NBA Finals, Heat vs. Thunder: Breaking Down How Much Money the Players Make

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJune 14, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat hugs Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder before the start of Game One of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 12, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

First off, any player of major impact in these finals is underpaid. The NBA makes sure of this with the "max salary" provision. While you might think that no one should make so much money for putting a ball in a ring, I'm basing this on how a free-market baseball system system would reward the talents of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. 

2012 Thunder salaires

  • Kevin Durant: $15,506,632
  • Russell Westbrook: $5,082,416
  • James Harden: $4,604,760
  • Serge Ibaka: $1,288,200

2012 Heat salaries

  • LeBron James: $16,022,500
  • Dwyane Wade: $15,691,000
  • Chris Bosh: $16,022,500
  • Mike Miller: $5,400,000

The other provision that keeps star salaries low is that rookie scale, the one on which James Harden and Serge Ibaka are getting paid. The scale determines your salary worth through your first years, just based on draft position. Despite being Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden is earning $4,604,760 this season, less than what Mike Miller earns for the opposing squad.

But that's big money compared to what Serge Ibaka earns. The possible "future max" player takes in $1,288,200 this season, little more than half of what bench-warmer Cole Aldrich gets at $2,286,000. Yes, the rookie salary scale is wildly unfair.

Kevin Durant is off the scale and Russell Westbrook is soon to be off it next year. Because of this, Durant is set to make $16,669,629 next season and Russ is set to make $12,922,194. Over the course of his contract, KD will earn over $89 million and Westbrook will rake in $79 million. The pecking order is set in cash.

Miami's pecking order is not set in cash, as all members of the Big Three earn between $93 million and $95 million over the course of their deals. It's about as equal as three contracts can be, and it's a good deal for the Heat. On the open market, LeBron could earn, say, over $40 million per year, which would make his contract more than $200 million. Thanks to the max provision, the Heat save themselves from getting stuck with a Texas Rangers-Alex Rodriguez situation.