Right now, mega-stars like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are sitting in their multi-million dollar homes sipping on drinks with ice cubes in the shape of dollar signs. They are, to put it lightly, in an enviable position. They got here not by their NBA contracts, but by endorsements.
Most people look at the uber-wealth of professional athletes such as Wade and James and assume that their riches come from the contracts that are so heavily debated each off-season. It seems each year we hear about a handful of players who are no longer happy bringing in a mere five million dollars a year, they want seven million and signing bonus to boot.
The pressure this puts on their franchise often leads to key components of the roster being traded away for peanuts and a foam stadium finger, simply to open cap space and sign their star to the contract he desires.
This is an alpha-dog move. It’s “show me the money” at its best.
Often driven by egos, if Player A sees Player B get a higher contract, he will evaluate himself against his peer immediately. A phone call to said player’s agent almost always follows.
Where does this leave the team? Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
So I ask this question to the stars of the NBA: If you truly are all about winning championships, why not take the league minimum?
Sure, it sounds absurd at first but stop and think about where their true source of income is. It’s not the twenty million dollars per year from their team; it’s the seventy million dollars per year from Nike, Gatorade, Wheaties, etc.
In 2009, it is estimated that Lebron James made a staggering forty million from his endorsers. So Lebron, do you really need that extra money from the Cavaliers or any other team for that matter?
Think about what championships would do for James’ public image and his marketability. There’s a reason Kobe Bryant is the number one player among fans in China: rings. The kind of rings you get after hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the year.
The old saying goes “It takes money to make money”. James and other stars would simply be conceding a relatively small amount (compared to their total worth), in order to help their team's financial positon, boost their value to endorsers and in turn, earn even more money through them.
Of course, the league minimum is a steep drop from the tall mountains of money these athletes sit on. I believe the rings are worth it.