What happens when you combine a Russian billionaire, a handful of aging NBA superstars and a new collective bargaining agreement?
If that sounds like the beginning of a joke, it's not. It's actually the reality for the Brooklyn Nets, who have combined the aforementioned elements to create the largest luxury-tax bill in the history of professional basketball.
The new CBA is heavily penalizing teams that find themselves well over the tax threshold. During the 2012-13 season, teams at least $15 million over the tax will pay $3.25 per dollar over, far more than the one-for-one system utilized during previous years.
With the new tax threshold set at $71.748 million, the Nets are now primed to pay out more money than any team before, as reported by The New York Times' Howard Beck:
Their payroll—once they complete a trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce–will be about $98 million, triggering a tax bill of about $75 million. That would be the most any team has paid since the league instituted the luxury tax in 2002-03, according to figures provided by the cap expert Larry Coon.
In fact, $75 million is more than double the total taxes paid by all 30 teams combined in the 2011-12 season.
Teams have been further over the cap before, but this new tax enforces a much stricter penalty. Imagine if the 2007 New York Knicks had been operating under the current CBA; they would have owed a staggering $135.3 million.
The hefty expenditure for the Nets stems from the team's new starting lineup.
Kevin Garnett is the least expensive player in the five-man unit, and he's owed $12,443,735 for the 2012-13 season. Joe Johnson is the biggest culprit, though, checking in at $21,466,718 thanks to his albatross of a contract.
In fact, the starting five alone is set to make $82,403,823. Even if the rest of the roster played for free, team owner Mikhail Prokhorov—the Russian billionaire mentioned up above—would owe $26.6 million for being more than $10 million above the tax threshold.
The figure provided by Beck came before the Nets signed Andrei Kirilenko with the mini mid-level exception, according to the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy:
Kirilenko has signed a two-year deal for MLE. Second year is player option, according to source.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) July 11, 2013
The mini MLE is worth $3.18 million during the 2013-14 season, but it's even more costly for Brooklyn. They owe that $3.18 million, but also another $10.34 million in luxury-tax penalties.
Can the Nets win a championship next season?
That pushes the total payment to a staggering $85.34 million. I guess if you're going to break a record, you may as well shatter it.
As revealed by Forbes, Prokhorov is worth $13 billion and checks in as the 69th-wealthiest person in the world, so this is just a minor dent in his checkbook.
And it's one that will all be worth it if his Nets can bring home the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
Note: All contract figures via Spotrac. This article was also updated on July 12 to reflect the signing of Kirilenko.