Across the country, many teenagers are bombarded with messages from parents and teachers that they need to attend college in order to succeed financially. But the reality is, a significant portion of high school students simply aren't cut out for higher education. Many of these, from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg to Coco Chanel, managed to do quite well despite never completing a university degree.
To be sure, many athletes have perfected their skills while playing at the collegiate level before turning pro and becoming millionaires. Even so, quite a few achieved athletic success and (parlayed it into substantial earnings) without ever setting foot on a college campus.
Until recently, this unorthodox career path was most commonly associated with the NBA. Household names like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett were drafted straight out of high school and into the pros until the league instituted a minimum age. So for the purposes of this article, we're going to omit NBA stars as they have their own article, which can be accessed here.
But there were plenty of athletes in the past that made it big in their respective sports without ever entertaining the notion of college. From Muhammad Ali and Pele to Wayne Gretzky and Lance Armstrong, these sportsmen forwent college to begin plying their trade in the professional ranks - and were rewarded handsomely for it. Of course, there were numerous baseball players who followed this path - from the early days of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to more modern-day greats like Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Cal Ripken, Jr.
And even in 2014, there are quite a few sports stars who never enrolled in college courses but still became multi-millionaires. Here are ten of the most prominent who are still earning major coin today (excluding those who play in the NBA).
9 Usain Bolt, Track and Field
8 Sidney Crosby, Hockey
7 Josh Hamilton, Baseball
6 Tony Hawk, Skateboarding
5 Rory McIlroy, Golf
4 Lionel Messi, Soccer
3 Alex Rodriguez, Baseball
2 Maria Sharapova, Tennis
1 Shaun White, Skateboarding and Snowboarding
It became clear early on that the phenom who eventually began known as "The Flying Tomato" would be destined for fame and fortune without having to attend any classes at a university. White garnered his first snowboarding sponsorship at age 7, and was also mentored in skateboarding by the aforementioned Hawk at age 9. When his peers were struggling through college, the 19-year old White won his first Olympic gold medal in 2006 at the halfpipe event in Turin (and defended his title in Vancouver four years later). He also has five X-Games skateboarding medals and 18 X-Games snowboarding medals. These days, White earns about $7 million each year for endorsing big-name products like Oakley, Red Bull, Target, and GoPro.
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