Money

Why these 5 pro athletes earn millions but still drive super cheap cars

Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris with his 1991 Mazda back in 2012 when he played for the Washington Redskins.
The Washington Post | Getty Images
Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris with his 1991 Mazda back in 2012 when he played for the Washington Redskins.

Professional athletes who earn millions are not known for always making the best financial decisions. Many blow their paychecks on fancy cars and extravagant homes.

But not every football or basketball star lives an over-the-top lifestyle. In fact, many choose to live like they're broke.

CNBC Make It rounded up five athletes who still drive super cheap cars despite earning the means to afford something grander.

Here's who's choosing to live frugally.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Nnamdi Asomugha has had an impressive career so far. He played 11 seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2003, where he earned up to $11 million a year. Since stepping away from football, Asomugha has successfully transitioned into acting and recently starred in the feature film "Crown Heights."

But, despite earning millions, Asomugha chooses to live modestly.

"I was never a big spender," he told Davy Rothbart in an interview with Wealthsimple. "We didn't have much growing up, so I guess I got used it. Even when I was a Pro Bowl player in the NFL, I lived the same way because that's what I knew."

His frugal habits include keeping the 1997 Nissan Maxima his brother passed down to him in high school, which he drove to his prom. He still uses the car today.

"That car is the one thing that everyone makes fun of me for," he tells Wealthsimple. "Even after I started earning good money, I was still in the mentality of 'I know this is all I need so I'm doing fine.'"

Kirk Cousins

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins made $19.9 million last year. This year, he'll earn $23.9 million. But you wouldn't guess his salary based on what he drives: a dented GMC Savana passenger van with more than 100,000 miles on it.

He and his wife bought it from his grandma for $5,000 in 2014.

"It's better to buy appreciating assets than depreciating," Cousins told Kevin Clark of The Wall Street Journal in 2016. "No yachts, no sports cars."

The starting quarterback makes a good point. The moment you drive a new car off the lot, its value depreciates by about 20 percent.

Alfred Morris

Last year, Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris agreed to a two-year contract worth $5.5 million. In addition to a $1 million signing bonus, Morris will earn a fully guaranteed base salary of $1.2 million this season and is eligible for up to $1 million more if he leads the league in rushing and runs for 1,500 yards.

But Morris's spending habits don't reflect his paycheck. Case in point: He still drives a 26-year-old Mazda 626 sedan from 1991.

Morris purchased the vehicle, affectionately known as "Bentley," from his pastor for just a couple bucks during his junior year at Florida Atlantic University. It garnered national attention in 2012 when he was drafted to the Washington Redskins and took Bentley with him.

"It just keeps me grounded, where I came from and all the hard work for me to get to this point," said Morris in 2012 on the Redskins' website.

John Urshel

John Urschel had a short but lucrative NFL career. The offensive lineman, who retired at age 26 in 2017 to pursue his PhD at MIT, earned $1.8 million over his three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

His salary was as high as $600,000 in 2016, but Urschel never lived like he was making six figures. In fact, he did the opposite.

"I drive a used hatchback Nissan Versa and live on less than $25,000 a year," the athlete wrote on The Players' Tribune in 2015.

Urschel bought the Nissan after he was drafted by the Ravens in 2014. It cost him $9,000, just a fraction of his $144,560 signing bonus.

It's his "dream car," he told ESPN in 2015. "It's great on gas. It's surprisingly spacious. And you know what the best feeling is? You're driving into a parking deck, it's near full and you're on the first level and there is that space that everyone has passed because they said, 'No, we can't park in there.' And I take my Versa and I just go right in there."

He didn't live on a modest $25,000 a year and drive a used car "because I'm frugal or trying to save for some big purchase," Urschel noted. "It's because the things I love the most in this world (reading math, doing research, playing chess) are very, very inexpensive."

LeBron James

LeBron James isn't only one of the best athletes alive today, he's also one of the richest: he has a net worth around $275 million, according to Forbes. By the end of 2016, King James had earned a total of $595 million in salary and endorsements since joining the National Basketball Association in 2003 as No. 1 draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So when he started appearing in Kia ads in 2015, many fans expressed skepticism. But James stuck by the endorsement and insisted that he really does own a Kia K900.

Confirmation came in 2016 when teammate Richard Jefferson posted a video to his Snapchat of James getting into his Kia after the team arrived back in Cleveland fresh off a win against the Hawks in Atlanta. "You come home, eight straight, and he rocking the Kia," Jefferson says in the video. "There's a 1,000 percent chance that there's a 100 percent chance that LeBron drives a Kia."

The Kia isn't James' only ride, however. He also owns a 2006 Hummer H1 and a 2012 Bentley GT.

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