Even in the face of back-to-back NBA titles, four league MVP awards, and 10 All-NBA selections, amazingly LeBron James has never led his team in the one area some would tell you truly matters the most.
Believe it or not, the 29-year-old James has never been the top paid player on his own team during his 11 NBA seasons, and even now is being dogged by some for daring to assert those days are now over. The Miami Heat star has let Pat Riley and anyone else who might be interested in securing his services know that he’s looking for a max deal in summer free agency and nothing less.
Just how the aforementioned reality could ever be the case to begin with and James even now feeling a need to justify himself in asserting the absurdity of it all let’s you know just how much the NBA remains an owner-driven league.
New York star forward Carmelo Anthony is hearing many of the same barbs directed at James for taking a similar stance. Before reportedly extending the league’s No. 2 overall scorer a max offer during their most recent sit-down, Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson publicly chided Anthony to “be true to his word” and take less to remain to the Knicks like he hinted he might be willing to do earlier in the season when the subject of giving himself the best chance to compete for an NBA title was broached.
“Why is it that our best players should be getting less than they’re worth?” a somewhat hot and bothered by it all union exec recently told the Sporting News. “We have a collective-bargaining agreement that already limits what star players can make, and limits the total amount teams can pay. We have a very tough luxury tax. And now you have teams publicly shaming their best players into a bigger cut?”
Most would agree the players came out on the short-end in netting the collective bargaining agreement the two sides inked two years ago that dropped the overall share of revenues they receive by seven percent, from 57 to 50. That has been estimated at $350 million more per year going to the owners, which, over the life of the 10-year agreement, would be $3.5 billion.
And still the owners are demanding more? Still, they try to shame stars like James and Anthony into less than they can get when barely a word is uttered when the likes of Donald Sterling stand to get as much as $2 billion upon literally being forced to sell long mismanaged L.A. Clippers franchise?
“It’s just ridiculous,” added another agent. “There is this whole brainwashing thing going on and teams are selling it to their fans that this player or that player should take less, that they would not take their money if they truly cared about winning. That’s BS. If you want to win, you’re the owner, go over the tax line. This is the CBA you wanted, this is what the owners wanted. Why does the money come out of the players’ pockets? The players just gave back a huge amount in the CBA. But, no, that’s the brainwashing — that the players are the bad guys if they try to get what the CBA says they should get.”
James took less to come to South Beach four years ago and there were rumblings he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh might all be willing to do so again this summer before The King apparently had a change of heart and an awakening of the cerebrum.
And who can really blame him? Even the LeBron James brand can command top dollar for only so long.