NBA Superstars: Undervalued & Underpaid

Could it be that someone who makes nearly $25 million a year to play a game is underpaid? Yes, at least according to some people in the business. In a Yahoo! Sports piece, Jerry Buss admits that Kobe Bryant is probably worth $70 million to his franchise, despite being paid nearly a third of that. If there were bidding wars on the top NBA players, who knows how far owners would push the price up to either attract, or keep, their real moneymakers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes:

For everything they do to drive TV ratings and gate receipts, the global advancement and relentless news coverage, it’s a farce that the elite of the elite have to listen to so many sorry, sloppy owners tell them they deserve rollbacks on present contracts and deserve future ones to be slashed. These stars are the NBA. They’re everything.

Nowhere in sports is the superstar more vital than basketball, because the ball’s forever in the star’s hands and a singular talent has the most transformational impact. Let owners bid on the true value the elite stars bring to a franchise, to the league, and Wade was asked where he believes the bidding would rise per season?

“I’m sure it would get to $50 million,” Wade told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday afternoon.

Not only that, D-Wade compared it to baseball, where without salary cap constraints, NBA stars could sign the absolutely mammoth deals that a few certain baseball players have received. Still, google “most underpaid jobs” and what do you come up with? Police officers. Teachers. Hospital workers. All of these people are underpaid (and quite frankly nowadays, doesn’t it feel like everyone is underpaid?), and all of these people hold jobs that are exponentially more important.

Interesting that these talks should come up on a day like this, when some believe the NBA and the players are meeting to save a season. The power the superstars wield is enormous, and while most of the players doing the representing in these lockout meetings are average, middle-of-the-road types, it’s the game’s stars that hold the keys. They tip the scales. They’re the ones who make the owners squirm. Do you think it’s a coincidence that this Kobe Bryant deal in Italy was reported this morning? I don’t. It’s his way of saying “F U Stern if you don’t get this deal done.” Because he’s Kobe and because he’s perhaps the game’s largest international star, he can do that. Roger Mason Jr. could not.

Wojnarowski continues:

Nevertheless, the league’s proposal to curb salary includes a combination of cutting into future deals and rolling back current ones. The league doesn’t want max contracts that go beyond $20 million a year anymore, but privately owners and executives know those superstar deals are the biggest bargain in the NBA. The owners are chasing the salaries on everyone else, and that’s why the union exists. That’s why Bryant and James and, yes, Dwyane Wade understand that the fight has to be bigger than themselves.

In the end, the NBA is a one-man, one-vote labor membership. Why are Roger Mason and Maurice Evans such important voices on the Players Associations’ executive committee? Because they’re mostly representative of the everyman in the union. They’re forever fighting to keep guaranteed contracts, to keep some semblance of security. They need the stars to get them there, to hold the line on the powerful owners.

Power is money, and while the most popular All-Stars may never make the money they might deserve, they’re in a unique position to help bring back the NBA.

Are they undervalued? Yes. Should Wade have said some of this? Probably not. During an NBA lockout where billions of dollars are being fought over as many fans struggle to survive, no one is going to feel sorry.

What do you think?

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