If LeBron James Were Paid Like A Shortstop…

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If LeBron James played third base or centerfield and was as dominant in baseball as he is in basketball, he would take home a bigger paycheck twice a month from the team fortunate enough to have him in the lineup.

He also would be expected to play 162 games, take the field in frigid Minneapolis or sweltering St. Louis and give up some of those marvelous endorsement deals around the globe, which doesn’t fully embrace the national pastime. Oh, and he might not have a ring yet.

Some things presumably are worth more even than dollars, which James at least seemed to get when he spoke with reporters at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Friday after the Miami Heat’s shootaround. The subject turned to his value, to the (ahem) sacrifices some star players make and, inevitably, to money.

“It doesn’t matter to me to be the highest-paid player in the league,” James continued. “What I do on the floor shows my value. At the end of the day, I don’t think my value of what I do on the floor can be compensated anyways because of the [collective bargaining agreement].

“If we had the truth, if this was baseball, I’d be up there – real up there. But it’s not. You play by the rules.”

In the big leagues, James’ $17.5 million contract for 2012-13 would rank no higher than 24th, well behind the likes of the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez ($30 million in 2012), the Dodgers’ Vernon Wells ($24.2 million) and Johan Santana of the New York Mets, who gets paid $23.1 million for participating in about 34 games in a healthy year. As it is, James is tied with teammate Chris Bosh for 13th on the NBA pay scale, which is topped by Kobe Bryant‘s $27.8 million from the Lakers (Bryant was “grandfathered” in before current maximum-salary restrictions) .

No one is going to, or at least ever should, hold a telethon for any of these guys. But every so often, the constraints of the NBA’s salary-cap and max salary structures bubble up as fodder for discussion. Sometimes it is unmoored from reality.

Yes, in a purely free-market industry, superstars like James, his Miami cohorts Bosh and Dwyane Wade and maybe two dozen others would break through the artificial ceiling of a maximum salary. Michael Jordan wasn’t bound by max rules in his final season with the Chicago Bulls and pocketed $33.1 million – way back in 1997-98. James himself wondered a couple years ago if his value might soar to $50 million a season. Some have suggested that it would push well beyond that.

And it’s true that MLB has no salary cap, which permits player contracts to settle where the market dictates. But baseball has the aforementioned 162 revenue opportunities and ballparks for 40,000 customers or more.

Also, it is a different sport – one superstar player can’t shift the balance of power in baseball the way he can in basketball, and competitive balance is part of the rationale at least for salary caps. Maybe in theory a team could pay James or Bryant $50 million per season and divvy up the other $8 million and change to 11 other guys. But that probably wouldn’t be the smartest distribution of compensation, in terms of generating the greatest efficiency, morale and results.

It’s true that James, Bosh and Wade all accepted less than top dollar to hook up with the Heat in the summer of 2010 and so far their plan has more than made up the difference in dollars forfeited – an NBA title last June, two trips to The Finals and marketing opportunities that surely trump the amounts they left on the table in Miami’s front office.

It also is true and kind of interesting that James, the heavy favorite to win his fourth MVP award this spring, never has been the NBA’s highest-paid player.

 “I have not had a full max deal yet in my career — that’s a story untold,” James said.

“I don’t get (the credit) for it. That doesn’t matter to me; playing the game is what matters to me. Financially, I’ll sacrifice for the team. It shows for some of the top guys, it isn’t all about money. That’s the genuine side of this, it’s about winning. I understand that.”

Reports had Wade, within earshot of the conversation, reminding them all that James does just fine on at the pay window. Which is a good thing, because that sort of talk can get unseemly fast. It bears no resemblance to the sort of “sacrifice” many NBA fans feel – and make, if they happen to buy tickets to actually attend a game or three – on a daily basis.

NBA money seems to flow in a pretty familiar pattern now: Star players, coming off their rookie deals, most often stay put for their second contracts because their current teams can pay them the most. Then with the freedom of free agency after that, they either re-up for top dollar or go elsewhere, either for the best financial deal available or for something squishier like lifestyle, personal preferences or the best chance to chase a ring.

