While the NBA’s lockout is lingering around longer than a bitter Minnesota winter, it’s interesting to find out who’s earning the top salaries and causing the owners so much headache. The Wages of Wins Journal has done some digging through basketball-reference.com to find out who the NBA’s top earners were over the last 20 years. Click here to view the list.
There are some obvious names on the list, but there are also a few head scratchers. Shaquille O’Neil and Kevin Garnett are #1-2 on the list by a landslide, nearly $100 million ahead of the list’s #3 earner Kobe Bryant. O’Neal has earned a whopping $354 million since 1991, and Garnett has earned $315 million. Garnett actually has the highest average salary per year at $19.7 million. This largely has to do with O’Neal and Garnett entering the league before the 1999 lockout, which put a limit on rookie salaries and provided much more salary structure around the league. O’Neal and Garnett’s contracts in the late 90’s had a lot to do with ’99 lockout. In 1996, O’Neal signed a 7-year contract worth $121 million with the Los Angeles Lakers. Not to be outdone, soon the 21-year old Garnett would sign a record 6-year $126 million contract with the Timberwolves. Both of these guys have earned it, as both will be in the Hall of Fame and recogonized as two of the best to ever play the game.
Of the guys who have NOT earned it on this list, we would have to start with Juwan Howard. He’s earned $178 million at $10 million/season all for making his ONE All-Star appearance way back in 1996. He obviously brings a lot of valued leadership and veteran experience with his ZERO championships. It’s because of players and contracts like Howard’s that the league is in the state that it’s in. The NBA needs to adopt a format similar to the NFL wear the contracts have less guaranteed money so team’s have a greater ability to outright cut a player when he’s not earning it.