife Cynthia Scurtis while his fiancée shares twins with ex Marc Anthony.
Caitlyn Jenner trained for six years before winning the gold medal in the men's decathlon event at the 1976 Summer Olympics (when she was known as Bruce Jenner). But the all-American hero went out on a high note and stopped competing after that.
Caitlyn Jenner found more fame in quite an unconventional way following her Olympic glory — on reality TV! She scored her own E! docu-series called "I am Cait" after coming out as transgender in 2015. But before all that, she found herself smack dab in the middle of a small-screen revolution as part of the network's 2007 "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" series, which is now one of the longest running reality shows ever. Back then, she was working as a motivational speaker and was still married to third wife Kris Jenner and raising their two daughters, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner, along with stepchildren Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West, Khloe Kardashian and Rob Kardashian. She had a falling out with much of the family (especially Kris) after releasing her juicy tell-all memoir "The Secrets of My Life" but has moved on with live-in business partner Sophia Hutchins. Caitlyn is now hailed as the most famous trans woman in the world. Caitlyn's current net worth is estimated to be $100 million when factoring in royalties from E!, current endorsement deals with companies like MAC and her old post-Olympics deal with Wheaties. She also reportedly got the largest paycheck ever — an estimated $620K — to be a contestant on the reality show "I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here" in 2019.
Michael Strahan was a defensive end for the New York Giants throughout his entire 15-year career in the NFL during which he set the record for most sacks ever — 22.5 — in one season. The football hall of famer helped his team win Super Bowl XLII before hanging up his cleats in 2008.
Just because Michael Strahan retired after leading his NFL team to victory doesn't mean his life has slowed down. He's been busier than ever with a flourishing career in broadcasting, reportedly earning $17 million a year for his ongoing TV gigs. He's a sports analyst on "Fox NFL Sunday," the host of revived game show "The $100,000 Pyramid" and co-anchor of ABC's morning news show "Strahan, Sara and Keke." The retired footballer got his big break back in 2012 when he was asked to replace Regis Philbin on the renamed "Live! with Kelly and Michael," but he left after four years (and strife with Kelly Ripa) to become a hotshot anchor on "Good Morning America." But the double Daytime Emmy winner's current $65 million net worth doesn't come from being a TV personality alone — he also has his own talent management firm, SMAC Entertainment, and a men's clothing line with J.C. Penny, Collection by Michael Strahan. While he's had a stable income since retirement, he did take a financial hit after his divorce from Jean Muggli in 2007. In their settlement, Michael was ordered to pay his ex-wife $15.3 million and $18K a month in child support for their twin daughters (he also has two older children, Tanita and Michael Jr., from his first marriage). His cash is seemingly safe from more legal bills because he hasn't married again, though he did break off an engagement with Nicole Murphy and is currently dating beauty blogger Marianna Hewitt.
During his 15 seasons playing professional basketball, hall of famer Michael Jordan won six championships for the Chicago Bulls and earned the highest career scoring average in the NBA (for both the regular season and finals). Long after his third and final retirement in 2003, the five-time MVP is still arguably the best defensive player of all time.
Not only is Michael Jordan considered the best basketball-player of all time, but he's also Hollywood's richest retired athlete with a current net worth of $2.1 billion, according to Forbes. He's still part of the NBA as owner of the Charlotte Hornets — currently worth $1.5 billion — though he purchased the team for a mere $175 million back in 2010. Sponsorship deals make up a huge part of his income: He reportedly rakes in $100 million a year in Nike royalties. His line of Jordan brand sneakers (especially his popular Air Jordans) grossed $3 billion for the athletic company in 2019 alone. Michael's also been the face of Hanes clothing for nearly 30 years and still has deals with Gatorade and trading card company Decked Up. The former baller (and four-time author) invested his money wisely over the years with multiple restaurants including a popular steakhouse in Chicago and a Nissan car dealership in North Carolina. With the cash flowing in, he's got time to sit back and enjoy family life with his second wife, Cuban model Yvette Prieto, and their young twin girls. He also has three adult children from his first marriage to Juanita Vanoy.
Bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger was only 20 years old when he first won the Mr. Universe worldwide competition. He went on to become the sports' most widely known ambassador, earning seven Mr. Olympia men's professional bodybuilding titles before retiring in the '80s.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding career set him up for success after retirement: He made a $400-million name for himself in Hollywood as a movie star, politician and businessman. He landed his breakout role in 1986's "The Terminator" — from which the famous catchphrases "I'll be back" and "Hasta la vista, baby" were born — and has starred in six follow-up films in the franchise (he made $35 million on the third installment alone!). Aside from action-packed blockbusters like "True Lies" and "Eraser," he was just as compelling in comedies, earning a huge paycheck from 1988's "Twins." Instead of taking a salary, Arnold asked for roughly 13% ownership of the film and got a huge cut of its $215 million in sales. In 2003, he departed the big screen and got into politics, becoming governor of California for eight years! He was married to Maria Shriver, a scion of the Kennedy political clan, but they split at the end of his term after it emerged Arnold had gotten their housekeeper pregnant with son Joseph (he also has four children with Maria). Arnold has since moved on with physical therapist Heather Milligan and while he still acts here and there, his net worth stays high with his own production company, Oak Productions Inc., a vast $100 million real-estate portfolio and a stake in Planet Hollywood restaurants.
Shaquille O'Neal was literally one of the biggest professional basketball players of all time, coming in at just over 7 feet tall and 325 pounds during his 19-year career with the NBA. The slam-dunk beast won three consecutive championships for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside teammate Kobe Bryant but also played for the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics before retiring in 2011.
Since retiring from basketball, Shaquille O'Neal has become a jack of all trades (and master of all) with a $400 million net worth! After blowing $1 million in a single hour when he was 20, he learned how to invest his money right and still reaps the benefits of buying into Google and Apple early on. He also gets a reported $60 million a year from endorsement deals with Oreo, Cadbury, Carnival Cruises and, more recently, Papa John's: He inked an $8.25 million deal to be the pizza chain's ambassador and joined its board of directors with plans to invest in nine locations. Speaking of food, the retired NBA star also has a stake in multiple restaurants around the country including 17 Auntie Anne's pretzel stores plus his own Krispy Kreme franchise. The rest of his investments have gone into a minority share of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, 24 Hour Fitness gym locations and car washes. Nowadays, Shaq's focusing on his electronic-music career (though he released four rap albums in the '90s), both producing and DJing under the alias DIESEL. His acting on the other hand, mainly consists of reality TV appearances and small movie cameos, though he did nab the lead role in 1996's "Kazaam." With so many lucrative investments, he's got time to relax — he was linked to actress Annie Ilonzeh in 2019 — and spend quality time with his five kids with ex-wife Shaunie Nelson and an ex-girlfriend.