The amount of TV commentary, internet articles and celebrity tweets about the money NBA free agents are making this offseason is almost as overwhelming as the numbers attached to the lucrative contracts. Thanks to that escalating salary cap, players have been receiving offers that never would’ve made sense in a different economic landscape, yet here we are, looking at Mike Conley as the highest-paid player in the history of the sport.
That’s not to say that Conley isn’t deserving of his huge deal, which amounts to approximately $153 million over the course of five years. But to see him haul in that kind of cheddar is undeniably staggering considering his output compared to other, more legendary point guards in this league.
Still, that’s the way things are going. Max contracts are based on a percentage of the cap so when the cap goes up, those max contract offers are worth more. And right now, more teams than usual have the ability to offer max deals, meaning contracts like Conely’s are bound to happen.
It is worth nothing, however, that Conley just barely holds the record for the largest contract of all-time, and the previous (short-lived) record holder may come as a bit of a surprise.
It was Damian Lillard, who agreed to a five-year, $120 million extension with the Portland Trail Blazers last summer. That in and of itself doesn’t qualify him as the record-breaker, however, as there have been a number of contracts worth quite a bit more than that. But when Lillard was named to his second All-NBA team this past May, he got the “Derrick Rose” kicker that increased his contract up to $151.8 million over those five years, a scant $1.2 million behind where Conley ended up with this expanded cap.
After those two guys, nobody is even close, though DeMar DeRozan is now the third-largest contract in the league with a brand new deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $145 million. He was eligible for the same deal Conley got, but opted to take a bit less because once numbers get to a certain point it apparently just stops mattering. They’re all unfathomably huge, right?
There have been a lot of contracts thrown around this summer that certainly seem historic, and it would be easy to believe that they all were sort of record-setting contracts, but where do these deals stack up against the most expensive ones of all time? Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Al Horford and Nicolas Batum all agreed to deals of $110 million or more, to go along with those deals for Conley and DeRozan. How do they fit into history in terms of size and scope?
Here’s where those contracts fit among the largest of all-time:
1. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies, five years, $153 million (2016)
2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, five years, $151.8 million (2015)
3. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors, five years, $145 million (2016)
4. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, seven years, $136.4 million (2004)
5. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, five years, $130 million (2016)
6. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, five years, $128 million (2016)
7. Jermaine O’Neal, Indiana Pacers, five years, $126.6 million (2003)
8. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, five years, $126.5 million (2015)
9. Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic, six years, $126 million (2007)
10. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves, five years, $126 million (2007)
11. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks, five years, $124.1 million (2014)
12. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks, five years, $123.7 million (2010)
13. Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings, seven years, $122.7 million (2001)
14. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs, seven years, $122 million (2003)
15. Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets, five years, $120 million (2016)
None of these come close to some of the deals signed by players in Major League Baseball, which does not have a cap, but it’s not uncommon to see a lot of the larger deals in any sports league’s history have occurred in the relatively recent past. Still, it is still rather shocking to see that four of the six largest contracts in league history (as well as five of the top 15) were doled out just in just the last few weeks.
No doubt next year we’ll see much of the same, but for now it’s hard to fault guys like Conley, Lillard, DeRozan, Drummond and Beal for turning promising young careers into insanely large amounts of money – the likes of which only Kobe has ever seen before.
That’s some special company, obviously. Here’s hoping they play up to what they’ve been paid.
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