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NBA Suspends Season After Player Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Source: Jeenah Moon / Getty

After Wednesday, average American workers might not be the only people wondering where their next paychecks will come from as NBA players who had their season cut short because of the coronavirus were also reportedly facing that same prospect.

Before you go rubbing your thumb and forefinger together in an effort to play sad music on the world’s smallest violin, obviously professional basketball players in a league where the average salary is nearly $7 million aren’t going to go hungry, something that’s a real possibility for many citizens who’ve lost their jobs over the global pandemic. But according to a new report, the losses some players might take could be in the millions because of how their contracts are structured.

The final guaranteed paycheck for the lion share of NBA players is Wednesday, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. His Twitter thread on Tuesday broke down the intricacies of NBA players’ contracts, which have long enjoyed the reputation of being one of the few in professional sports to be guaranteed.

Stein tweeted that more than 400 players in the league are on 12-month salary plans, which means they “will have received only 10 of their 24 checks for the 2019-20 regular season by the time April 1 payouts are complete.” With health officials predicting that the worst of the coronavirus is yet to come, it was unclear when the nation’s strict social distancing guidelines would be relaxed enough to the point that another NBA game will be played. Until that is decided, those hundreds of players could be out of NBA checks for the foreseeable future if the league invokes “a ‘force majeure’ clause designed for emergency situations,” Stein tweeted. “Force majeure” is a term defined as “an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled.” The only way they’d be able to have that lost money paid back is “if those games were made up during a later resumption of play,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

“All of this will come into the greater focus if league decides to indeed make checks stop,” Stein tweeted.

Meanwhile, a small percentage of those players actually will not be facing that decidedly first-world problem because they had their contracts negotiated in part by Rich Paul, the over-achieving underdog NBA superagent who represents LeBron James and has in the past been arguably discriminated against for not having a college degree. Instead, thanks to Paul and attorney Mark Termini, James and just eight other players signed to Klutch Sports have “secured these all-you-can-get deals, which pay out 90-plus percent of their 2019-20 salaries by April 1,” Stein reported on Twitter.

“Less than 20 players leaguewide have negotiated all-you-can get deals which feature the maximum allowable salary advance alongside an accelerated six-month payment schedule,” Stein added. Among them is Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, who announced earlier this month that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The cancellations of games aren’t the only way the coronavirus crisis has affected the NBA. The NBA Draft could be pushed back months into September, Wojnarowski reported Sunday. Doing so would also affect future earnings for draft prospects eager to sign their first team contracts.

The residual delay could in theory also affect the start of the 2020-21 season. Training camps typically begin in October, but if the draft was held in September, adjustments — such as another shortened season — would need to be made. If the draft is still held in June according to schedule, that would likely eliminate any chance of the 2019-2020 season resuming, something fans have been holding out hope for as professional sports have come to an abrupt halt while the world grapples with the coronavirus.

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