One last bit of business here: It’s bad form for the person who’s unpaid to talk much about it. Same as it is for active athletes who pronounce their own Hall of Fame-worthiness.

106 Comments

  1. lbj says:

    hey guys, i still think Dwight Howard will go to the Heat

  2. kobeng Burat!!! says:

    WHat LBJ is saying…. LBJ is being paid 17 mil $ Others have higher salaries… But where are they???? uhm kobe??? 30 mil $??? on 10th spot in the WEST… who else Joe Johnson how much did he take on ATL before he was traded to BKN??? 124 million??? Did he make his former TEAM win a title??? NO!!! Who elese???? Amare!!! 100 Million…. for a BENCH???? He chose to go toMIAMI… To win!!! Very simple… Ask ray Allen… why he joined the HEAT??? to WIN… Ask dwight or kobe if it is OK for them to join other team for less money just to win????

  3. In the Heat says:

    LeBron can get whichever contract he wants, honestly. He’s not stupid. If he wanted to play alongside other superstars on the same team for several years he has to make it possible for the team by not draining all their funds. And so far it’s paid off with one championship. LeBron still makes a hell of a lot more money than most if not all basketball players. The NBA contract is not the biggest paycheck for the best superstars. Not even close!

  4. dattebayo says:

    This is the perfect article for LBJ haters to get worked up about nothing. I think he just said the truth and gave an honest answer, even though it is arrogant. He is the best player in the league, is among the leaders in points, minutes, FG%, freethrows and so on. If there was no bargaining agreement, no salary restrictions of any kind and you could pay every player partially guaranteed contracts that pay according to their individual success and the teams success, he would be the highest player in the league. Following that logic, it’s just a factual statement to come out and say you can’t be paid what you are worth under the current CBA. That doesn’t mean he thinks that he isn’t already well compensated to begin with, though.

    If you compare Kobe and Lebron, you can kinda see his point. Next season Kobe will be paid 30 million at the age of 34 and Lebron in his prime will be paid 19 million, that’s ridiculous.

  5. johnn says:

    whhtatttaaa.. nice!!

  6. Marcus Jarred Price says:

    Lebron deserves to be paid a lot of money and I mean a lot shoot y’all Betta pat that man I’m his biggest fan

  7. babaganouj says:

    Fans get so worked up about the pay. They are underpaid. Why? Because I bet most of the arenas could add 10% to every charge, tickets, food, etc. and still not lose many fans. The get paid what the market dictates. The owners get paid what the market dictates. Who has control over what they get paid? The fan. The money all originates from us. Your values, societies values are reflected in where we spend our money so don’t get angry with the players, try to change the thinking of the average joe fan.

  8. lafan says:

    Kobe Bryant for MVP.. thats all ima say

  9. Traxnificent says:

    What kind of foolishness are you people talking about, he chose to get less money. plus he gets paid well enough anyway through sponsorship.

  10. stanyang703 says:

    Lebron made his own choice to sacrafice his cash and team up with the miami heat superfriends for rings. His situation is different from most other players on stacked teams because most players were traded by their organizations, but Lebron was free to make his choice.

    it’s an argument to discuss if he’s underpaid, but 50 million? and well beyond that? are u on E steve?

  11. Just saying... says:

    HIS NOT GETTING PAID MUCH BUT HIS ENDORSEMENTS IS WHERE HE RACKS UP THE MONEY. THE AMOUNT HE GETS IS MORE THAN ENOUGH IN ENDORSEMENTS ALONE.. stop making the wealthy wealthier.

  12. jbo says:

    His endorsements make up for that pay-cut he took….and plus more…!

  13. CHUCK NORRIS says:

    IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT ANY OF THESE PLAYERS ARE PAID. THEY CAN ALL BUY WHATEVER THEY WANT!

  14. flowerpot says:

    At some point the name of Billy Hunter should be mentioned.

