Sports are famously a young person’s game, which means the competition is fierce for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Sports list. This year’s class features all-star athletes, front-office standouts, inventive entrepreneurs and accomplished professionals from sports law, media and development.
Perhaps none are more impressive than Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. The 29-year-old NFL star has been to five Pro Bowls and earned four first-team All-Pro nods and helped lead the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2013. And he’s been just as prolific off the field.
Wagner made a five-figure investment into Denali Therapeutics in 2014, and he recently joined the likes of Diddy and Shonda Rhimes in Andreessen Horowitz’s $500,000 minimum investment Cultural Leadership Fund (the portfolio features companies like Hipcamp and Lime scooters). “We should take the time to learn and understand how to make the money work for us,” says Wagner, “versus working for the money.” Last summer, Wagner negotiated his own three-year, $54 million contract extension, which made him the highest-paid player at his position.
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Joining Wagner on the list is fellow NFL standout Patrick Mahomes—who last year became the league’s youngest MVP since Dan Marino—as well as NBA stars Klay Thompson and Paul George; both rank among the world’s highest-paid athletes, and they’ve earned a combined 11 All-Star selections. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich just narrowly missed out on winning his second straight National League MVP trophy—he also has three Silver Sluggers and a pair of All-Star nods—and St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is fresh off scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in the team’s first-ever championship victory.
Other athletes on the list include Hall of Fame surfer Carissa Moore, world-champion weightlifter Katherine Nye and nine-time X Games medalist Tom Schaar. All three are aiming to bring home Olympic medals from the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Figure skater Nathan Chen already won an Olympic bronze medal in Pyeongchang two years ago, and he’s since established himself as the sport’s best, winning the last two world championships.
We’re not just celebrating on-field accolades, either. Julie Ertz is a two-time World Cup winner who runs a charity—the Ertz Family Foundation provides grants to Philadelphia nonprofits and offers tuition and cost coverage for Haitian orphans—and is in the midst of a landmark equal pay lawsuit. The WNBA’s Breanna Stewart hasn’t just won a championship and an MVP trophy; she’s also used her platform to speak out against sexual abuse and campaign for racial and gender equality.
Among the lists’s non-athletes are a number of innovators. Ivy Awino, who oversees in-arena music for the Dallas Mavericks, is the first woman to ever DJ the NBA All-Star Game. The NFL Players Association’s Adam Richelieu standardized rookie contract language and has created a number of new statistical categories relating to player pay. Entrepreneur Umama Kibria is changing the fitness space with community organizer SweatPack, which has secured investments from the likes of Nike and Adidas, while Jameson Rader’s CUE Audio has been revolutionizing in-arena fan engagements for pro and college sports teams.
Others standouts include CAA’s Nick Thimm, who’s driven more than $50 million in sponsorships for clients like the Golden State Warriors and Riot Games’ League of Legends, and University of Cincinnati Athletics CFO Brandon Sosna, who was responsible for the school’s football team setting new attendance and season-ticket-sales records.