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Johnson tops earnings list for athletes.

FLIRTING WITH A SPOT AMONG the elite ranks of NBA superstardom, former Razorbacks guard Joe Johnson was the highest-paid athlete with Arkansas ties, pulling in a cool $12 million in 2006.

Though his team, the Atlanta Hawks, has a total annual payroll that ranks 26th out of the 30 NBA teams with $47.8 million, the sharp-shooting Johnson became its franchise player when he inked a five-year, $70 million deal before the 2005-06 season. The struggling Hawks obtained Johnson on Aug. 19, 2005, from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade transaction in exchange for Boris Diaw and two conditional draft picks.

The 6-foot-7 guard/forward's $12 million was enough to top the list of the 35 highest-paid professional athletes who have called Arkansas home or attended school in the state.

Johnson played two seasons at the University of Arkansas (1999-01), earning All-America honors as a sophomore and a Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year nod while there. He is entering his third season of the five-year deal and will pull in just more than $13 million in 2007-08.

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The former Little Rock Central standout has steadily improved his output during his six NBA seasons and became Atlanta's marquee player last season en route to a career year in a handful of statistical categories.

Injury became a problem last season for the first time in Johnson's career, when an ailing right calf sidelined him for the season's final 21 games, dampening his best NBA campaign. Johnson was named to his first NBA All-Star game and finished ninth in the league in scoring with a 25 points-per-game average, before his NBA-best streak of 376 consecutive games played came to an end with the calf injury Dec. 10.

Johnson was Atlanta's workhorse, having logged an average of 41.4 minutes played per game, which was second-best in the league last year. Johnson also helped lead Team USA to an 8-1 record and a bronze medal in international basketball competition in 2006.

CNN/Sports Illustrated NBA beat writer Jack McCallum recently wrote that he expects the Hawks to challenge for a playoff spot this season and that Johnson "is ready to be recognized as an elite player."

Hunter Lurking

The last time Arkansas Business compiled a list of the state's highest-paid professional athletes, in 2005, Minnesota Twins firecracker Torii Hunter, a product of Pine Bluff, sat atop the group with a $6.5 million annual payday.

Though he was bumped by the Atlanta Hawks' Johnson this time, it's likely Hunter will soon far surpass the field as he's likely to entertain top-ofthe-market offers after becoming a free agent when the season wrapped up two weeks ago. The seven-time Gold Glove winner is considered by many analysts to be the top free agent on the market this off-season and is rumored to be on the radar of several teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

Hunter was brought up through the Twins' well-respected development system, beginning with a $200,000 paycheck in 1999.

"I came up with these coaches when I was 17 years old and not able to hit a slider," he told the Associated Press following what could have been his last game with the Twins Sept. 30. "They've been with me since Day 1. I'm still hopeful that I can come back and play with the team that I grew up with; I'm still hopeful. But whatever happens, happens."

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Most analysts agree that the electrifying centerfielder will be dealt from the Twins, as the ball club does not have a reputation for spending on high-priced free agents.

Baseball players took up six of the top 35 spots on the list, totaling $30.1 million.

Pat Burrell--who tends to downplay his Arkansas ties, unlike most on the list--was born in Eureka Springs and pulled in $9.75 million with the Phillies in 2006. The leftfielder helped lead Philadelphia to the post-season this year with a .258 batting average, but the Phillies made a quick exit last week after being swept by the Colorado Rockies. Burrell, who went 2-for-ll in the three-game sweep, made $13.25 million in 2007.

A.J. Burnett, the pride of Central Arkansas Christian School, was short-changed on the list, as his $2.2 million salary in 2006 does not accurately reflect the $13.3 million he earned in 2007 once bonuses kicked in with his new team, the Toronto Blue Jays. He would be the highest-paid athlete if the list were ranked by this year's earnings.

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Benton native Cliff Lee, whose Cleveland Indians are currently battling the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, made the list with a salary of $406,200 in 2006, but he pulled in a beefy $3 million in 2007.

Gridiron Gold Par for the course in Arkansas, football dominates the list.

Gridiron stars tackled 20 spots on the list and scored more than $50 million among the state's 35 best-paid athletes.

Shawn Andrews, who played at 375 pounds while opening holes for the Pazorbacks' running game, rode his 2004 No. 1 draft pick status to a $10.7 million payday for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006. That doubled the $4.9 million he earned in 2005 and was enough to make him the highest-paid football player on the list.

