NBA PM: Lessons from the NBA’s Top 1%
One familiar refrain during the NBA lockout was that the top 1% of players wouldn’t really be affected by any change in basketball-related income (BRI). The guys at the top of the salary ladder weren’t going to take the hit for the union. It was the mid-level and lower-wage players that were really going to feel the shift from 57% of BRI to 51.5% (and in the future, anywhere between 49% and 51%).
Well those weren’t just empty words. Forbes’ Kurt Badenhausen wrote the annual list of the 100 highest-paid athletes and two of the top-10 players are NBA stars while 11 others landed in the Top 100 as well.
“LeBron James leads the 13 basketball players that made the cut,” Badenhausen wrote. “James ranks fourth overall with earnings of $53 million. James, like all NBA players, had his salary sliced 20% by the NBA lockout, but he continues to make a mint off the court from sponsors like Nike, Coca-Cola, State Farm and McDonald’s. James’ income also got a boost when he received cash as part of his marketing partnership with Fenway Sports Group last year, through which James received a stake in the soccer club Liverpool.”
(James pays a portion of Steven Gerrard’s salary as co-owner of Liverpool, which is interesting because Gerrard is No. 97 on the list)
High-profile NBA players remain fabulously wealthy, but that predictable fact doesn’t mean the list is useless. In fact, we can learn a great deal about the future financial landscape of the league by putting the information under the microscope.
First, there is a big drop off between No. 4 LeBron James, No. 6 Kobe Bryant and everyone else. The primary reason for that is James and Bryant were each paid over $30 million in endorsements while the next highest-paid NBA player, No. 33 Dwight Howard, made only $11 million.
The reality is that as easy as it is for NBA players to land endorsement deals, there are only so many premier sponsors to go around and they tend to focus on a handful of players. No. 57 Kevin Garnett scored a big endorsement deal with Gatorade when he was younger, which is a business relationship that still benefits him today. But if he didn’t have that deal in his back pocket, the company would likely be forking that same contract over to James, Bryant or No. 34 Kevin Durant.
Another thing we learned from the findings is that market matters. Only Durant, Howard and No. 73 Tim Duncan play in “small” markets, while the rest of the NBA players in the Top 100 work in densely populated areas like South Florida, Southern California and the northeast.
No. 72 Chris Paul has added more endorsement deals since being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, which is similar scenario to what happened to No. 95 Pau Gasol when he went from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Lakers.
That trend is good news for Brooklyn Nets fans who’d like No. 84 Deron Williams to re-sign with the team this July. Dallas is a significantly smaller market than New York City and, as Williams said himself back in March, advertisers are “excited” about the possibility of him playing in Brooklyn.
No. 44 Carmelo Anthony and No. 46 Amar’e Stoudemire each signed shoe deals before coming to New York, but Nike and Reebok have gone to great lengths to capitalize on the increased exposure since each player landed in the Big Apple.
No. 35 Dwyane Wade’s presence on the list shows the validity that a title can give to a player. Wade drew $12 million in endorsements because he’s still a great player, but the 2006 NBA Title gives him a level of legitimacy that eludes other athletes.
And No. 88 Rashard Lewis’ presence on the list can be explained fairly easily as well: He signed one of the worst contracts in the history of professional sports.
Lewis doesn’t make much from endorsements (just $500,000), but the previous CBA allowed for horrendous contracts such as his. If the bottom 95% of NBA players want to know why the CBA changed so much during the last work stoppage, they should look no further than Lewis’ abomination of a deal.
Joel Anthony Enjoying Second Finals Appearance
Player rotations tend to tighten up during the NBA Finals, which is one reason Joel Anthony has played only two minutes for the Miami HEAT through the first three games of this series.
Of course, that’s not news to Anthony, who is appearing in his second consecutive NBA Finals.
“I don’t know about getting used to it but I appreciate all of it,” he told HOOPSWORLD when asked if he’s grown accustomed to this stage. “You just really appreciate when you come here. This year has been more. You realize how special it is. The first time it was just everything, the finals, it was my first time. Everything was just so special. Now it’s more of an appreciation because you’ve been here and you understand how hard it is to get back here. To be here at the end of the year is just a special feeling and you’re really happy and everyone is just so focused on making sure we are able to put together some good games and be able to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Even if he’s not on the floor as much as he was last year when he averaged 20.5 mpg in the Finals, Anthony can still gauge his own team and he sees the experience paying off.
“Experience is a great teacher,” he said. “We’ve definitely learned a lot of hard lessons last year and I feel guys are definitely really focused about remembering that and looking to use that to our advantage and make sure we don’t have those same breakdowns happen again. Make sure we understand how important every play is and our attention to detail has been really good. I still feel we’ll continue to get better this series.”
The great irony is Anthony could very well be out of the league. He went undrafted in 2007 and was signed to a one-year deal in Miami. Now he makes $3.8 million per year and is locked in through the 2014-2015 season.
“There are definitely different times throughout the year I definitely think about it,” Anthony said. “Everything that I’ve been able to do so far and how much more I have to do is what keeps me going. Continuing to drive me knowing how much more I have to continue to do. It’s definitely been a good journey so far and I just want to continue to get better and make it a great one.”
And not only is Anthony in the league, but he gets to play next to three stars in James, Wade and Chris Bosh who dominate the defensive attention.
Once again, Anthony is being overlooked, but this time it’s not such a bad thing.
“I don’t know about a blessing but there probably is more attention because you’re around those guys and because they’re such big stars,” he said. “People are noticing you more just because you play on the HEAT. It’s definitely a different situation because they bring so much attention obviously not just to themselves but to the entire team and especially last year it was so much of the whole year was just so crazy and so hyped and everyone on the team one through 15 had to deal with a lot of the scrutiny and having more eyes on them then they’re used to just because of what those guys bring to the table. I think if anything there is probably more attention because you’re playing with those guys right now as opposed to if you were in the same position on another team.”
But when the doors close on the HEAT locker room, Anthony says there’s no difference between he and his famous teammates. Everyone relies on each other and that in turn is what makes Miami a great team.
“It definitely helps to know that you have confidence of your teammates out there,” he said. “Especially with the ones that we have and it’s true when those guys are playing on a different level and they try to bring everyone up to that same level it helps boost everyone’s confidence and because we all understand that’s what’s going to make us better as a team.”
Game 4 tips off just after 9 p.m. EST on ABC.
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