Saturday 20 January 2018 / 02:37 AM



With the sudden spike in the salary cap for the NBA, contracts have soared in this offseason, as second- and third-tier players are getting contracts normally reserved for stars, and stars are receiving huge contracts.

The NBA world has been buzzing as players like Matthew Dellavedova, a seventh man for the champion Cavaliers, was greeted with a contract worth over $10 million per season.

The influx of new money into the league has led to the predictable ramblings of overpaid athletes, and the shame of a game dominated by money and players concerned more about bank balances than their sport.

But is this something that we should be complaining about? I mean, surely it is outrageous that a guy like Timofey Mozgov is getting paid the kind of money he is, when Steph Curry, the league’s MVP, makes less?

Well, yes and no. More on that in a minute, but the other big argument, other than the complaints of compared salaries, is the comparison to the NFL.

A meme created by an ESPN writer that was circulated recently showed that five of the NBA’s newest contracts are richer, with more guaranteed money than eleven NFL starting quarterbacks, including the NFL’s MVP, Cam Newton. Everyone is criticizing the NBA’s new money boom, and it hasn’t slowed down.

So why is the pay gap so great between the NFL and NBA?

Well, there’s a multitude of reasons. Some of this is common sense. There are 53 players on an active NFL roster, compared to a max of 15 on the typical NBA roster. Factor that into the salary cap of the team, and a basketball player is going to have much more a financial impact than the average NFL player. And barring the NFL trimming rosters down, or the NBA doubling theirs, this disparity isn’t going away.

But moving away from the obvious reason for gap, why else is the top tier of the NBA and the NFL so far apart?

Well, first off, the NFL’s players agreed to it. See, this all boils down to two separate CBA agreements for both leagues. For those not following, a CBA is a collective bargaining agreement. It’s that thing that sometimes causes a lockout, where players and owners battle over who gets how much money and when. Put simply, it’s the agreement on how the revenue of the league is shared.

The NBA worked theirs out a couple of years ago. In it, they got things like guaranteed money for veterans of the league, hire shares of revenue, and increase to the salary cap pursuant to increases of revenue. This was the reason the cap jumped so high and so quickly. The NBA wanted to spread the rise out over five or 10 years, but the NBA Players’ Association fought for it to go up immediately, giving the players the money right away. And the biggest win of the NBA CBA is the decision to pretty much divide revenue 50-50 between players and owners.

In the NFL’s CBA, however, the revenue isn’t quite an even split. The owners keep more, and the player cap is set and firm. The NFL also has a much lower hard cap, which is the amount the teams in the league absolutely cannot go over. In the NBA, a soft cap dominates. Which is to say that you’re way more likely to see a team over the cap than under it.

Also, guaranteed money has become a thing in the NBA, thanks to negotiations from the NBAPA. Now, most contracts are completely guaranteed, at least for the first two years. Yes, it’s true that Timofey Mozgov will get $16 million guaranteed next season, which is more than all but three NFL starting QBs. It’s also true that DeMar DeRozan will get more guaranteed money than Cam Newton or Russell Wilson. But that’s to be expected. In the NFL, no deals are set in stone. In fact, an NFL contract can pretty much be voided at any time. In the NBA, it takes some level of cause.

Sure, the rise of the NBA salary cap is unprecedented and something to get used to. But the deal the NFL players have is far from unfair, given they are fresh off a lockout that they got a shallow deal from. The players had the leverage and baulked, while the NBAPA stood tall.

The NFL players play with the rules the NFLPA got them. So, in 2020, they’ll have a chance to swing things a little more closer to their favor. But until then, let’s not compare two sets of players playing two different games by two different sets of rules.

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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