Before you catch me ranting over the injustice of it all, let me allow the numbers to do some shouting. The following is a list of nine NBA players, each with his statistics from the 2001-02 season, and his salary for the season at hand (figures confirmed by the NBA Players Association). Ive picked three certifiable superstars, three middle-class players (role players who may or may not start, but are regular members of their respective teams rotation) and then three scrubs (players who wouldnt be missed by fans, media, or their teammates were they to take up, say, boccie).
If youre going to complain about salaries in professional sports these days, you might as well gripe about getting wet in a rainstorm. Be that as it may, this is an economic (and social) structure gone horribly bad.Players like Shaq-daddy and Duncan earn every dime of their colossal paychecks. They move turnstiles by themselves. But when basketball players like Rose and Thomas -- neither of whom will ever make the difference between his team being a champion and an also-ran -- are taking in more than $10 million PER YEAR for their middle-of-the-road performances . . . well, someone needs to scream about it. The worst part? There are these types of players on every NBA roster. (Call me a homer, but I intentionally skipped the Grizzlies roster in tabulating this column. Suffice it to say the inflated dollar signs can be found here in our own backyard.) Whos to blame here? Certainly not the players. Rest assured, if Bill Russell and Jerry West could have earned $15 million a year, they would have taken it with broad smiles (and make no mistake, they didnt earn anywhere near that). If were to point fingers at all, it would have to be at the three-headed monster that makes the NBA what it is: owners, corporate sponsors, and yes, fans. The billionaires who make up the NBA Fraternity of Owners buy into a club, then leverage the franchise against a community for the publicly-funded construction of a new facility . . . a building that will pad the owners pockets, and yes, provide prime seating for the local corporate fat cats. Which brings us to the big-dollar sponsors. If you didnt have companies willing to spend millions of dollars to attach their name to an arena or become sole sponsor of each telecasts [fill in the blank] Fast Break, you would have organizations that are more in touch with managing their finances (read: payroll). And finally, when loyal fans are willing to spend thousands for season tickets, well, you get what you pay for. The sad part in all this is knowing how hard it is for kids to get close to their heroes when the prime seats are occupied by CEOs and sponsors. A family of four attending an NBA game on even a moderate budget can count on parting with $200. Nothing like the annual trip across town to see the home team. Im no economist, but I understand enough about the trickle-down concept to know that if the ninth or tenth player on an NBA roster had his salary cut from, say, $6 million annually to a paltry million, that would be $5 million off the books for that teams fan base to cover. We have to start somewhere, folks. Why not Shandon Anderson?