  15. LeBron is going to take his talents to Brooklyn in 2014! He will then be paid what he is worth and will help the NETS compete for championship. Watch as the story unfolds.

  16. Pomeranian puppies says:

    Lebron chose to cut hIs paychecks and now hes saying the paid doesnt justify his performances. Im befuddled. Tim duncan 9mil j r smith 2 mil and derek fisher 3 mil(2012) all chose to sacrifice their money for their teams to better off and you dont hear them griping

  17. Heat fan says:

    Lebron James is in no way underpaid. Especially compared to baseball atheltes. 162 games per season vs. 81 games per season. The best baseball players SHOULD be making more than the best NBA players. It’s basic economics.

    Not to mention that baseball games are longer than NBA games, which means more advertising breaks (additional revenue) and MLB stadiums are much larger than NBA arenas (more tickets to sell = additional revenue.)

  18. Dying NBA fan says:

    LeBron is not underpaid; all other NBA players are overpaid. It’s basketball, not heart surgery, fighting fires, or teaching.

  19. Juan Dela Cruz says:

    Can anyone please tell me what’s the commentators name? thanks..

  20. Miki says:

    Poor poor LeBron, only 17 million dollars per year…. great sacrifice

  21. joke says:

    you honestly think he isn’t compensated in some way from a company such as nike? taking a 10 million dollar hit on his contract isnt noticable. It’s hardly sacrifice.

  22. ene be a says:

    Its more about the love for the game and win than the cash cash money…

  23. PatrickS says:

    he makes up for it with the money he gets from nike

  24. NEET says:

    Professional athletes shouldn’t really complain anyways. It probably takes me 2 years for to make as much as they do in a month. This was why I thought the lockout was a joke too.

  25. 4dawyn says:

    No Lebron isnt underpaid! But yes Bosh is SUPER OVERPAID!!!

  26. TheCeltic says:

    lebron underpaid, Dwyane overpaid

  27. Nebraska says:

    “Financially, I’ll sacrifice for the team. ” Sure, he’ll take just $17 million, that’s almost like playing for free.

  28. cp10 says:

    Nike paid LeBron nearly $100M (one hundred million) for years 2003-2010. ** LeBron is swimming in dough and does not need the money. **

  29. JOAO says:

    To all the people saying that professional athletes are overpaid and other people with more important jobs, like brain surgeons, should make more money… i have to explain something: a professional athlete has a much bigger salary than these other people not because their job is important, but their salary, much like anybody else’s, are based on how much money he/she can generate. A NBA player can be worthless on the court, but as long as he keeps making huge profit for other people (like selling jerseys and things like that) he’s gonna have an astronomic salary.
    A brain surgeon can be very important, but i don’t think i have ever seen a brain surgeon’s name in twitter’s trending topics, for example,
    Maybe it’s sad, maybe it’s not the way it should be, but that’s the way it is

  30. bird says:

    anyone who is complaining that athletes are paid too much should stop watching sports, because you are the reason why they’re paid that much money

  31. Dani says:

    LOL Whats the big deal? Credit?

    He choose it by joining the Heat…he made the sacrifice to join another superstar for the chance of wnning.

    Dont know what you want really?

    You could of be the highest paid player if you wanted, stay with the Cavs.

  32. aaron says:

    why is there even a discussion about this? OMG LeBron makes 17.5 million + about 40 million /year in endorsements…i feel so sorry for him? Gimme a Break, why is there a discussion or an article even mentioning this absurdity

  33. Henrik Jensen says:

    stupid discussion

  34. Mark says:

    These guys should try a real job with a real life with real debts and limited income. One year’s salary is enough to ensure these guys never need to work, their kids never need to work and their grand kids never need to work. Yes, they entertain millions of people and their pay should reflect that. They should receive a decent share of the money they make for the teams and the league, but complaining about it is just stupid.

  35. Underpaid My A$$ says:

    For anyone to say that pro athletes are underpaid is crazy. Pro’s make multi million dollar contracts to play a sport. It’s not as if they are saving lives or protecting people. Police, Nurses, Ambo’s, these are the people that should be making big $$$ but they don’t.

