December 17, 2017
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LeBron James

LeBron James who is estimated net worth in the range of $400 million is the best NBA player in the world.

LeBron James- $31.0 million per year and he is on his way to becoming one of the wealthiest athletes ever.

Do you think these guys are over paid. Or you feel like I feel. God Bless them. Get that money. But the bottom line are they over paid.

• Dwight Howard- $23.3 million
• Dwayne Wade- $23.2 million
• Chris Bosh- $24.7 million
• Dirk Nowitzki- $25.0 million

There are few people more valuable in sports than star players. They’re so valuable there might only be one class of player more valuable: star players on below-market contracts. USA TODAY Sports looked at both the dollars and the on-field numbers to find the best example of this type of player in all four major sports. We analyzed the combination of good fortune and shrewd management that allowed organizations to land these players – and keep them around. We previously looked at MLB, where we highlighted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Mike Trout, the NFL, where Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David took top honors, and the NHL, where we chose Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. Last up: the NBA, and a player you might have heard of: LeBron James.

It’s an odd thing on the surface, choosing as a sport’s biggest bargain a player paid the maximum that rules allow. But dating back to his high school days, LeBron James has never been ordinary. From his days at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to his decision to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, James has provided uncommon value to every organization he’s been a part of – and that’s why, despite his max contract, he was an easy choice as the NBA’s best deal.

How to measure the value James provides? Start with what he does on the court. For 10 consecutive seasons, he’s averaged at least 26 points, six rebounds, six assists, and 1.5 steals per game – no one else has done that more than three times overall. According to Basketball Reference, he’s been either first or second in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating for seven years running, and first or second in total win shares for nine straight years. Even after a season which saw Kevin Durant overtake him in both of those metrics and MVP voting, Sports Illustrated still deemed James the game’s top player.

VIDEO: LEBRON: WINNING A TITLE IS ‘NOT GOING TO BE EASY’

USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt was in Ohio for Cavaliers media day, where LeBron James discussed what it will take to bring an NBA championship to Cleveland. USA TODAY Sports

Despite James’s diminished defense and slightly lower overall production last year, he still possesses a more diverse skill set than anyone else in basketball. Because he doesn’t turn 30 until December 30th, he should maintain those skills for at least a few more years. And yet, despite being the best all-around player in the NBA, James’ pay this coming season will only tie for sixth in the league. Paying anything less than basketball’s top salary for him qualifies as a steal.

But James’ value goes far beyond what he does on the floor. There’s his recruiting ability: James’ presence on a team automatically makes that team more attractive to other players. Without landing James, the Cavaliers wouldn’t have been able to trade for Kevin Love (Love cited a phone call from James as a key factor in his willingness to commit to Cleveland), and there’s almost no way they’d have been able to sign Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, and James Jones as free agents.

Despite his successful recruiting efforts in Cleveland, though, it’s James’ pure economic value that truly makes him the game’s biggest bargain. Consider the Cavaliers’ attendance: last season, the team drew a total of 710,522 fans to its 41 home games. That total ranked a pedestrian 16th in the league. Even worse, that figure represented only 84.3 percent capacity of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, good for just 23rd in the NBA. Once James entered the picture, though, season tickets were sold out within a day, and the team instituted a month-by-month lottery to deal with demand. Suffice to say, the team will not have trouble filling seats this year – and, most likely, for many years beyond. That’s to say nothing of ticket sales James will continue to drive in every visiting arena in which he plays, and jersey sales, in which he’s a virtual lock to lead the league for a seventh time.

But it’s the impact he made on the Cavaliers’ franchise value simply by signing with them that might be the most vivid illustration of just how valuable James is. Of course, unless Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sells the team today (don’t count on it) we can’t exactly quantify how much the franchise value increased when James’ Sports Illustrated letter went public, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying. And those who tried came up with enormous numbers: by one estimate, James’ return alone nearly doubled Cleveland’s value, to over $1 billion.

The question becomes not if James is underpaid, but by how much. Star players drive the NBA’s economic engine, to the point that they are, as a group, the most underpaid players in the league. It stands to reason that James, the NBA’s biggest star since Michael Jordan, would fetch the league’s highest salary on an open market. What would that salary be? Multiplepeople have estimated, and even the more conservative guesses say: much more than what he makes now. (For what it’s worth, Kobe Bryant thinks the number would be $75 million.) Split the difference between the high- and low-end guesses and say $50 million, and that means even for his max money this year, James is playing at a $30 million per year discount.

It’s more than raw numbers. As valuable as James was for the Heat, he means much more to the Cavaliers. He knows this, and it’s part of the reason he went back, as he said himself in his letter:

“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time.”

LeBron James would be worth more than he’s paid no matter where he played. But there’s no franchise – no city – he could mean more to than Cleveland, and no city that could mean more to him. His decision to return there was part sentiment and part savvy: the only thing that could make him more of a bargain than he already is would be to win a title with the Cavaliers. But even if he never does, he’ll remain the biggest steal in the game, and by virtue of having him, the Cavaliers will be the NBA’s most fortunate franchise.

Source: usatoday.com

BcommTV Staff Writer

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