The NBA has a reputation for being full of coddled babies making millions for doing nothing. And it is exactly that.
The NBA is a league of excess. Even with the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement curbing player salaries somewhat, the league is chock full of old, injured or ineffective players still able to collect eight-figure salaries.
Kobe Bryant is the NBA’s highest paid player at $23.5 million
Steve Nash will earn $9.7 million this season without stepping on the court
Lebron’s $20.6 million salary pales in comparison to the $130+ his owner will make off of him
That being said, there are plenty of guys whose contributions are being largely captured by their teams. For example, a player with the star power and marketing pull of Lebron James will never be paid his full worth. It just isn’t possible.
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers, $9.7 million
Steve Nash is a living legend, truly one of the most unique talents the NBA has ever seen. But he has long since reached the end of his rope. The Lakers signed the Canadian sensation to a two-year, $20 million contract prior to last season, and have reaped basically zero rewards.
Nasty Nash appeared in only 15 games last season, and when he was on the court he looked old, slow and achy. This year has been even worse, as prior to the season opener it was announced that Nash’s creaky back will force him to retire early. He’ll still collect his $9.71 million salary, though.
Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks, $23.4 million
Most NBA fans would shake their heads at the notion that Amare is the league’s second-highest paid player, being slated to earn $23.4 million during the 2014-15 Season. It was only three years ago, however, when Amare almost single-handedly put the Knicks in the playoffs.
That certainly seems like a long time ago. The 32-year old former phenom has none of his once trademark athleticism, and his creaky knees mean that he’s only eligible to play between 20-25 minutes each night. Did we mention that he earns a larger salary than Lebron James?
Gerald Wallace, Boston Celtics, $10.1 million
Not long ago Wallace was one of the league’s most delightfully peculiar players, a guard who had the size, strength and athleticism to bang with big boys inside. Now that his 32-year old legs have failed him, he neither has the quickness to play on the perimeter nor the hops to make plays inside.
This season Wallace is averaging 0.6 points per game in 7.8 minutes of action. He is being paid more than $10 million and has literally scored less than one point per game. In 12 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks his stat line read like this: 0-0 .000 0-0 .000 0-0 .000 0 0 0.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets, $19.8 million
To be fair, Williams still counts as one of the NBA’s better starting point guards, and the Nets are still the darlings of many online and mobile betting sites specializing in NBA games. But you would expect more out a player with the distinction of ninth-highest paid player in the NBA.
Five years ago Williams was one of the league’s brightest young stars, a player with the strength, speed and skill to manhandle almost any opponent.
Then he arrived in New Jersey (the team moved to Brooklyn prior to last season) and promptly fell off a cliff. Maybe Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has exerted a negative effect on him, or maybe that’s just what happens to someone after they sign a guaranteed contract worth more than $100 million.
Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, $20.6 million
It’s hard to wrap your head around the notion that someone earning $20.6 million to throw a ball through a hoop is underpaid, but that’s exactly what is being argued here. online sportsbooks in the US promptly responded to Lebron’s return by anointing the Cavaliers as the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals.
LeRoy Brooks, a finance professor at John Carroll University, estimated that Lebron will bring in $129 million in ticket revenue alone to the Cavaliers this season.
Consider all of the money that owner Dan Gilbert will make through TV revenue, stadium concessions and selling jerseys with Lebron’s name on them, and one could easily make the case that King James is actually being shamelessly and pitilessly exploited by the greedy Gilbert.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, $18.9 million
Again, $18.9 million is freakishly large sum of money. But that doesn’t mean that Durant isn’t worth it. In fact, he’s worth a lot more. Consider the 26-year old’s accomplishments through seven NBA seasons: Rookie of the Year winner (2008), NBA Most Valuable Player (2014), five-time All-NBA First Team (2010-2014).
That, and he’s led the Thunder to five consecutive playoff appearances, including three trips to the Western Conference Finals. He has also allowed a team based in one of America’s smallest sports markets to be profitable, which is truly the mark of money well-earned. Like Lebron, his contribution will always outweigh his salary.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, $23.5 million
Kobe is the highest paid player in the NBA. He is well past his prime at 36 years old and the Lakers are wallowing in the cellar of the Pacific Division. That means he is overpaid, right?
Wrong. Kobe is a shell of his former self, but he is the only reason that anyone will pay to watch a Lakers game right now. Outside of him, the team’s only marketable player is Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin, a player who has proven to be more a flash in the pan sensation than an actual star.
The Lakers have the league’s second-highest median ticket price at more than $200. In order to justify that, they need Kobe. That is reason enough to conclude that he’s underpaid.