    • Hm says:

      Saving lives is not a requirement for making money, silly. If your services are valuable to people, you will get paid. Salary caps prevent people from getting paid what they deserve. Meanwhile, the revenue for owners and the league stays the same.

  36. GOAT says:

    Another pointless and irrelevant article by Steve Aschburner

  37. Marco Polo says:

    He is fine. Player of his caliber earns even more through commercials, endorsements…

  38. the black mamba says:

    Understand and agre he isn’t underpaid and that others are overpaid. They should all get a max of ten mil and have it be that way. Until lebron wins 5 rings though you can’t argue about kb24 making more

  39. Mr. Peabody says:

    He sacrificed nothing. He still makes more money than he knows what to do with! He wanted to get a championship. He still is paid more than 100 million over his Heat contract. Give me a break!!

  40. Petey says:

    I think having a Salary caps is a derivative of communism! We need a Texan to take over the NBA!

  41. cris says:

    Well didn’t he take a pay cut to join the heat

  42. money guy says:

    the important thing for him is to be in a team with a good players,that’s why his underpaid.so the heat can afford him and dwayne wade.

  43. yoyoma says:

    Underpaid? are you kidding me? Doctors who save lives and preform surgery make less than minimum wage compared to NBA players. Stupid article.

  44. James says:

    I think everyone makes sacrifices. I took a 50% pay cut in order to live in San Diego instead of Reno. No one gives me credit either. I don’t understand why he wants credit for doing something that he chose to benefit his own career…?

  45. JRM says:

    for the amount that these teams are worth and the amount of money the league makes he should be getting more. a player like LeBron that brings so much attention and money into the league and for the fact that he is the best of the league he should be paid the top salary. its simple.

    • CELTIC THUNDER says:

      if he played for say the hornets or the magic he would be getting top dollar this year.its not that people are cheating him out of 15 odd million he made the choice so there is no arguement to say he shoud be getting more

  46. erik says:

    “I don’t get (the credit) for it (taking a pay “cut”). That doesn’t matter to me”

    So why bring it up if it doesn’t matter to him….such a hypocrite.

    • LBJ 4 prez says:

      He sacrificed for a ring. he made the decision. and its paying off

    • DJ3 says:

      Do you even know what hypcrite means? Bringing up something that doesn’t matter to him isn’t being a hypocrite. He might have been quoting a question he was asked. You don’t know. Being a hypocrite is like saying “That doesn’t matter to me. I just want it. It doesn’t matter, but I want it. And if I don’t get it, I won’t try.”

    • Jay says:

      exactly what I thought. he obviously wants the credit for his decision

  47. james says:

    I dont think this kind of stuff matters to him, He could live with much less than 15 mil.

  48. don says:

    i get da most money 78.000,000,000 HA HA HA HA

  49. KINGKONGJAMES says:

    STEVE ASCHBURNER is overpaid

  50. Buy-a-ship says:

    He wanted a championship so he sacrificed the money. Kind of like what we do when we go to a store…it’s called buying.

  51. Kevin says:

    LeBron is one of the few stars that are ok with sacrificing money for the better of the team. Shows not everyone is greedy.

  52. Kev says:

    There is something wrong with an individual when they say any professional sports player is getting under paid or should get paid more! I love sports, especially basketball, but to think that any sports player should get more than a million per year is absurd.

  53. Ben says:

    LeBron chose to be paid in rings instead of dollars. It’s the same choice Tim Duncan and Tony Parker made years ago, and I think it’s usually the decision that makes people happier in the long run. It doesn’t matter how much you earn, you’ll be having more fun winning than losing. I reckon Harden made the wrong call. But there you go.

  54. Would be awesome to see someone donate their salary to charity one season……

    • CELTIC THUNDER says:

      that would never happen man MAYBE one day some one would donate there anual endorsment earnings but even then it would be a popularity move made with the intention of boosting there popularity and earning them more money through the increase in there merchandise sales

    • ardefen says:

      i believe d.w. tithes (gives 10% of) his salary to a church. AND doesn’t make a big song and dance about it. some of these guys are much better people than you might think.

