Money

How Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams and other star athletes spent their first big paychecks

Maria Sharapova won her first Grand Slam at age 17
Jeff Overs | Getty Images

Tennis star Maria Sharapova was just 17 when she won her first Grand Slam tournament. She defeated Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final — and the title came with a sizable paycheck: £560,500.

That's a lot of money for any teenager, particularly for one who grew up with very little: At 6, the Russian-born athlete and her dad arrived in the U.S. with just $700. While training at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy, she slept on a pullout couch next to her dad in a $250-a-month apartment.

When the teen secured her first six-figure check, she headed straight to TJ Maxx and treated herself to "one of those bright-colored Louis Vuitton bags that I wore for one day," she told Time Money in a 2017 interview.

It was far from Sharapova's last major paycheck: To date, the 32-year-old has earned more than $38 million in career prize money, despite a 15-month suspension from the WTA, and was the world's highest-paid female athlete for 11 straight years.

Here's how other star athletes celebrated their first big paycheck.

Shaquille O'Neal blew through $1 million in 60 minutes

Shaquille O'Neal
Randy Holmes | Getty Images

Within an hour of signing his first professional contract in 1992, Shaquille O'Neal had already gone on a shopping spree and was down over $1 million.

The NBA star's first purchase was a $150,000 Mercedes Benz. He immediately followed that up with a matching one for his dad and a smaller $100,000 model for his mom. The rest of the money went toward paying off his mom's house and doing "what all the homeboys do — gotta buy rings and diamonds and earrings and this and that," he told Business Insider in 2017.

O'Neal, who played for 19 seasons before retiring in 2011, later learned how to keep his spending in check. But looking back on that day, he says his splurges were "well worth it."

Venus Williams went straight to the bank

VIDEO1:0701:07
Venus Williams saves most of her prize money—but she has one guilty pleasure

Tennis legend Venus Williams started earning big money from a young age: When she won her first Grand Slam title at 20, it came with a check for about half a million dollars.

But rather than splurging, Williams saved every penny. "I really didn't spend any of it," she told CNBC Make It. "I just didn't want to become a statistic, or one of those athletes who had it all and then in the end had nothing. That was always in the back of my mind, so it made me want to be more realistic with how I spent money."

Adam Rippon splurged on a winter coat

Adam Rippon celebrates after competing on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

Early in his career, American figure skater Adam Rippon lived in his coach's basement and swiped apples from his gym to save money on groceries. It wasn't until a big performance at an event right before the 2014 Olympics when Rippon's net worth shot up, he told Wealthsimple: "I went from having maybe $500 at most — usually I had around $100 in my checking account and I didn't have anything in savings — to all of a sudden getting this big check for $20,000."

He couldn't celebrate, though. "I needed to pay my coaches right away, and I needed to pay for the costumes that I said I would pay for. And I had a leased 2003 Volkswagen Jetta that I was like, 'OK, time to make that monthly payment.'"

After covering those expenses, Rippon did allow himself one splurge: He went to Bloomingdale's for the first time and bought a Canada Goose jacket, which cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a grand.

"I think that it's important to spend money on yourself," Rippon said. "If you have the money saved up, and you're not doing something crazy, then you should go out and you should do that. That's what making money is for."

Andre Iguodala headed to Niketown

Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors
Andrew D. Bernstein | NBAE | Getty Images

Andre Iguodala's first NBA contract was "for four years, $9 million," he told Wealthsimple. "You get an advance over the summer and, just before the draft, you get an advance for trading cards and an advance for a shoe contract. I remember a loan agency floating me until I got the advances. They sent me a check for $25,000."

The Golden State Warriors star, who was 20 at the time, bought "a whole bunch of pairs of Jordans," he said. "I spent like two or three grand and it felt like I spent a million dollars. I didn't know how to spend money."

Ryan Broyles paid off credit card debt

Wide receiver Ryan Broyles speaks during an event to educate teens about financial responsibility
Tom Williams | Getty Images

When Ryan Broyles entered the NFL draft, his credit report "was terrible," he writes on The Players' Tribune. "I had late payments. Delinquent bills. Accounts in collections. It was bad."

So after signing a $3.6-million rookie contract with the Lions, the first thing he decided to do was pay off his debt and set up automatic payments for his bills. Since then, Broyles has chosen to live on a modest $60,000 a year and stash the rest of his NFL salary in investments and retirement savings accounts.

Daniel Norris bought a $14 T-shirt

Daniel Norris of the Blue Jays delivers a pitch to the plate during the Florida State League game between the Brevard County Manatees and the Clearwater Threshers at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
Icon Sports Wire | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

MLB pitcher Daniel Norris signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 when he was just 18. His contract came with a sizable $2-million signing bonus.

The teen went shopping, but not in the way you might expect. He bought a $14 Henley T-shirt at the Converse store, ESPN reports. Shortly after, Norris did buy his dream ride: a $10,000 Volkswagen van, which he lives in during the off-season.

Harrison Barnes bought his dream mattress

NBA star Harrison Barnes 
 Thearon W. Henderson | Getty Images

"The first thing I bought was a really nice bed," Harrison Barnes of the Dallas Mavericks told CNBC Make It. "For me, growing up, really having a nice bed was something that I always wanted."

Barnes, who was drafted seventh overall in 2012 and earned a $2.8 million salary as a rookie, did his research before making the purchase: "I definitely tried out every bed in the mattress store."

It was "like Christmas," he added. "You have the ability and are fortunate enough to be able to choose whatever you want, which was new for me. Usually, whatever store I walked in, I'm buying the cheapest thing possible, if that. So to be able to go into a mattress store and say, 'I'm going to choose the bed I want to sleep on,' and choose one of the nicer ones, that was pretty cool."

Don't miss: Pro soccer player who earns $132,000 a week says this Gucci splurge shows you've made it

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Pitbull spent his first $1,500 paycheck on a car for his mom
Maria Sharapova won her first Grand Slam at age 17
Jeff Overs | Getty Images
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