By Colleen Kane
CNBC.com

It's no secret that the top professional athletes are among the highest-paid people anywhere. When those prizes or multimillion-dollar contracts start rolling in, one of the first investments that athletes often make is a conspicuously lavish car costing an amount that would take one of their typical fans years to earn.

This "first prize" on four wheels is often followed by a second car, and a third, and so on. Numerous websites are dedicated to documenting the comings and goings of celebrities' garages, and no small portion of this coverage is made up of professional athletes.

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Slideshow: Favorite cars of athletes

When it comes to favorite makes and models of such cars, for athletes the name of the game is luxury and status. To a lesser extent, detailing and customization often play a role, including dramatic wheel hub treatments and custom trimmings. Another favorite car option for athletes is to completely refurbish a classic vintage vehicle.

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The following collection of vehicles of vehicles encompasses the cars most often seen being driven by stars from football, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, swimming, skateboarding, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

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    Mercedes

    Olympic swimming medalist Michael Phelps drives a MBZ SL63. Mercedes is also a popular maker with basketball players like Dwyane Wade, who drives an SLR McLaren with gull-wing doors, LeBron James, who drives an S63 AMG, Brandon Rush who has an S550, and Stephen Curry who has a G55 SUV.

Click here for complete slideshow to see nine lavishly appointed favorites, plus one vehicle that's much more rough and tough-like the athletes themselves.

-- Check out Sports Biz with Darren Rovell.

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