Andrews signed a seven-year contract extension in June 2006, leading many to speculate it was at the franchise's request that he dropped nearly 40 pounds before the deal was inked. That's not the case, the 340-pounder told the AP.

"I had a friend my age who died of a heart attack," Andrews said. "Secondly, I feel a lot better getting into my stance. It's a lot easier to go play after play without having that big stomach in the way and gasping for air all the time."

Several newcomers with Arkansas ties are rookies this season; otherwise they would make the list, including ex-Hogs Jamaal Anderson (2007 first-round pick, Atlanta Falcons), Chris Houston (second-round, Atlanta) and Tony Ugoh (second-round, Indianapolis Colts).

Down But Not Out

The Arkansan on the list who undoubtedly takes the most pride in his home state is middleweight boxer Jermain Taylor, who lost a Sept. 29 match in Atlantic City, N.J., to Kelly Pavlik, Taylor's first loss since he turned professional.

Pavlik, who is to Youngstown, Ohio, what Taylor is to Little Rock, overcame a second-round knockdown to take Taylor's title belts with a brutal KO in Round 7.

Taylor earned an estimated $7.6 million in 2006, which is simply the total of the two fight purses he earned in bouts against Winky Wright in Memphis and Kassim Ouma in Little Rock that year. The purse in the Wright fight was $4.6 million, and the Ouma package was roughly $3 million.

"That's just purse amounts," said Andrew Meadors, business adviser to Team Taylor. "There are a lot of other factors that go into what Jermain earns, like pay-per-view cuts, endorsements and all of those outside things we don't need to get into."

Meadors said Taylor has recovered fine from his dramatic collapse in the corner in Atlantic City and that Team Taylor stands by the boxer's post-fight comments that a rematch with Pavlik will indeed be his next fight.

"A lot can happen in this business to change things, but there will undoubtedly be a rematch and will likely be the next fight for both fighters," Meadors said.

Boxing beat writers agree that following the fireworks of the first Pavlik-Taylor fight, the rematch will likely earn record paydays for both boxers and will draw more eyes to the middle-weight ranks than ever during Taylor's two-year reign as champ.

By Nate Hinkel

nhmkel@abpg.com
2006 Top Ten Golfers

Ken Duke $520,678
Tag Ridings $498,242
Ron Whittaker $310,046
Glen Day $290,635
Craig Lile $211,840
Bryce Molder $205,413
Brenden Pappas $193,745
John Daly $192,134
Richard Johnson $107,833
Deane Pappas $87,414

Highest-Paid Athletes

Ranks by salary and/or winnings in 2006

 First Name Last Name 2006 Salary 2005 Salary

 1 Joe Johnson $12,000,000 $2,358,954
 2 Torii Hunter $10,750,000 $8,000,000
 3 Shawn Andrews $10,713,125 $4,922,930
 4 Pat Burrell $9,750,000 $7,250,000
 5 Jermain Taylor $7,600,000 (1) (2)
 6 Kevin Williams $7,042,000 $380,000
 7 Corliss Williamson (3) $6,000,000 $5,500,000
 8 Derek Fisher $5,390,000 $4,930,000
 8 Matt Jones $5,390,000 $1,260,000
10 Rod Smith $5,009,510 $5,010,810
11 Bobbie Williams $5,000,000 $1,550,000
12 Eric Hinske $4,425,000 $3,100,000
13 Mark Martin $4,282,548 $5,994,353
14 Jason Peters $3,252,420 $309,510
15 David Barrett $3,055,000 $2,000,000
16 Greg Wesley $2,900,000 $2,208,750
17 Ryan Franklin $2,600,000 $2,600,000
18 A.J. Burnett $2,200,000 $3,650,000
19 Jannero Pargo $2,080,000 $895,248
20 Carlos Emmons (4) $2,000,000 $3,840,000
21 Kenoy Kennedy $1,904,000 $3,953,320
22 Ronnie Brewer $1,595,400 (5)
23 Dante Wesley $1,010,000 $661,280
24 DeAngelo Williams $980,000 (5)
25 Mark Bradley $954,400 $1,930,000
26 Steve Foley $879,290 $2,291,430
27 Keith Traylor $820,000 $1,015,000
28 Ken Duke $520,678 (2)
29 Ken Hamlin $502,200 $381,760
30 Cleo Lemon $430,610 $11,3037
30 Caleb Miller $430,610 $309,730
32 Jordan Babineaux $429,840 $309,840
33 Corey Williams $428,520 $309,730
34 Cliff Lee $406,200 $345,000
35 Cedric Houston $354,400 $324,750

