It's no secret that the top professional athletes are among the highest paid people anywhere. When those prizes or multimillion dollar contracts start rolling in, one of the first investments that athletes often make is a conspicuously lavish car costing an amount that would take one of their typical fans years to earn. This "first prize" on four wheels is often followed by a second car, and a third, and so on. Numerous websites are dedicated to documenting the comings and goings of celebrities' garages, and no small portion of this coverage is made up of professional athletes.
When it comes to favorite makes and models of such cars, for athletes the name of the game is luxury and status. To a lesser extent, detailing and customization often play a role, including dramatic wheel hub treatments and custom trimmings. Another favorite car option for athletes is to completely refurbish a classic vintage vehicle.
The following collection of vehicles encompasses the cars most often seen being driven by stars from football, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, swimming, skateboarding, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Click on ahead to see nine lavishly appointed favorites, plus one vehicle that's much more rough and tough—like the athletes themselves.
By Colleen KanePosted August 3, 2011
The prestigious automobiles made by Mercedes top the list with the most known athletic drivers. When Se Ri Pak (pictured here) is not driving golf balls, it’s a safe bet that she’s driving a Mercedes. She likes the maker’s luxury line so much that she owns three of them: a CLK 500 coupe, an ML 550, and a Mercedes ML 500. Pak’s fellow golf pro Michelle Wie drives a GL 550.
Olympic swimming medalist Michael Phelps drives a MBZ SL63. Mercedes is also a popular maker with basketball players like Dwayne Wade, who drives an SLR McLaren with gull-wing doors, LeBron James, who drives an S63 AMG, Brandon Rush who has an S550, and Stephen Curry who has a G55 SUV.
As for Mercedes drivers from the football world, you’ve got the 49ers’ Patrick Willis, who has a CL63, Early Doucet, who drives a S550k, as does Glenn Dorsey of the Kansas City Chiefs. Other sporting Mercedes fans include baseball pros like Felix Hernandez, who has a white GL 550 SUV, car-loving Hanley Ramirez who has a S63AMG and many other autos, and 'Big Papi' David Ortiz of the Red Sox drives a SL65 AMG.
An article in The Telegraph reported that soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo(pictured here) and seven of his then-teammates on Manchester United had Continental GTs. Also in the article was this tidbit: among his soccer-playing peers, only two cars were more popular than the Bentley: the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport.
Other Bentley drivers include Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson, football players Randall Gay and Larry Johnson, and baseball players Carlos Silva, who has a Super Sport, and Hanley Ramirez, who has a Contiental (and multiple other cars).
Miami Heat star LeBron James (pictured here) has a 2010 Camaro SS (not pictured here) with matte white paint, tinted windows, and eye-catching white-spoked hubcaps, as prominently showcased at the end of this viral video of LeBron getting swarmed by fans during a visit to an Orlando, Fla., mall.
Another basketball player to opt for this classic sports car is Michael Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Another pro ballplayer to go with the popular flat paint-job a la LeBron’s ride is David Beckham, who has a custom Camaro in flat gray.
We’ve got athletes of every stripe cruising the highways in Land Rover Range Rovers, each choosing their own variation on the vehicle. Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova (pictured here) has been an ambassador for the Land Rover brand since age 18. Teenage pro skateboarder Ryan Scheckler chose for his first car a black Range Rover with red spoked hubcaps, a red grill, and red windshield wipers. Golfer Greg Norman drives a limited edition Range Rover sport. And Michael Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves has a black Range Rover outfitted with 24” Forgiato spoked hubcaps.
Other pro athletes with the vehicle include football players Ray Rice and Chilo Rachal, basketballer Stephen Jackson, and, once again, baseball player Hanley Ramirez.
Football player Patrick Willis(pictured here), Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens (who was also the subject of the movie The Blind Side), and basketball player Jordan Farmar all drive BMW 750s.
Golf pro Michelle Wie has a BMW X5, and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, whose car choices appear three times in this slideshow and not coincidentally is also the highest-paid soccer player in history, is another sporting Beemer driver.
Athletic drivers of the Rolls Royce Phantom include basketball players Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Buck Stephen Jackson, and Al Harrington of the Denver Nuggets.
Two soccer players have been known to drive a Phantom: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, and Los Angeles Galaxy’s biggest star, David Beckham (pictured here) who drives a Phantom Drophead.
Athletes opt for many models of Ferrari: LeBron James has a F430 Spyder, New York Yankee Robinson Cano has a red Ferrari California, and basketballer Andrew Bynum (pictured here) drives a F430 and a 599 GTB Fiorano.
Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo once had a Ferarri GTB, but in 2009 he famously crashed it on the way to training, while his teammate, Edwin van der Saar, followed not far behind in a Bentley Continental.
Shawn Marion, sometimes called The Matrix (pictured here), of the Dallas Mavericks drives a vibrant yellow Gran Turismo. Other Maserati drivers include basketball players Carlos Boozer and Dan Dickau, as well as football player Clinton Portis, who has a Gran Turismo and baseball player Kenshin Kawakami, who has a Gran Turismo S.
Not all athletes decide to invest in a luxury sedan once they hit the big time. The classic and, dare we say, possibly even practical Ford F-150 pickup truck is the auto model of choice for UFC fighter Cain Velasquez(pictured here)as well asbaseball star Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.
Baseball players Octavio Dotel of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankee Robinson Cano (pictured here) both drive Porsche Panameras. Cano opted for a black exterior with five-spoke 22” wheels, whereas Dotel’s ride is white with 22” Velano three piece wheels in black and white.