Sources: It was a wide-ranging call with 80 or so NBA players, and multiple voices. Kyrie, CP3, Melo all vocal.
One quote from Kyrie: “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that. Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.”
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) June 13, 2020
Really, it sounds like Irving has it backward (though we’re not necessarily getting a fair context of the quote). The system is designed to unite players. Max salaries limit the wages of superstars like Irving. Without the max, the disparity between superstars and common players would be even larger. In basketball, top players have such a disproportionate impact in winning and marketing. Yet, the league’s structure caps their wages below what they’d get on a more-open market.
The 40th-highest-paid player earns $26 million (Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge). The 80th-highest-paid player earns nearly $15 million (Hawks center Clint Capela). The 160th-highest-paid players earn $7 million (Wizards forward Davis Bertans and Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova).
Even a player on the rookie minimum earns $898,310 for the season.
That’s so much money!
I’m glad Irving acknowledged he’s coming from a different perspective than many of his fellow players. Irving earned nearly $100 million with the Cavaliers and Celtics, and that was before signing a max contract with the Nets last summer. Irving’s salary this season: Nearly $32 million, which ranks 18th in the league.
But he shouldn’t lose sight that all NBA players are making a lot of money by any reasonable standard. Even considering salary reductions due to the NBA’s reduced revenue, NBA players stand to earn a lot of money by continuing the season. NBA careers are short, and this is an opportunity to cash in.
Racial justice is important, and I don’t doubt Irving’s sincerity in pursuing it. He also should acknowledge how playing can increase black wealth – especially for players who, unlike him, haven’t already gotten rich.