Stephen Curry has been the best bargain in the NBA for the past four seasons. The 2015 and 2016 MVP signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension with the Golden State Warriors at a time when ankle injuries threatened to ruin his career. But a clean bill of health, a leap to superstardom and a rapidly rising salary cap turned that deal into a vast underpayment. To make just one comparison, Curry earned less over the past four years than Milwaukee Bucks wing Tony Snell will reportedly make through the 2020-21 season. It’s hard to imagine a better situation for Golden State, especially when you consider Curry’s low cap figure allowed them to sign Kevin Durant under the cap last summer.
The NBA’s max salary restrictions mean that Curry will probably continue be a bargain regardless of how much he makes in the 2017-18 season and beyond. However, he’s about to become a whole lot richer. As The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported minutes into the league’s free-agency period, Curry and the Warriors have agreed on a five-year, $201 million max contract. It’s the richest contract in NBA history and the most lucrative deal by annual value in the history of American sports.
Curry’s new salary beats out the previous NBA record of $33 million set by Michael Jordan in his one-year deal for the 1997-98 season. The greatest annual value in any American sport belongs to Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206 million deal before the 2016 season that averages out to just over $34.4 million per year. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees earned $40 million in the NFL’s 2012 season, too, but $37 million of that figure came from his signing bonus. Oakland Raiders quarterback David Carr recently became that league’s highest-paid player by annual value at $25 million, although NFL salaries are not fully guaranteed.
Curry’s record might not last long. Veteran superstars LeBron James and Chris Paul could stand to earn more than Curry’s $201 million next summer if they choose to sign five-year contracts. Additionally, baseball stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper could earn approximately $40 million on significantly longer contracts when they become free agents.
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