How many times have you heard a friend (certainly not you) say, “Man these NBA players have a lotta nerve – taking days off, not giving 100%, shooting under 50% from the free throw line, I mean, they’re making millions. You’d think they would be busting their butts all the time. Heck, I’d play for a couple hundred thou – and nobody would play harder than me!” The fallacy in your (friend’s) argument is a basic one: he has no talent. It wouldn’t matter if he was the hardest working baller in the league. Or if he paid the franchise a couple hundred thousand – or even a million. He has no place on an NBA floor.
A job in “the league” is a good one – if you can get it. Since there are 30 teams and rosters are limited to 15 players on a roster, the number of guys hooping in the Association is right around 450. The average salary is $4,383,232 – although that’s before taxes, so actual take home pay is quite a bit less. That number is skewed somewhat by the top earners who are pulling down upwards of $20-25M. The mode salary, i.e. the number that appears most often, is $2,380,440 (also before taxes but a salary that would afford someone a very nice life).
As you can imagine, there are a relatively large number of people vying for such high paying positions (relative, say, to the population of NYC). If someone is so lucky to land one, the following season he will find a whole new crop trying to take his livelihood away and claim it for themselves. Plus guys in the D-League and overseas. Also, unlike high school and college, none of the players graduate so, as far as the supply and demand are concerned, there’s a whole lot more supply than demand. Suffice to say, there are more one-and-dones from the NBA than there are each year from college. It’s a wonderful fraternity to belong to but, when it comes to money, some of the guys hauling in truckloads of dough think they should do better.
Kobe Bryant, for one, says players are underpaid (Note: this was part of an article on Kobe before he suffered last year’s season-ending injury – yet the topic is more relevant than ever, with the announcement that next year’s salary cap will be upwards of $70 million). He thinks that he and LeBron James (and others) should be getting closer to $75 mil. The Black Mamba believes it’s important to set an example in contracts. It bothers him to see superstars taking pay cuts. After all, which players are the fans coming to see? Whose jerseys are they buying?
Funny thing, he’s got a point – those guys really are worth that much dough. They are the ones responsible for the glut of money pouring into the league’s coffers. But how about players 8 or 9-12? They’re making over half a million (NBA minimum) and their contribution is . . . ? Sure, they practice and have to “stay ready” but why the inflated salary?
Hey, pay them $50-75K because that’s all they’re worth – until they prove otherwise. A couple questions for people who think that suggestion is ludicrous. If the guys who will fill out the rosters of the NBA teams were paid that amount (plus the per diem – which some families would trade their income for), 1) do you think franchises would have a problem finding willing – and able – players for those roles and 2) do you think the game would suffer? It’s a higher salary than an undergraduate commands straight out of school (naturally, with a few exceptions).
Kobe’s statement was, “Do owners buy teams for the love of the game?” His inference was that owners are in the business of acquiring assets with the goal of making more money. On this point, the Mamba and I think differently – about as differently as our games are. If he’s asking about whether owners buy teams as an investment, I’m not sure they do. In fact, I’m absolutely certain that they do not. Does anyone think Steve Ballmer forked over two billion dollars so he could add to his $20+billion portfolio – or because he wants to win a “Larry” (as he puts it)?
No matter how much money those guys have, there are some things they cannot buy. Does anyone think, for a second, that an owner would sell his team if someone offered double what he paid for it? A 100% profit. Remember, these guys are the world’s best businessmen and making wise business decisions is part of their DNA. Not a chance. Even the Nets’ Mikhail Prokorov, who allegedly has spoken of selling (he was one guy who thought he could actually buy a championship but found the team, indeed, has to win it), might only let go of part of the 80% of the club he owns. After all, would double the price he paid for the Nets make that significant a difference in his estimated $10.9 billion fortune? Currently, over half of the NBA owners are billionaires – and the others aren’t holding garage sales any time soon.
Pay the superstars mega-bucks (as if what they’re making now is sub-standard) because they are the draw? OK, but, as is heard ad infinitum on spots talk shows, “the NBA is a business.” Treat it like a business and pay the big earners what they’re worth. The others? Pay them what they’d make in the “real world.” If that were the case, one suggestion – step back when the doors open to avoid the stampede.
One thing for certain is there would be a lot fewer for him than against him if the following was proposed:
“Kobe for president of the NBA players’ association.”