Best Gifts Athletes Gave Their Teammates
Everyone knows about the seven- and eight-figure salaries of professional athletes. But we often forget about their other perks: world-class training facilities, access to the best medical care in the world and traveling in style with chartered planes and hotel accommodations.
The perks, though, go beyond what organizations provide. Every year, players also do the same for their locker-room buddies, lavishing teammates with gifts for a recent accomplishment or as a token of appreciation.
And the gifts are often on a larger scale than what you or I buy our co-workers. We’re talking about virtual reality systems, custom clothing and even stock. Yes, stock.
These are the best of the best of those gifts. Which one would you be most excited about?
25. Air Jordan 12s
Gift giver: Dexter Fowler
Gift receiver: Cubs Teammates
Bottom line: In September 2016, David Price gifted Jordan sneakers to his Red Sox teammates. One month later, Dexter Fowler of the Cubs did the same by handing out Jordan 12s.
While Price’s gift came first, Fowler gets the nod here because: 1) It’s one Chicago athlete paying homage to another, and 2) the Cubs went on to win the World Series just weeks later.
Fowler, who is signed to the Jordan Brand, hooked up his teammates with Deep Royal Jordan 12s. The shoes hadn’t even gone public yet (they were released a month later), and sticking with the Cubs' team colors, the shoes were in deep royal Cubby Blue.
Not too shabby.
24. Watches and Shoes
Gift giver: Dwight Howard
Gift receiver: Rockets teammates
Bottom line: Dwight Howard’s three-year stint in Houston didn’t go as planned, but don’t tell that to his Rockets teammates.
During his first season with the team, Howard got into the holiday spirit and splurged on his teammates in the form of expensive watches and limited-edition kicks. The higher status a Rockets player had, the better the gift. James Harden received an Audemars Piguet while other teammates only got Rolexes.
Howard also hooked up backup point guard Aaron Brooks with something that many NBA players would prefer over some fancy watches. Brooks received a limited pair of Nike Air Mags sneakers, which are the shoes that Marty McFly wore in the hoverboard scene in "Back to the Future II."
23. LED Curved TVs, Beats Headphones and Tablets
Gift giver: Aaron Rodgers
Gift receiver: Packers offensive linemen and backups quarterbacks
Bottom line: In the 2014 season, Aaron Rodgers was on his way to being awarded his second NFL MVP, and he decided to reward those that helped him achieve that honor.
For Christmas, he dipped into his deep pockets and bought every offensive lineman (including those on injured reserve and practice squad) and his two backup quarterbacks a litany of gifts. They included a 55-inch LED Curved TV, Beats by Dre Headphones and Samsung Galaxy Tablets.
Rodgers was sacked just 28 times in 2014, which remains the fewest in his career as a full-time starter, and those who kept him upright reaped the benefits.
"Aaron Claus," left tackle David Bakhtiari said. "It's a great gift. Words can't express my gratitude toward him."
22. Nintendo Switches
Gift giver: Khris Davis
Gift receiver: Athletics teammates
Bottom line: Most of the gifts handed out on this list either come during the holidays or after a player has reached a milestone. But Khris Davis gave out Nintendo Switches just as an act of appreciation to his fellow Oakland A’s.
"I just wanted to do something nice for my teammates," Davis said. "We're always supporting each other, and this is just a token of my appreciation."
It certainly didn’t hurt that Davis signed a $33.5 million contract extension just three weeks before handing out the gifts, so buying 25 Switches amounted to chump change for him. But Davis went a step beyond just hooking up his teammates with the video game systems. He also had the costumed Mario and Luigi swing by the clubhouse to deliver the gifts.
21. Apple Watches
Gift giver: LeBron James
Gift receiver: Cavaliers teammates
Bottom line: On the eve of the 2015 NBA Finals, LeBron James rented out a hotel lounge in San Francisco for a bonding party as his team prepared to face the Golden State Warriors.
Then, James presented each of his teammates with an Apple Watch as a thank you for what they already had accomplished that season and a possible preview of what else was in store if the team won the Finals. James admitted that he didn’t exactly dig into his wallet to get the watches since he got the items from his "partners," who often give him free stuff.
In addition to the watches, James also brought his own personal barber along so that each player could look their best for the Finals. Despite the generosity, Cleveland lost the series in six games.
20. Bottle of Scotch and Personal Cigars
Gift giver: Adrian Beltre
Gift receiver: Rangers teammates
Bottom line: It’s always nice to see a player achieve a personal milestone and then celebrate the achievement with his or her teammates. Adrian Beltre joined the 3,000-hit club in late July 2017, and two weeks later, his teammates were the ones who were awarded.
