Given the NBA’s CBA puts a cap on how much a player can earn with the inclusion of maximum contracts, it’s long been known that superstars in the league are massively underpaid.
LeBron James is the poster child of this, as the average annually salary of his last contract with the Miami Heat was just north of $18 million. Compare that to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco whose contract pays him more than $20 million per season in the NFL, although he’s not nearly as strong at his craft as James is his.
But just exactly how underpaid is LeBron? Well, ESPN’s Darren Rovell crunched the numbers.
Factoring in ticket sales, endorsements, and what he’s done for the Miami Heat’s brand, Rovell calculates that James is worth an enormous chunk of change.
The Heat’s television deal isn’t up for another three seasons, meaning a three-year deal for James won’t guarantee he’ll still be on the team then, but another three years of service would certainly help boost Miami’s brand and fan base to the point where it will allow the Heat to see at least $3 million more a year on a minimum six-year deal. That’s another $18 million.
So it seems like LeBron truly is a free agent. As in free money for Miami if he returns to play for the team. That’s three years of LeBron being worth $161.3 million, nearly $100 million more than what the Heat would have to pay him over three seasons.
While many wonder why LeBron is seeking a maximum contract this summer, it’s easy to look at these numbers and understand why. James is going to be worth more than his deal, regardless. But at least a maximum deal will minimize the extent to which he is underpaid.