There’s reality, a society in which so many people are underpaid compared to what they truly deserve.
Then there’s the NBA, a culture for the overpaid. Even then, in this overly valued subculture, there are a number of guys who are priced even more ridiculously than others.
A max deal, the longest contract with the most money allowed, is conditional on a number of factors, including years played and the bottom line of the salary cap. It is designed to cap the best players' ability to earn, for instance, half of a team's payroll.
Players and agents, without blame here, are going to chase the money. And owners are often forced to buckle under the threat of losing their best players.
For a good young talent, it’s either pay him more than he deserves or lose him altogether. It’s always a seller’s market in the NBA. As a result, a number of guys have cashed in on undeserved max contracts.
On the other hand, a true superstar who earns a max contract could well be underpaid, by NBA standards, of course.
Not many believe LeBron James needs a raise. But by NBA standards, he certainly deserves it. The best player in basketball's salary of $17.45 million this season is only the 13th highest in the league. With no cap rules and James not taking a reduction to play in Miami, he should be paid more than Kobe Bryant's $27.8 million per year.
With only five guys on the court at a time, sometimes superstars even with max contracts can seem underpaid. But when those max contract players are clearly overpaid, it can devastate a franchise.
So for the sake of discussion, let's play independent arbitrator. Here’s a list of what the top-10 max-contract players should be making.
(All statistics in this story reflect games played prior to Friday, Nov. 16.)