With NBA Free Agency about to hit at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time Wednesday morning, we’re undoubtedly about to see another potluck of massive max contracts be handed out in the National Basketball Association per usual every free agency period in professional sports. Even though nine of the top ten biggest contracts in American professional sports are in Major League Baseball, the money about to be thrown around between sports executives and professional athletes still continues to remind us how much money these athletes really make. With another year, we witness another increase in these huge contracts.
Kobe Bryant, who has had his season cut short the last two seasons yet remains one of the faces of the National Basketball Association, had the largest contract in NBA history in terms of contract value when he signed a 7-year, $136 million dollar contract in 2004. Bryant is still the highest paid athlete in the NBA annually, slotted to make $25 million in 2015-16. If LeBron James, arguably THE face of the NBA were looking for a maximum contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he would likely shatter that number, but James is likely sticking to one-year contracts for the foreseeable future to stay ahead of the expected explosion in the 2016-17 salary cap due to the NBA’s new TV deal. Regardless, the massive money is still there.
$25 million per season is roughly the maximum annual salary an NBA player can currently make as of the 2014-15 salary cap, and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat currently has the most guaranteed money in any contract in the NBA at $118.7 million. As astronomical as those numbers may be, they pale in comparison to the previously mentioned contracts in Major League Baseball. The largest contract in baseball belongs to Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins. Stanton signed a colossal 13-year, $325 million dollar contract just this year, and Stanton will be 38 at the end of his contract. If we’ve learned anything with contracts that size in Major League Baseball, it’s that clubs rarely are happy with those deals in the latter years of the deals. See Alex Rodriguez’ 10-year deal worth $275 million signed in 2008. However clubs continue to dish out these contracts in hopes of not just keeping their athletes happy, but also to keep them wearing their club’s jersey and not pinstripes. Smart or not, the contracts continue to be handed out.
As often as we witness these contracts be signed, the question continues to remain in professional sports… will the salaries of these massive contracts continue to be on this seemingly non-stop increase? With the revenue being earned in professional sports, all signs point to a profound yes. The total market revenue of the aforementioned NBA was $4.56 billion in 2013-14, $9 billion in 2014 for MLB, and league with the highest yearly revenue which we haven’t even mentioned yet was the National Football League at $9.5 billion in 2013. However with the NBA’s new TV deal, there’s a realistic chance that the deal could dethrone the NFL as the league with the highest revenue.
Revenue increase in sports leagues could only mean one thing. We’re nowhere near witnessing the end of these massive contracts. Athletes like Giancarlo Stanton and Kobe Bryant who are or have been a large contributing factor to the financial success to professional sports will sign on the dotted line as long as the money continues to come in. The leagues make more money, the athletes make money. It’s that simple. If the amount of money being handed out to individuals just seems too crazy to fathom, it’s only because the demand for professional sports is constantly on the rise. With these new TV deals such as that of the NBA in 2016-17, the supply wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the demand.
Even with a consistent decrease in game attendance, especially in Major League Baseball, the fandom of sitting on your couch and having every sports package possible directly contributes to the funding of the very athletes that are making these monumental contracts. It’s also worth mentioning that more often than not, these athletes on that level of earning these long-term big time contracts, are the same athletes who receive massive endorsements that could likely pay for their yearly expenses all on their own. Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski recently revealed that he doesn’t spend any of his contract earnings. “To this day, I still haven’t touched one dime of my signing bonus or NFL contract money. I live off my marketing money and haven’t blown it on any big-money expensive cars, expensive jewelry or tattoos and still wear my favorite pair of jeans from high school,” Gronkowski said.
As long as there continues to be an exponential increase in league revenue in every professional sport withs the fans continuing to watch, these massive contracts being handed out to the faces of the franchises will only get bigger. With the success and fanfare of professional sports, it’s hard to imagine there’s ever a scenario in which a ceiling is ever hit in the foreseeable future.