On Friday night, reports surfaced that Golden State Warriors’ star Stephen Curry is going to sign a massive $201 million max contract. Prior to the deal, Blake Griffin had the highest salary in the NBA, with a five-year, $173 million deal. Just days earlier, Oakland Raiders’ franchise quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million contract that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Normally, the question would be brought up about how sports contracts go too far?
First, there are a couple questions we have to clear past:
• How some teams can afford star players, and others cannot
• Has any player been worth their massive contract
Well, how can some teams afford them and others not? It’s simple: the markets they play in. We’ll use MLB for example. There’s big-market teams (any New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago team, as well as the Boston Red Sox), and small-market teams (Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, and Miami Marlins). You could classify the St. Louis Cardinals as either a small-market team or an in-between team.
Now, ticket prices in big-market stadiums are typically more expensive, thereby giving them more revenue, and the owners find a way to put the revenue to good use (an example is the Angels when they acquired Albert Pujols, by signing him to a 10-year, $250 million deal). While the Angels aren’t (and haven’t been) the most successful team, their increased ticket prices and large population base gives them enough revenue to make that type of massive deal (whether or not it’s a wise move). Now, big money doesn’t necessarily mean big success. The teams during the “Whiteyball” era of the 1980’s have low payrolls, yet were very successful, while the “big-boy” Yankees, who’ve always had all the money in the world, struggled.
Now, the next question is: has any player been worth their “massive contract”?
It’s all about perspective, as well as the era (as money inflates over time). In 1972, Bobby Hull signed a $1.75 million deal over 10 years with a $1 million signing bonus with the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets, at that time the highest deal in hockey. These days, it’d be criminal to have a star as big as Hull making that little money.
Currently, the highest contract in sports belongs to Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins. How much? 13-years, $325 million. Yes, you read that right. The Marlins invested their franchise into Stanton, and despite his high value and obvious talent, is not worth the $325 million. Baseball is the sport where contracts are thrown around like free desserts, as the top 15 contracts in sports are baseball contracts (number 16 is boxer Floyd Mayweather).
Despite baseball’s dominance in the sports contracts world, the NBA’s on the rise. Even before Curry’s massive five-year, $201 million deal, players such as LeBron James, Mike Conley, and Damian Lillard have had (or currently have) big contracts tied to their names.
There comes a point where these “big-name, big-money” contracts go too far, and there’s a difference between locking in the future of your franchise and investing your franchise into one player.