  55. ToothQuake says:

    He plays a game for a living. In no way is he overpaid, again, he plays a game for a living. Shouldn’t lose sight of that, he uses his talent to entertain fans. Not as if he’s actually curing cancer or doing something that actually profits mankind. Making millions and being called underpaid is crazy, esp to play a game.

    • yj says:

      every time you watch a game or buy a ticket or spend some money in t-shirts hats and all of those stuff you are contributing to the salary of these players, so why dont you stop doing that and save that money to give it to charity. but wait a minute you are already doing that couse the NBA and players like lebron and many others take part of the money that you and millions of people pay them and give it charity. and also do you have any idea of what these people have to do to be where they are, how much work they put every day to be in shape to be able to play at these level? the traveling the time they loose without there families to antertain us, and you bellieve they shoulnt be paid as they deserve? they dont play for living, they live for playing wich is totally diferent thats there job. keep in midn how many athletes try to get there and don’t get it,

    • Hm says:

      Is there anyone in these comments who has read at least an introduction to economics? It seems like there isn’t.

  56. SynByn says:

    Hes not underpaid. Other athletes are way too overpaid. Athletes should be getting paid less.

    • Tayo Akomolede says:

      If you think athletes should be paid less then you know nothing about sports, or capitalism for that matter. An star athlete makes his franchise waaaay more money than what a doctor does for a hospital.

  57. Concerned says:

    To be honest I just think athletes are so overpaid. They should be greatful that they can play a sport they can love and actually get paid for it. It’s not that I do not think they should be getting paid cheap but def alot cheaper. Anything above 5 million is just insane. Others say anything above a million is insane aswell.

    • yj says:

      there is somthing you need to keep in mind, what really is insane is to think of the millions of dollars that the franchises make out of players like lebron and others, and not to give them back what they deserve according to what they make the team earn it’s just crazy. do you think cleveland’s arena’s attandance it’s the same now that lebron it’s gone? so we have to understand that elite players like lebron, kobe etc are the ones that get every arena were they go full, and thats equal to a lot of money fot the teams they play for. it’s just right to pay them back the way the deserve. do you think the lakers have a problem paying kobe more than 27 millions a year, of course not, they get much more than that only with the money they make selling his t-shirt. you may think that profesionals like doctors dont make that amount of money, but that’s just couse they dont move the crowd like these stars do, just think how much do you spend in a ticket for game and compare that to what you have to spend when you go to the hospital, the difference is that the doctor have less costumers than basketball do. and that just because there are many doctors around the world but there’s only one NBA, threre’s only one lebron, one kobe, one jordan and if they have that many costumers it’s just a proof of how good they are at the sport many love so much and that’s why they should be paid well couse they deserve it.

    • Hm says:

      No, you’re right. The suits should be raking in all the money, not the athletes who actually provide the entertainment.

  58. Devin says:

    Correction: Vernon Wells is an Angel, not a Dodger.

  59. KB24 says:

    lebron isn’t under paid at all, its fine just the way it is.

    • lol says:

      dude lebron is the 13th most paid player in the NBA. does that sound right to you? name 13 players better than lebron

      • me says:

        Name how many teams that are as stacked as Miami

      • KareemoftheCrop says:

        lol, you are not even thinking. Lebron took a PAYCUT to play at Miami. This is OLD news.

      • big jebb says:

        all the players in the d-league

      • Pepe says:

        Well if we take into consideration that each team can carry up to a maximum of 15 players. But, even though they can carry as few as 12. So, we would have to consider that each year the number of players range anywhere from 360 to 450, and there are 30 teams in the league. be the # 13 in the NBA is not nothing bad and far be underpaid.

  60. MJ says:

    Jordan earned what he got. Lebron accepted a low pay per year to team up with Bosh and Wade. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Winning Championships is more important than making more money. Plus it is better if the NBA has a regulation to pay those players more that perform and give results to the team (ex. record improvement, team chemistry, leadership, etc). Success cannot be handed otherwise the players will have bad work ethics.

