Friday, May 15, will be the first check most NBA players receive with 25% of their pay taken out. It’s part of an agreement between the league and players’ union to help prepare for canceled games and the league exercising the “force majeure” provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that lets the owners recoup costs for games canceled by catastrophes (of which a pandemic is one).
However, some of the league’s top-paid players — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant among others — asked for the majority of their pay upfront (something allowed in the CBA) and those players will have essentially an IOU to the league with money coming out of their salaries for next season.
But six of the NBA’s top 10 earners this season — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Paul George — have already been paid in full and will not see a pay decrease Friday.
Their salary reductions will come out of their advances for the 2020-21 season on Oct. 1 or beginning with their Nov. 15 paychecks. Each player will essentially have an IOU per paycheck to his team ranging from $390,000 (James) to $420,000 (Curry) each time there is a scheduled 25% pay reduction. That amount will increase if games are eventually canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
If the league cancels the remainder of the regular season and jumps right into the playoffs, players likely will see the 25% paycheck reduction increase as high as 40%.
If you’re looking for one key reason players want to return to the court, there you go.
The more games played, the more money players will get to keep.
Expect a lot of financial discussions between the league and players union over the coming months — including discussion of cap smoothing — as the league tries to navigate the financial hit from shutting down play due to the coronavirus. Players are going to lose some percentage of their salary for this season due to the virus, but how much is unknown because nobody knows what the final numbers for this season will be yet.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has worked hard to build a trusting relationship with Michele Roberts and Chris Paul from the players’ union, but when the talks turn to money, everything tends to get a little edgier. It’s all just something to watch as the league continues to move through uncharted waters.