From Memphis to the mainland, NBA salary madness knows no boundaries
Spate of unfathomably lucrative contracts is good news for Chinese basketball phenom Zhou Qi but it appears the sky’s the limit for even unheralded players, who are getting ridiculously rich
You don’t choose your era, it chooses you. China’s towering centre Zhou Qi’s age is unknown. Drafted a little over one week ago by the Houston Rockets in the second round, Zhou may be anywhere from 20 to 24 years of age depending on who you speak with. And while the uncertainty over his age is a bit perplexing, in the end it really won’t matter.
He is young regardless and because of that will soon be ridiculously rich. There is a plethora of absolute stupid money in the NBA and for the kid from Henan with the condor like wingspan, all he has to do is stay healthy and he will soon reap the rewards. Again, it’s nice to be born at the right time even if that time is slightly ambiguous. 15 years ago Wang Zhizhi was the first mainland player to appear in an NBA game.
A few years later Yao would follow him. Both were talented big men with Yao in particular having a stellar and lucrative NBA career. However, at the time Yao and Wang were forced to pay upwards of 50 per cent of their salary to the basketball authorities in China.
But thanks to the pioneering and courageous stand that Yao and women’s tennis star Li Na took in regards to the ridiculous garnisheeing of their wages, young Zhou will be able to keep most of his money.
Yet, as big a debt as Zhou may owe to Yao and Na, he will be far more beholden to the new NBA TV deal that has brought so much money into the game and has teams spending like sailors on shore leave. At the risk of wallowing in convoluted economics, the NBA has a soft salary cap that is calculated on a percentage of revenue between the players and owners that is a 50-50 split.
A new nine-year TV deal for US$24 billion kicks in this coming season and has raised the annual average TV revenue from US$938 million in 2015 to US$2.67 billion. It is an absolute insane amount and because of that Mike Conley, a largely anonymous 28-year-old guard with the Memphis Grizzlies who has never come close to making an all-star team, is now the highest paid player in the history of the game and will make over US$30 million per season for the next five years.
That is US$18 million more per year than the reigning two time MVP Steph Curry and US$6 million more than the transcendent LeBron James. I’m sorry, but these are not decisions a sober person could make, let alone a high ranking NBA executive. Zhou could look at all this and say, oh man, Americans are nuts. But all he has to do is look a little closer to his Asian home to see that insanity is not exclusive to Americans.
Timofey Mozgov grew up in St Petersburg, Russia while Matthew Dellavedova was raised in a nondescript speck of dirt called Maryborough, Australia.
Both Mozgov and Dellavedova had the great fortune of playing this past season on the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers with James. Both also had the great fortune of becoming free agents after the season ended and presumably their agents were selling potential suitors on their clients’ championship pedigree.
It seemed to work as Mozgov was rewarded with a four-year contract from the Los Angeles Lakers for US$64 million while Dellavedova also got a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks for US$38 million. And about that championship pedigree?
In the deciding game seven of the NBA finals Dellavedova played zero minutes and in the last three games of the series, when the Cavaliers staged an unprecedented come back and when his team presumably needed him most, the scrappy point guard played five minutes total and scored three points.
Mozgov also did not get off the bench in game seven and played one less minute then Delly over the final three games with zero points. This is the championship pedigree you get these days in the NBA for a combined US$100 million plus.
More power to these guys for getting that kind of money. But somebody will have to pay for the madness and, as usual, it will be the fans. Still, that is not a concern for you today.
Even if your kid is the most talented piano prodigy since Mozart, if he experiences a radical growth spurt put a basketball in his hands and tell him his days of twinkling the ivories are over. If you are tall and possess a fair degree of athletic ability, it’s a very good time to be gifted. More importantly, it’s an even better time to be marginally gifted.