The third baseman gave each teammate a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch, which runs for $229 per bottle. He also gave them a high-res copy of the official lineup card from the game in which Beltre reached 3,000 hits.
If that wasn’t enough, the future Hall of Famer also gave out special cigars to each player with his own personal label adorned on each.
19. Crown Royal Whiskey
Gift giver: Jose Altuve
Gift receiver: Astros teammates
Bottom line: The 2017 season was a magical one for the Houston Astros and Jose Altuve as they won the World Series and AL MVP, respectively.
As part of the celebration, the MVP gifted his teammates and coaches with bottles of Crown Royal XR Whiskey. Altuve had the 50 bottles of whiskey delivered to Minute Maid Park in blue cloth bags embroidered with "2017 World Champions #HoustonStrong."
However, this was more than just Altuve celebrating the World Series with a nice gift for his teammates. This was also Altuve fulfilling his sponsor obligations. He is a sponsor of Crown Royal and all but admitted it with the hashtag of #ad in a tweet about the gifts.
Gift giver: John Wall
Gift receiver: Wizards teammates
Bottom line: In June 2017, John Wall signed a contract extension that guarantees $170 million for the point guard. Six months later, Wall had the ultimate assist as he handed out Rolex watches to all of his teammates.
That included guys like Sheldon Mac and Devin Robinson, who were on two-way contracts and spent more time in the G League than in the NBA. And these weren’t just run-of-the-mill Rollies (if there are such a thing). They were President Rolexes that were personalized for each player.
Now only if Wall could give the Wizards and their fan base some good health. He last played in 2018 and isn’t expected to return until the 2020-21 season.
Gift giver: Carson Wentz
Gift receiver: Eagles offensive linemen
Bottom line: Raised in North Dakota, Carson Wentz did a lot of hunting when he wasn’t playing football. He even went hunting with Mike Trout in New Jersey after the Eagles had a Thursday night game.
Thus, when it came Christmas time during his rookie season, Wentz thought he would hand out a gift that’s close to his heart: Beretta shotguns. Wentz purchased the guns and personalized them for his offensive linemen with each player’s number engraved in the butt of the gun. The guns are about $2,000 each and are such a collector’s item that one of the linemen, who is a fellow hunter, was unsure if he would even use it.
"This is an awesome gun. I'm excited about it," said Allen Barbre. "I don't know if I'll shoot it, though. It's pretty nice."
16. Custom Timberlands
Gift giver: Kristaps Porzingis
Gift receiver: Knicks teammates
Bottom line: Timberlands are as New York as thin-crust pizza and packed subways. They originated in New England but are now seen as a part of New York culture.
Kristaps Porzingis keeps abreast of the culture, so he decided to gift his teammates some Timberland boots for Christmas. But the Latvian giant did more than just buy a dozen pairs of boots. He adorned each pair with each teammates’ initials and jersey number.
Unfortunately for Porzingis, he spent more time wearing his own KP6 Timberlands instead of basketball sneakers as he tore his ACL just weeks after handing out the gifts.
15. Xbox One X and Xbox Live Membership
Gift giver: Todd Gurley
Gift receiver: Rams Offensive Line
Bottom line: Thanks to the arrival of Sean McVay and an improved offensive line, Todd Gurley had the best season of his career in 2017. He was named the Offensive Player of the Year en route to his first All-Pro First-Team selection.
To reward those that did the heavy lifting and heavy blocking, Gurley bought the Rams' offensive linemen Xbox One X’s, which had just been out for one month. He also purchased them Xbox Live Memberships, which allows the players to play online against each other and keep their camaraderie going.
Gurley’s gift went well with what Jared Goff got the linemen that year: bottles of Hennessy. Alcohol and video game systems surely led to lots of smack-talking among the linemen.
14. Bulgari Watches
Gift giver: Cristiano Ronaldo
Gift receiver: Real Madrid teammates
Bottom line: 2014 was a banner year for Real Madrid. They won the Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and their first Champions League in a dozen years.
Cristiano Ronaldo led the way, and he also was named the FIFA Player of the Year amongst other awards. As a thank you to his teammates, Ronaldo gifted them personalized Bulgari watches that were worth roughly $10,000 each.
The watches had each player’s name engraved in them as well as another name — CR7. Ronaldo had his own nickname engraved in each watch just to remind them of who provided the gift.
13. iMacs and Watches
Gift giver: DeMarco Murray
Gift receiver: Cowboys offensive linemen/teammates
Bottom line: Through Week 7 of the 2014 season, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had a league-leading 913 rushing yards. He had nearly 300 more yards than his competitors and was on pace to rush for over 2,000 yards.
Thus, Murray decided to reward the big guys who paved the rushing lanes for him, so he had special gifts awaiting them in the locker room following a positional meeting.
Murray equipped the five starting linemen with brand-new iMac computers, valued at $1,300 apiece. But that was just the midseason gift as Murray provided another at the end of the season.
After he rushed for a career high of 1,845 yards on his way to being named Offensive Player of the Year, Murray bought Orefici watches, not just for the linemen, but for 22 of his offensive teammates who helped him achieve the banner year.
12. Louis Vuitton Travel Bags
Gift giver: Tony Romo
Gift receiver: Cowboys offensive linemen and Jason Witten
Bottom line: It almost seems that quarterbacks buying gifts for teammates is a must with how much money NFL QBs make. But tony Romo didn’t want to be outdone by DeMarco Murray’s lavish gifts so he followed up with some handouts of his own a week after Murray gave out the iMacs.
Romo gifted six Cowboys’ offensive linemen with new Louis Vuitton travel bags, which had a retail value between $16,000 and $24,000. Oh, and of course Romo’s BFF Jason Witten was the only non-lineman to also receive the gift.
The timing of the gifts was not coincidental. They were handed out just days prior to the team’s trip to London for the NFL International Series, and they also included a London travel book.
11. Beats by Dre Headphones
Gift giver: Chad Johnson
Gift receiver: Patriots teammates
Bottom line: If you blinked, you might have missed Chad Johnson’s disastrous single season with the New England Patriots. The former Chad Ochocinco barely saw the field and set career lows in all statistics even though the Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLVI.
Although Johnson wasn’t much of a factor on the field, by all accounts, he was an exemplary teammate, and that was evident by what he did before The Big Game.
The week before the Super Bowl, Johnson bought every one of his teammates Beats by Dre Headphones. They ran for roughly $400 a pop, so Johnson shelled out roughly $28,000 to purchase 70 pairs of headphones, including ones for players on injured reserve.
That had to be a bittersweet week for Johnson. Despite his nice gesture and getting to play in the Super Bowl, that game marked the last of his NFL career.
10. Virtual Reality Systems
Gift giver: Joe Flacco
Gift receiver: Ravens offensive linemen
Bottom line: Say what you want about Joe Flacco, but the man always takes care of those who take care of him.
During his tenure in Baltimore, he usually bought his linemen gifts every Christmas ranging from expensive watches to Traeger Smokers.
But the best gift Flacco ever gifted was a virtual reality system for all 14 of the Ravens' linemen — starters, backups, practice squad players and those on injured reserve. The systems run about $3,000 apiece, so Flacco spent roughly $42,000.
"You shouldn't expect it, and Joe doesn't have to do it," seven-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda said. "But it's nice of him to do it. We really appreciate it."
9. Bottle of Custom Wine
Gift giver: Von Miller
Gift receiver: Every AFC West opponent
Bottom line: While just about everyone on this list bought gifts for their teammates, Von Miller went a different route and bought gifts for his opponents.
Just before Christmas, Miller sent every opposing player in the AFC West, including practice squad guys and those on injured reserve, a bottle of custom wine and a thank-you note.
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon wine was created by a Colorado native, and Miller’s note thanked his opponents for the opportunity to compete against them twice a year.
"I thought about all types of stuff, from cars, trips to Vegas, vacations," Miller joked. "The wine sounded about right."
8. Night Out in Vegas
Gift giver: Kobe Bryant
Gift receiver: Lakers teammates
Bottom line: Kobe Bryant had an often contentious relationship with teammates throughout his 20-year NBA career. He infamously feuded with Shaquille O'Neal and once even made another teammate cry by telling him he should reconsider playing basketball.
But toward the end of his career, the "Black Mamba" started forging better relationships with teammates, and that is evident by what he did during the preseason one year.
The Lakers played a preseason game in Las Vegas, and Bryant wanted to throw a party for the team before the regular season began. Thus, he took the entire team to the MGM Grand Hotel in Vegas and let them have some fun at his expense.
"Kobe took the Lakers during preseason to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and bought the whole top floor for the team," former Laker Andrew Goudelock said. "He met us there with his helicopter and was spending all kinds of money on us and let us ball out for the night."
7. Team Bus
Gift giver: Michael Jordan
Gift receiver: Birmingham Barons
Bottom line: After a decade of traveling on the Chicago Bulls' private team plane, Michael Jordan was relegated to a run-of-the-mill bus when he played minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons.
However, Jordan wanted to travel in style and wanted his new teammates to do the same, so he bought a $350,000 bus so they could travel comfortably. The bus had 35 seats, six TVs (and a VCR) in addition to a lounge in the back.
The Barons are a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, and both the Sox and the Bulls are owned by Jerry Reinsdorf. So when Jordan went back to the Bulls the following season, he let the Barons keep the bus, and it was in use until it was put up for sale on eBay in 2014 for nearly $20,000.
Gift giver: Adrian Peterson
Gift receiver: Vikings offensive linemen
Bottom line: The man known as AD had a season for the ages in 2012 when he eclipsed the 2,000-yard barrier rushing en route to winning his only NFL MVP award.
When the team regrouped the following season, Adrian Peterson had something special for his five offensive linemen that helped him etch his name in the record books.
Peterson gifted the linemen with something that is not only a cool possession to have, but also something that could be considered a necessity in Minnesota. AD bought the linemen Arctic Cat snowmobiles that were also personalized with each player’s name and number on the shield.
The vehicles ranged in price from $8,000 to $12,500, but that was just a drop in the bucket for Peterson, who had signed a $96 million contract two years prior.
5. Audi Q7s
Gift giver: Tom Brady
Gift receiver: Patriots offensive linemen
Bottom line: The 2007 New England Patriots' season is one that may never be matched again. The team rolled through a 16-0 regular season while Tom Brady broke the NFL’s passing touchdown record and won his first league MVP.
A big reason for the team and Brady’s success is him remaining upright and getting sacked just 21 times. As a token of appreciation Brady, with the help of Audi and Best Buddies International, supplied his linemen with Audi Q7 SUVs.
You would think that doling out five luxury SUVs would earn you the No. 1 spot on this list. But during a Best Buddies International event, Brady revealed that the lineman only got to keep the vehicles for the 2008 season.
4. NBA Finals MVP Car
Gift giver: Michael Jordan
Gift receiver: Scottie Pippen
Bottom line: There’s been no documented proof that this ever happened, so we’ll just have to take Michael Jordan’s word that he gave his 1998 NBA Finals MVP vehicle to Scottie Pippen.
In the postgame interview after the Bulls defeated the Jazz in Game 6, Jordan lauded Pippen for playing through pain after he injured his already injured back in the first quarter, an injury that would require surgery in the offseason.
Jordan appreciated Pippen gutting it out so he told Ahmad Rashad that while he would keep the NBA Finals MVP Trophy, he would give Pippen the car that comes along with winning the award.
Seeing as Jordan had already won five Finals MVP awards beforehand, it’s not like he had much use for a sixth Finals MVP car.
3. Amazon Stock
Gift giver: Russell Wilson
Gift receiver: Seahawks offensive linemen
Bottom line: In mid-April of 2019, Russell Wilson signed a $140 million extension that made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. One week later, he shelled out 0.1 percent of that money by buying 13 Seahawks offensive linemen Amazon stock.
Each player received $12,000 worth of stock from the online company, whose headquarters are in Seattle. That’s a total of $156,000 that Wilson spent, and that number could grow exponentially in terms of what the players end up with in return.
This wasn’t the first time that Wilson gifted his teammates although it may have been the best gift he gave out. However, a close second was the two round-trip, first-class plane tickets that Wilson gave all of his teammates in 2014 courtesy of Alaska Air.
2. $55,000 Dinner Check
Gift giver: Dez Bryant
Gift receiver: 30 Cowboys teammates
Bottom line: Rookies picking up the dinner tab is nothing new in NFL circles, but a dinner bill totaling $54,896 isn’t something you see every day. Dez Bryant (and the rest of the 2010 Cowboys rookies) were footed with the bill, and since Bryant had the first-round contract, he had to pay most of the check.
Many Cowboys players in attendance reportedly wanted to get back at Bryant for violating rookie code by refusing to carry teammates pads after practice, so those players went all out when ordering. Some of the most expensive steaks and desserts were ordered, not to mention 10 to 15 shots of Louis XIII Rare Cask cognac, which is about $1,700 apiece. Guys were even ordering steak, wine and dessert to go and share with their significant others.
Bryant, who had a contract with $8.3 million in guaranteed money, reportedly didn’t flinch when the bill was handed to him, but there are rumors that Jerry Jones covered the bill, according to Sports Illustrated.
1. Rolls-Royce Phantom VI
Gift giver: Shaquille O’Neal
Gift receiver: LeBron James
Bottom line: Shaq and LeBron were teammates for just one season (remember when Shaq played for the Cavs?), but "King James" reaped the benefits of teaming up with "The Diesel."
When LeBron turned 25 in 2009, Shaq bought his teammate a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, one of the most exclusive vehicles in the world. There were just 374 Phantom VIs constructed, the last of which came in 1990.
The retail value of the automobile was roughly $400,000, or about what Shaq made in six quarters of action that season, as his salary clocked in at $20 million.