Whether it’s hitting fade-away game-winners to win a playoff series or winning back-to-back titles to end a 40-year drought of postseason success, basketball players are steadily gaining notoriety as they come closer to reaping the fruits of labor that baseball players have.
No salary cap, more specifically a luxury tax for those that go over the cap, has given baseball leeway to negotiate however much money they want with a player.
In 2011, with A-Rod leading the way at $32 million, there were 10 players making at least $20 million in Major League Baseball and the top five were all at least $23 million.
For the National Basketball Association in 2011, Kobe was the only player to reach $25 million while the top five hovered above $20 million.
NBA teams have now tried to convince their star players of staying and perhaps, avoiding the inception of more super teams, by allowing the team he is drafted to eligibility to pay him the more than any other team.
This method has worked for some teams, while also starting a complete rebuild for others. The small market team has more favorable odds.
Take Damian Lillard for example, a mid-major point guard who skyrocketed to the top of draft boards and was chosen sixth overall by the Portland Trailblazers in 2012. After averaging 20.2 points, 6.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds in his first three seasons while appearing in all 82 games each season. The five-year deal that ends in 2021, was said to be worth upwards of 125 million. Deservedly so, Lillard put pen to pad after giving Portland their first playoff series win the year before.
To the dismay of many, Mike Conley became the highest paid player in the NBA after signing his $153 Million deal will the Memphis Grizzlies. Many would not rank him among the top point guards but given his floor general pedigree and the fact that a small market, like Memphis, may be incapable of luring the bright-light names to their city, they had to do it to secure their future at that point Looking back at it, Conley is the only remaining piece to a team who was once in the Western Conference Finals – since their peak year in 2013, they have traded Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and are now in a rebuild phase with the affluent Conley.
The 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement will prove to be the great equalizer for the NBA.
As the NBA’s television numbers continue to grow and subscription providers like Hulu continue to get in on the action, it will not be longer before basketball players’ salaries match their baseball counterparts.
Stephen Curry, arguably the greatest shooter basketball has ever known, is the biggest beneficiary of the CBA so far – and deservedly so at $201 million over five years. The lottery pick out of Davidson revolutionized the formula for success in the NBA and completely changed the game with his unconscious ability to shoot a basketball.
Comparing the NBA today to the MLB today, one would think that basketball players have a good advantage.
Most of the top-ten earners in baseball make $30 million or more but eight through ten make 29, 28 and 28, respectively.
NBA’s eye-popping top-11 all make $30 million or more, with Paul Millsap barely missing the cut at $29.2 million.
While basketball may never introduce an unlimited salary cap or see players sign decade-long deals, the quest to wealth for the best players seem like no longer a dream but a reality.
Evando Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @ethmps.