Skip to main content


Money or legacy: What matters more?
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor
Johnnie Phillips, golf,

A debate that has culminated for over a century now in the sports world is the importance of legacy in sports as opposed to money.

It seems as if the most obvious answer the public gives regarding the debate is to say that athletes should always value legacy more than money because legacy and glory in your sport last forever.

A shining example of legacy taking the forefront over money is the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s former lightweight champion and No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov.

After achieving a flawless 29-0 record, the Russian sensation called it a career after the passing of his father and decided that he would not come back to competition without the blessing of his mother.

As one of the sport's biggest names and most accomplished fighters, Nurmagomedov walked away from the sport as a competitor with the potential to have left millions of dollars on the table.

According to Nurmagomedov, the decision was simple: His love for his family came first, and his legacy and goals were cemented, leaving nothing for him left to achieve.

It’s easy to respect an athlete for a decision like this because it’s a noble decision.

However, when an athlete chooses to forego their goals in a sport for the prospect of money, fans begin to turn their heads in disgust.

While I can understand some fans’ disdain for watching an athlete pass up on opportunities that most men and women can only fantasize about, I cannot find it in my heart to hate such a decision.

The answer to the debate, in my opinion, is simple: Both are equally as important.

One thing that I believe gets lost on sports fans is the fact that professional athletes are more like the common person than we give them credit.

First and foremost, as the name suggests, professional athletes are professionals in their field.

It is no secret that most professional athletes are paid well; however, I’m sure if you asked most people working in corporate America what is more important to them between money and legacy they would choose money.

At the end of the day, the ability to retire and live comfortably at the end of your career is most everyone’s goal in life.

Athletes are no different than us in the sense that they have the ability to make their money fast and in large quantities.

It may not seem fair to some, but not everyone can hit a 90-mile-per-hour fastball or throw a 50-yard post route.

Athletes have families, life goals and material wants just like the rest of us, while legacy in their sport is just a piece of the opportunity that they are blessed to have.

So while the majority of us watch from the couch, we should refrain from making judgments on the contracts of the athletes we watch on our TV screens and instead love sports for what they are: the world’s best form of entertainment.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates