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Courts and Courtyards: The Luxury of Professional Sports

Strong, determined, and downright gritty, there is no secret that professional athletes have experienced pitfalls and triumphs on their way to success. The trials and tribulations of professional athletes and their journeys are well-documented, but when athletes strive to reach the upper echelon of their craft, the spoils reaped are noticeably luxurious.

To put professional sports into perspective, just over 4,000 professional athletes compete across the four major U.S. sports: the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League. Athletes dream of the opportunity to be one of those 4,000 competing at the highest level and for a chance at winning a championship. Outside of the primary four, such as the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and Major League Soccer, becoming a professional athlete is still one of the rarest accomplishments. One aspect that separates luxury from the standard is its rarity.

For professional athletes in the major four leagues, many introductions to luxury begin the instant they hear their names read on draft night. “The draft is the moment these athletes experience the professional lifestyle,” said Kate Newton, Estates Director at Hilton & Hyland. The draft is a process to allocate collegiate and non-professional athletes to respective teams with the potential of competing in those leagues. These aspiring professional athletes are put on a pedestal as an intro to the respective leagues, usually donning designer fits, exclusive jewelry, and custom kicks. “The cars, the clothes, the trips, and the homes all become part of the lifestyle,” added Newton.

While professional sports are not typically considered luxurious, “the travel, privilege, exclusivity, and access” are some of the most extravagant aspects of being a professional athlete, said Pam Lumpkin, Estates Director at Hilton & Hyland. When athletes become professionals, they enter into an exclusive club that includes all the pros that have come before them. “The hard work, dedication to craft, and work ethic tied to the journey are inherently understood,” added Lumpkin.

Not only are professional athletes respected by their peers, they are loved, admired, and cherished for their achievements. Similar to their custom-designed fashion and jewelry, professional athletes at their peaks are prime examples of luxurious works of art. The performance art they provide viewers is a masterpiece. Whether gazing at the Mona Lisa’s details or watching as Kobe Bryant glided across the court, the appreciation for these luxuries and the attention to detail is globally recognized. 

Many fans support the sports and associated teams, but the athletes make each sport highly sought-after entertainment. Fans at Los Angeles Lakers games shell out thousands of dollars to sit courtside or in private suites and purchase costly tickets for single games. For NFL games in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium, fans can expect a hefty bill for tickets without a view of the field. Sitting in the front row has become a status symbol outside the price point alone. “Sitting courtside today is the same as wearing a designer bag,” said Newton. Lionel Messi, one of professional soccer’s best players, recently made his debut with the MLS team in Miami, Inter Miami. Not only were the tickets to the game a hot commodity, but the celebrities in attendance were also the definition of household names. Stars like Lebron James, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, and David Beckham were some notable names to sit front row at Messi’s Inter Miami game in the U.S.

When professional athletes garner as much attention and contract dollars, they become trendsetters. When they arrive at the court or field on game days, athletes become fashion icons. Their entrances have become runways where the athletes showcase their custom clothing. They are photographed by team photographers and publications, broadcasting their looks and influence to the world. “You see athletes’ personalities shine through their fashion statements, designer outfits, cars, and definitely their kicks,” said Lumpkin. Designer brands partner with athletes because of their societal status and prestige. Brands like Louis Vuitton, Moet,  Hennessy, Dior, Tiffany & Co, and Gucci have successfully partnered with professional sports and their athletes. For example, Tiffany & Co is synonymous with professional sports and the world-famous luxury jewelry company creates championship trophies for the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, PGA TOUR, and many more. Cementing their association with the ultimate prize in professional sports, Tiffany & Co. is one of the many luxury brands that have recognized the intersection between opulence and sport.

Professional athletes are essential to the Los Angeles luxury real estate market. Player contracts have reached a point in professional sports where athletes do not have to be in the top 1% on their teams or in their sport to afford the lifestyle. Professional athletes can purchase their dream homes and invest in luxury properties as financial assets and commodities. Not only are the stars competing for the city’s teams buying and selling premium estates, but professional athletes worldwide choose Los Angeles as their off-season destination. Out-of-town teams enjoy the luxuries of Los Angeles to the point where they schedule additional vacation days centered around their games against Angeleno teams. “Our city is a prestigious luxury market,” said Newton. “It is a desirable destination to own property and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with L.A.”

Professional athletes have it all when it comes to luxury and what it means to be luxurious. “The access, power, impact, and luxury profile a professional athlete can have is limitless,” said Lumpkin.

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