Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game One

Are NBA’s biggest stars underpaid? Actually, yes.

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Is Kobe Bryant underpaid at $25 million next season? What about LeBron James at $16 million? Dirk Nowitzki at $19 million? Dwayne Wade at $15.5 million?

Yes, actually they are.

A bunch of teachers, firemen, nurses and other hardworking people just cursed my name. If I were on a stage tomatoes would come flying out of the crowd at me. I don’t blame them. And if you want to make the argument that as a society we over-value entertainers (that’s what NBA players really are) and under pay the people who are truly important, I’ll be the first one in line behind you. That argument is spot on.

It’s also moot. In our capitalistic society as presently constructed, you get paid based on how much money you generate.

And in the NBA, the big stars generate far more for teams than they are paid. That was really what the owners wanted out of the 1998 NBA lockout — to put a cap on maximum salaries so that the Kevin Garnetts and Shaquille O’Neals of that time would not break the bank. The owners won that battle (and at the time the entire labor deal was seen as a win for ownership).

Adrian Wojnarowski touches on this topic in a Yahoo column and has some great quotes from Dwyane Wade.

Let owners bid on the true value the elite stars bring to a franchise, to the league, and Wade was asked where he believes the bidding would rise per season?

“I’m sure it would get to $50 million,” Wade told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday afternoon….

Privately, (Lakers owner) Jerry Buss has told people that Bryant – who will make a league-high $25 million this season under his current contract terms – is worth perhaps $70 million a year to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the NBA, the handful of big stars is what really drives revenue. Buildings fill up to see Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant. Those guys and a handful of others are the ones sponsors try to attach themselves to. They make the owners money.

It’s not so much the bad contracts that hurt owners as it is a high-priced middle class —Lamar Odom making $8.9 million, Jason Terry making more than $10 million next season and Brendan Haywood making $7.6 million, and the list goes on and on through every team. Those are good players but they do not generate the revenue, still they are well compensated.

Some agents (and owners) would love to see a split where the handful of true elite players would make upwards of $30 million a season, but everyone else would make far, far less. Something more akin to the NFL, where a majority of players make the league minimum. In the labor talks, the NBA players union is fighting to keep the middle class alive.

But to do that, the stars have to sacrifice and be underpaid. Call it for the good of the game if you want, but that is the reality.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.