  61. James says:

    Well, Bron Bron could be making more, but teams have salary caps. You don’t have another elite player and a high level perrenial all star next to you and not expect a pay cut.

  62. Nice Job LeBron James ur the best

  63. Joao says:

    He’s not underpaid, the matter is the other athletes are OVERpaid. There is no such thing as an underpaid professional athlete.

    • Carl says:

      WELL SAID! Doctors and brain surgeons don’t even come CLOSE to the amount of money these men make in their lifetimes.

      • John Q says:

        Doctors and Brain surgeons do not generate the type of entertainment services that these athletes provide to their audience; hence their compensation bracket. Asking the athletes to receive a fraction of the revenue that they help their teams generate would be borderline slavery. Your argument is like comparing grapes and fishes.

      • Rob says:

        Perhaps the problem is that all those entertainment services are also overpaid.

      • K. Tsui says:

        You also have to consider how many years does althetes play, 20 years if healthy and talented? There’s also road trips. Althetes children may have a hard time because there will always be haters for their parents and the possibility of moving in they get traded.

      • Fo Real says:

        true doctors and surgeons dont make that kind of money.

        But doctors and surgens dont sacrafice their body everyday, They dont give up the pleasures of alchol and other substances.
        See they get compoensated very well for saving lives and its sad but thats how it is.

        Sport generates motivation, aspirations, discipline, hope and competitive achievement.

        Athletes are role models and just by doing some community work they can make kids make the right decisions.
        See doctors are there for when something goes wrong and we do need that very much but Athletes can pave a road for people/kids to make the right decisions.

        And when it comes to compensation, there is nobody else to blame but ourselves! Us, the Fans, we pay for their pay cheque by falling in love with their abilities and our love for the sport.

        I rather have the players make more money than the fat cats in the executive offices becauase in the end the players win the games and put in 80 percent of the overall hard work a franchise needs to become a winner.

        So if you afre truly unhappy with the way players are paid stop watching sports and buying merchandise.

        Thats the real deal.

      • Elvisto says:

        you guys are actually crazy trying to compare athletes and doctors…..athletes are way overpaid and that’s it, its crazy to evan think that they are not
        @foReal your argument can’t change the fact that they are overpaid, and have you ever seen a drunk doctor???

      • Fo Real says:

        @elvisto

        bro I have… there not all as ethical as you think and athletes are over paid because of us period bro.. i have no more to say.

    • aaaaaa says:

      It’s not that I don’t agree, but I don’t care. If you truly believe and stick by that statement, then you should stop watching sports all together because every time you watch a game, you are paying the athletes.

    • Hm says:

      Which shows how clueless you and those who agree with you are.

  64. waltwilliams55 says:

    boring.

  65. as says:

    +/- 10 mln a year does not matter for James, he gets way more money from advertising and etc. If I remember correctly he earns about 50 mln a year all together.
    That more than guaranties healthy life for him and his family. But the fame and satisfaction he gets from being in a strong team with a guys like Wade and Bosh is worth a bit less $.

  66. Williamb says:

    Lebron chose not to get paid anymore.. that was part of the deal of joining the heat.

    • Lechron says:

      Exactly

    • LeChoke says:

      I CAN’T BELIEVE LEBRON IS COMPLAINING ABOUT THIS!
      He won a Ring BECAUSE he decided to get paid less! It allowed them to sign good teammates, otherwise he would have a scrub bench.

      • Abbanndonn says:

        Are you high? He is not complaining at all.

      • Lakers fan preaching patience says:

        dude he wasn’t complaining, quite the opposite. He basically said that he doesnt care about being the top paid player, he just wants to win. Bad choice of words though to say that he “sacraficed”…

      • Fo Real says:

        how in the F$%# is he complaining…. learn to read dude.

  67. rondo says:

    Since when was Vernon Wells on the dodgers. He was on the blue jays and he is on the angels right now.