Athletes competing in professional sports’ highest-paid league may be feeling much more of the economic effects from the coronavirus pandemic than conventional wisdom would suggest.
Even though the NBA has an average annual salary of nearly $7 million, about one-third of the league’s players are probably “hurting” for money right now, C.J. McCollum estimated during a recent interview. Video of the online interview was going viral on Tuesday as it was being reported that some NBA players might be expected to pay back franchise owners millions of dollars that were advanced to them.
McCollum, of the Portland Trailblazers, was speaking with NBA analyst Jay Williams, who asked how many players the All-Star guard thought might be living paycheck-to-paycheck.
“There’s some guys in the league that are hurting right now because … there could be a pay stoppage,” McCollum said in part.
While that might sound unbelievable to some who are familiar with the NBA’s pay structure, the metaphorical pain that McCollum mentioned referred to the fact that most of the league’s players may not get another paycheck beyond the one that was paid April 1. That was something that no one was planning for or anticipating and led McCollum to speculate that “out of 450 [players in the NBA], 150 probably live paycheck to paycheck.”
Watch the snippet below from the interview.
With more than 400 players in the league being on 12-month salary plans, the paycheck on April 1 was just their 10th with 14 more paydays suddenly uncertain. And 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,” Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted last month. “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. Even though NBA executives have reportedly been hard at work trying to revive the season, that prospect seemed to be growing dimmer each day.
Some of the players who receive their entire season’s pay in six-month periods instead of the entire calendar year could be hit hardest, though. CNBC reported Tuesday night that there’s a good chance those players and others will have to return to ownership any money advanced to them for a number of reasons based on the structure of their contracts. “Teams often use advances to lure free agent players to sign deals sooner, at times offering full or partial payment of contracts upfront,” CBNC explained.
Meanwhile, a small percentage of the league’s 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 last 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.