The Most Expensive Athlete Divorces of All Time

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Raise your hand if you were surprised by the announcement of Kobe Bryant’s pending divorce from Vanessa, his wife of 10 years.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I didn’t think so.

Celebrity media types like the crazies at TMZ broke into a frenzy last week when the filing of the couple’s divorce papers became public knowledge. However, almost everyone I know responded with an unimpressed “Yeah…so? If I were her, I’d have done it a long time ago.” Everyone knows of Kobe’s highly publicized affairs and of the over-the-top apology ring he gave Vanessa following allegations of sexual assault in 2003. There are many things that a four million dollar diamond ring can fix – however, broken trust and a busted relationship aren’t that easily repaired.

Most celebrities and big-time athletes with a lot of cash to protect sign a prenuptual agreement to gurantee retention of their assets coming into and inevitably getting out of the marriage. Most normal people like myself never even consider getting a prenup because we have nothing to protect. If somehow Jon and I were to get divorced today, I’d receive roughly four dollars and sixty-two cents, a half a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, and my collection of Alabama gear — not including the midriff houndstooth top from yesterday.

Kobe, however, had a little more to lose, and is probably at this very moment lying face down on the floor of his Newport Coast mansion banging his fists and screaming like a toddler because for some unknown reason, he and Vanessa did NOT have a prenup. The couple resides in California, which is a community-property state if the couple has been married for ten years. That means that anything a couple has or shares at the time of divorce must be equally split between the two.

Any coincidence that Vanessa waited until the couple had been married ten and a half years before she dragged Kobe’s ass to the courthouse?

Absolutely not.

Girlfriend is on her way to a lifetime of alimony and an ungodly amount of child support, totaling a reported 40 million dollars. Golddiggers everywhere are high-fiving one another, taking notes and hoping she writes a tell-all book so they can follow in her Christian Louboutin-clad footsteps. 

Before I started taking bets on how long it will take Kim Kardashian to wedge her big ass right onto Kobe’s lap, I got to wondering about other big-time athletes’ divorces. Almost all of the sports stars I could think of got divorced because of infidelity with one or multiple women. So in the end, who was smart enough to protect themselves and who was taken to the cleaners? What, if anything, did the divorce do to the athlete’s public persona and everything they stood to gain the future?

In other words, just how high is the cost of cheating? Well, Vanessa Bryant may be about to set an all-time record, but in the meantime, let’s rank the most expensive sports divorces of all time: 

1. Michael Jordan

Google the term “Most Expensive Celebrity Divorces” and the first thing that pops up is an article from a 2007 Forbes magazine which names the six-time NBA Champion, 5-time MVP, 14-time All-Star and zero time minor league baseball champion #1 on the all-time costly divorce list. Jordan married Juanita Vanoy in 1989 and stayed hitched for two years. However, two years into his marriage he was already allegedly paying $250K in hush money to mistress Karla Knafel. When the divorce decree was final in 2006, Juanita reportedly received over $150 million dollars in settlement. This made the Michael Jordan divorce the most expensive in entertainment history to date, topping the splits of Steven Spielburg ($100 million), Kevin Costner ($80 million) and Sir Paul McCartney ($60 million).

Don’t feel too bad for MJ – the relatively quiet divorce did nothing to stain his public persona, and he’s currently the first and only former NBA player to become the majority owner of a league franchise. When he’s not bragging about the comfort of his boxer-briefs to random people in Hanes commercials, Jordan spends his free time chasing golf balls and SuperBikes and generally still being the badass we all know and love. 

This is how you celebrate when you pay $150 million. You grind on college girls on spring break on top of a table while smoking a cigar.

2. Tiger Woods

When I asked my Twitter followers to tell me which athlete they thought lost the most in a divorce, I got a whopping 49 tweets saying that Tiger just had to top the list – and if you are one of those people, you are absolutely correct. The terms of the 14-time Major Champion’s divorce from former Swedish model Elin Nordegren were never released to the press. However, most major media outlets have reported that Elin walked away from their nearly six year marriage with $100 million dollars. TW certainly lost a lot of cash in this settlement, but this wasn’t his biggest problem. After the infamous middle-of-the-night car crash and speculation that Elin had beaten him with one of his own clubs, more than a dozen women spoke out publicly alleging affairs with the golf superstar. Tiger was forced to take five months off from the PGA tour and eloped for treatment he received in a Mississippi rehabilitation facility for sex addiction. Woods lost endorsement deals with Gillette, Buick, Accenture, TAG-Heuer, Gatorade, AT&T and American Express, costing him an estimated $22 million in 2010 alone.

Shareholders of those companies lost somewhere between four and twelve BILLION dollars during Tiger’s collapse, but we can’t pin all of this on him. Tiger may not have lost as much as other superstars in the divorce itself, but he certainly lost the most overall. 

First question on the Woods divorce — who gets to keep the labradoodle?

3. Terry Bolea

Before you ask “Who??” – Terry Bolea is the real name of wrestler Hulk Hogan, who came to fame in the 1980s as a muscle-bound hero in the World Wrestling Federation. Unfortunately, even super-strength couldn’t save the Hulk from being taken to the cleaners by now ex-wife Linda. Married for 26 years, the couple divorced in 2009 amid whispers of his cheating with daughter Brooke’s friend Christiane Plante (Insert collective female groaning or male back-slapping here).

