July 2023 has taught us that there’s NBA money and then there’s Kylian Mbappé money.
Even if this deal does not push through, the sheer size of Mbappé’s potential transfer fee and salary for just one season will exceed a billion dollars, a figure the NBA could only reach when they combine the agreed contracts between teams and stars during the first few days of free agency. It’s thus no surprise that some of the league’s marquee players chimed in on what could be a record-breaking agreement.
For some of the world’s richest professional athletes to even react, it goes to show that football is king, not just with its global reach, but also with the money that comes with it. It’s not uncommon to see athletes react when those around them are getting paid more, and one can’t blame them.
For the NBA, though, change could be on the way.
While the forthcoming enhancements won’t be astronomical in terms of degree, it will put NBA players in an even better position, given that many of them enjoy fully-guaranteed contracts that are already relatively favorable compared to peers in the National Football League and in the WNBA.
The NBA’s current TV deals are set to expire at the end of the 2024-2025 season, and the next deals for the NBA’s media rights could very well move annual fees just under $10 billion. A development like this could see another rise in the salary cap, a jump that both the owners and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) agreed to limit to at most 10 percent (regardless of how much new revenue the league makes) in order to prevent moves like that of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors back in 2016.
For NBA teams, it means they will have to get smarter with their finances, lest they want to get themselves in a situation like FC Barcelona (although the NBA is not as punitive as the Spanish La Liga). Rookie contracts could become more valuable as cheaper players with great talent could dictate the title windows of teams unless they make the necessary adjustments. Star players and key role players willing to accept below the maximum threshold could also be sought-after and even rewarded with better opportunities later on.
Nevertheless, these developments are geared towards giving stars the money they deserve but also creating a league environment that’s sustainable enough for the other NBA players to get an equitable piece of the pie.
Every professional league has its max-contract players, rookies on a fixed pay-scale, and then everyone else. Max-contract players have seen their deals grow and the rest have followed suit. Around 10 years ago, a contract with an annual value of $20 to $25-million was usually reserved for star players and franchise cornerstones. Now, players like Dillon Brooks, Bruce Brown, and Cam Johnson have secured deals within that annual range and on a given night are at best great second options.
Higher pay is obviously a boon for players looking to support their families and ideally, this is the model other leagues with organized pay structures should take a page out of. In the local scene, not much is publicly known about the PBA’s wage structure apart from the max-contract players, but better pay, among other things, would help encourage players to stay. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it’s a good place to start.
The prospect of Kylian Mbappé’s move to Saudi Arabia, which would cost over a billion dollars and run for only a season, has certainly created buzz even within NBA circles. Much of the reactions have been in jest, but some jokes are half-meant.
Thankfully, the NBA could see a notable jump in salaries in a couple of years and while it’s not going to reach the level of that of Mbappé, everybody in the league could come home happy with the wealth spread around.