Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be the NBA's highest paid player next… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Amid economic uncertainty and a more restrictive labor deal, one thing remains unchanged.
NBA superstars still make a ton of money. According to Hoopsworld, Kobe Bryant's $27.8 million salary in the 2012-13 season will make him the highest paid NBA player. So too do the players behind him, including Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki ($20.9 million), New York forward Carmelo Anthony ($20.4 million) and New York forward Amare Stoudemire ($19.9 million). The Lakers will also pay top dollar to other players next season, including Dwight Howard ($19.5 million) and Pau Gasol ($19 million).
Considering the high unemployment rate and stagnant wages, it's easy to moan about such high salaries. It also opens up a discussion about society's valuing entertainers and athletes over more basic services, such as police officers, firemen, teachers. But from a pure market standpoint, these superstars deserve every penny.
The recent collective bargaining agreement curbed high spending on players. But those were ones who either severely dropped off in their play or convinced front offices to pay them more then their worth. But the ones who still make max contracts have managed to produce and thread the needle on their respective franchises.
Bryant's obviously cemented himself as one of the league's greats with his five championships, and it's fair to argue the Lakers wouldn't have secured a lucrative deal with Time Warner Cable without his presence. Lakers fans may wonder if Gasol will ever regain consistency, but it's arguable the Lakers wouldn't have made three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and won championships in 2009 and 2010 without him. And even if Howard has lots of maturing to do, his arrival to L.A. excited the fan base and sent ticket prices through the hoop.
How the Lakers manage these finances moving forward could be interesting.
Bryant has a two-year, $58-million contract set to expire after the 2013-14 season, and he's publicly indicated he may retire by then. But Bryant may feel he has both the energy and supporting cast around him to squeeze out more titles. Gasol's two-year, $38-million contract expires at the same time. The Lakers may have valued him enough to keep him now despite persistent trade talks, but how much will they value him then when they know they can trim payroll? If the Lakers have it their way, Howard will immediately re-sign with them after this season to a five-year, $117.9-million contract, as opposed to a maximum four-year, $87.6-million deal with another team.
Considering the Lakers have a $100-million payroll, it's likely they'll have to pinch money elsewhere. But they've done that so far as peripheral issues, such as signing bench reserve Antawn Jamison to a veteran's minimum ($1.4 million) and refusing to spend the $3 million mini mid-level exception.
Lakers fans shouldn't be offended that Bryant, Gasol and Howard make so much money. They should simply be grateful that the Lakers understand that's the price they have to pay to ensure a championship-caliber team.
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