Linda has called Hogan a “serial cheater” , and apparently a judge in Florida heard her cries. She received around 70% of their overall investments, 40% ownership in Hulk’s business ventures, property worth a reported $3 million, and the keys to four cars including a Mercedes-Benz, a Cadillac Escalade, a Corvette, and a Rolls-Royce. The good news is that Hulk somehow got out of having to pay her any spousal support. The bad news is he’s now so broke he has lick other people’s fingers at KFC, so we’re going to be stuck watching him do those those terrible Rent-A-Center commercials with (also newly divorced) Troy Aikman for the next 400 years. 

Every time I saw the Hogans together I thought, does she not realize that Hulk Hogan is trying to sleep with himself?

4. Alex Rodriguez

Yankees third baseman A-Rod might be considered one of the best professional baseball players of all time, but he may also be considered one of the dumbest. In 2007, The New York Times reported Rodriguez had inked a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over 10 years, making him the highest paid player in Major League history. Before the ink was dry on the new contract, The New York Post reported A-Rod spent an evening with a well-known exotic dancer, and one year later, Us Weekly ran a story linking the ballplayer to none other than Madonna. I would imagine this didn’t sit well with wife of five years, Cynthia Scurtis, since she filed for divorce five days after the story ran, citing “emotional abandonment” of her and their children, as well as “extra marital affairs and other marital misconduct.” It’s been reported that Rodriguez has a taste for trash, as many women, several of whom are strippers or prostitutes, have come out publicly since the divorce detailing their relationships with the superstar. Scurtis quit his cheating ass and walked away from the marriage with their twelve million dollar home in Coral Gables, Florida, as well as reimbursement of legal fees, her car, life and health insurance, child support inclusive of private school tuition, distribution of assets and alimony. Actual numbers were never released (and believe me, I searched). Regardless of the final amount his now ex-wife gleaned from literally sharing their marital bed, Rodriguez still has enough money to be hand-fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz at the Super Bowl. 

If a marriage featuring a staged bathing suit shot in a hotel fountain doesn’t last, what can?

5. Shaquille O’Neal

While we’re still in the NBA realm, let’s not forget Shaq. One website I found listed the 4-time NBA Champion as being famous for acting and rapping. I know we all loved “Kazaam” and each of us owns a copy of “Shaq Diesel,” but I’m pretty sure the man who nicknamed himself Superman is best known for his basketball skills. He also happens to be widely recognized as a man who loves the ladies. Though he made it official with Shaunie Nelson in 2002, Shaq continued to stick it where it didn’t belong for the next eight years. In his memoir, he claims to have never “disrespectfully cheated” on Shaunie, a term that even dumbfounds Tiger Woods. After “respectfully” (huh?) cheating on his wife multiple times, the couple filed for divorce in 2009. They DID have a prenuptual agreement; one of the few intelligent decisions Shaq has made in the last few years. Overall, Shaunie currently receives $10,000 per month in alimony and another $10,000 per month in child support. She’s definitely not hurting for cash – website reports that Shaunie makes $35 million per year as an “entrepeneur.” I’d always figured she was just another gold-digging fame-monger, but if “entrepeneur” is what the kids are calling it these days, that’s fine with me.

Movie Boy: “And here’s where they keep the women that aren’t your wife, Mr. Kazaam.”

6. Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is living proof that even rednecks can land a hot chick once in a while…and then decide that hot chick isn’t quite hot enough, and trade her in for Ingrid Vandebosch. Before he was making supermodel babies, Gordon was married to former Ms. Winston Cup Brooke Sealey. The couple married in 1994 and divorced in 2003. At the time of the divorce, Sealey received a paltry $9 million in settlement and an undisclosed amount in monthly alimony. She also drove two cars right out of Gordon’s garage and is allowed “periodic use” of their boats and airplane. All in all, Gordon made out like a bandit, considering his current estimated net worth is around $150 million. While there have never been any substantiated claims of cheating, a few women – and a couple of men – have tried to nail Gordon to the Infidelity Wall. Only time and a few pictures to surface from a decent cell phone camera will tell.

A lot of y’all are thinking? Nine million for her? Not a bad trade.  

Well, that hits a few of the high points from divorces of two NBA players, a professional wrestler, a NASCAR driver, a damn Yankee, and arguably the greatest golfer of all-time. There are others I could mention – golfer Greg Norman, Mike Tyson, Lance Armstrong – but I’ve only got so much time before I completely lose your attention and you go back to arguing about whether Tebow is “awesome” or “total crap.” It does seem like, at least for now, the majority of NFL players have managed to avoid the costly repercussions of divorce. Of course, reported sex-fiend Ben Roethlisberger is a ticking time bomb, and I wouldn’t be suprised by an eventual split between Brett Favre’s pee-pee and wife Deanna, which would definitely put him on the list since even in retirement, he’s worth an estimated $100 million. We’ll also have to wait until playboys like Derek Jeter take a trip down the aisle to see how much their lucky ladies stand to gain in the event of an unfortunate though likely divorce.

Bottom line? If you’re rolling in dough or have the potential to make incomprehensible amounts of cash, be smart enough to get a prenup. Either that, or don’t get married until you’re sure you can keep it in your pants.

(Editor’s note: Due to a technical issue, this article was previously attributed to Clay Travis. The byline has been corrected.)

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.