Adrian Wojnarowski was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show this morning. They discussed the Jason Kidd fiasco, as well as NBA free agency, which obviously steered towards LeBron and the Heat. Woj noted that after Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem opted out, there isn’t a whole lot of optimism around the league that LeBron would leave Miami — they wouldn’t have taken less money unless some sort of deal to keep the team intact was in place.
When Patrick asked if LeBron was going to make the max, Wojnarowski had an interesting response:
I’m told it’s gonna be max, or close to max. … For me, he’s the best player in the league. He should be the highest paid player. I know nobody wants to hear it, and whatever they’re making is enough — I get that — but the star player in the NBA is the most underpaid star in pro sports. They fill arenas everywhere they go, they drive immense TV ratings, they make the difference between winning and losing unlike anyone in sports, except maybe a quarterback in football.
The owners have to love that these guys all keep taking less instead of getting what the value should be for a star player. If we’re on an open market — with the owners in this league — LeBron would be worth $50-60 million per year.
Last week, Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner used advanced stats to come up with what LeBron would be worth if there were no max contracts, but the total amount of money paid to salaries (including luxury tax spending), and came up with either $30.3 million, $44.8 million or $57.3 million, depending on the stats.
If there were a true open market — i.e. no max contracts, no salary cap, and no luxury tax — I honestly think LeBron might go for even greater than the tail end of Wojnarowski’s supposition and Deadspin’s calculations (though the latter acknowledged the Knicks would probably bid far more). When the Clippers sold for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer, economists said that the former Microsoft executive bought a “toy” for perhaps three times its intrinsic value.
Wouldn’t there be similar irrational bidding based on psychic benefits for LeBron’s services? Could you put a price on getting to sit court-side in your own arena 50 times a year, knowing that you have about the greatest chance of winning a championship? We’ll obviously never find out, but it’s something to think about whenever you hear that it’s a no-brainer that LeBron, and other superstars, should take less money.