 First Name Last Name Team/Sponsor Sport

 1 Joe Johnson Atlanta Hawks Basketball
 2 Torii Hunter Minnesota Twins Baseball
 3 Shawn Andrews Philadelphia Eagles Football
 4 Pat Burrell Philadelphia Phillies Baseball
 5 Jermain Taylor Team Taylor Boxing
 6 Kevin Williams Minnesota Vikings Football
 7 Corliss Williamson (3) Sacramento Kings Basketball
 8 Derek Fisher Los Angeles Lakers Basketball
 8 Matt Jones Jacksonville Jaguars Football
10 Rod Smith Denver Broncos Football
11 Bobbie Williams Cincinnati Bengals Football
12 Eric Hinske Boston Red Sox Baseball
13 Mark Martin Dale Earnhardt Inc. Nascar
14 Jason Peters Buffalo Bills Football
15 David Barrett New York Jets Football
16 Greg Wesley Kansas City Chiefs Football
17 Ryan Franklin St. Louis Cardinals Baseball
18 A.J. Burnett Toronto Blue Jays Baseball
19 Jannero Pargo New Orleans/OKC Hornets Basketball
20 Carlos Emmons (4) New York Giants Football
21 Kenoy Kennedy Detroit Lions Football
22 Ronnie Brewer Utah Jazz Basketball
23 Dante Wesley Carolina Panthers Football
24 DeAngelo Williams Carolina Panthers Football
25 Mark Bradley Chicago Bears Football
26 Steve Foley San Diego Chargers Football
27 Keith Traylor Miami Dolphins Football
28 Ken Duke Golf
29 Ken Hamlin Dallas Cowboys Football
30 Cleo Lemon Miami Dolphins Football
30 Caleb Miller Cincinnati Bengals Football
32 Jordan Babineaux Seattle Seahawks Football
33 Corey Williams Green Bay Packers Football
34 Cliff Lee Cleveland Indians Baseball
35 Cedric Houston New York Jets Football

 Arkansas Connection:
 First Name Last Name Hometown/College

 1 Joe Johnson Little Rock/University
 of Arkansas
 2 Torii Hunter Pine Bluff
 3 Shawn Andrews Camden/UA
 4 Pat Burrell Eureka Springs
 5 Jermain Taylor Little Rock
 6 Kevin Williams Fordyce
 7 Corliss Williamson (3) Russellville/UA
 8 Derek Fisher Little Rock/University of
 Arkansas at Little Rock
 8 Matt Jones Fort Smith/UA
10 Rod Smith Texarkana
11 Bobbie Williams UA
12 Eric Hinske UA
13 Mark Martin Batesville
14 Jason Peters UA
15 David Barrett Osceola/UA
16 Greg Wesley England/University of
 Arkansas at Pine Bluff
17 Ryan Franklin Fort Smith
18 A.J. Burnett North Little Rock
19 Jannero Pargo UA
20 Carlos Emmons (4) Arkansas State University
21 Kenoy Kennedy UA
22 Ronnie Brewer Fayetteville/UA
23 Dante Wesley UAPB
24 DeAngelo Williams Wynne
25 Mark Bradley Pine Bluff
26 Steve Foley Little Rock
27 Keith Traylor Malvern
28 Ken Duke Arkadelphia/Henderson
 State University
29 Ken Hamlin UA
30 Cleo Lemon ASU
30 Caleb Miller UA
32 Jordan Babineaux Southern Arkansas University
33 Corey Williams Harmony Grove/ASU
34 Cliff Lee Benton/UA
35 Cedric Houston Clarendon

Sources: National Football League Players Association, USA Today.com
Salaries Database, Nascar, business managers, agents

(1) Purse total from Winky Wright and Kassim Ouma bouts

(2) Undisclosed

(3) Now retired

(4) Released from Giants prior to current season; currently not playing
in the NFL

(5) Undrafted
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS; Joe Johnson ranked as highest paid athlete
Author:Hinkel, Nate
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 2007
Words:2110
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