It continues to be sound logic to teach young up-and-coming athletes how to shoot a basketball, how to play solid defense, how to box out and how to stay in basketball shape throughout their lives. Thanks, in part, to a new lucrative media rights deal, the soft luxury tax utilized for the structuring of National Basketball Association rosters is about to be on the rise. That fact along with NBA player contracts being filled with guaranteed money makes 2015 as good a time for an athlete to be entering the league as there has been at any point since the organization's creation.
Two players who are in the closing stages of their NBA careers have made well over $300 million in career earning alone. That does not attribute for any other business arrangements that those men have made over the decades. To put those impressive figures in perspective: The fee that Major League Soccer requests from owners for expansion franchises is, as of July 2015, $100 million, the price that New York City Football Club cost City Football Group and the New York Yankees. The two men who are atop this list before the start of the 2015-16 NBA regular season could come together and control up to six MLS teams.
Note: These figures were accurate as of July 15, 2015, and the numbers are only for NBA career salaries. They do not include endorsement deals or other business endeavors, and they also do not account for inflation. Figures were taken from Spotrac and BusinessInsider.
26 Juwan Howard: $151,465,633
Juwan Howard will be remembered for being one of the members of the famous “Fab Five” Michigan Wolverines team that never won a national championship, but Howard also had a successful NBA career that spanned across two decades. He won two NBA Championships as a member of the Miami Heat and Howard has remained a member of that franchise as an assistant coach. It could be sooner than later that Howard is given an opportunity to be the main man on the sidelines for a NBA team, which means he is probably going to make even more money working in the NBA in the future.
25 Zach Randolph: $152,597,245
There is an argument to be made that Zach Randolph could be the most overpaid player of all of the 25 men who are featured in this piece. Randolph has yet to win a championship as a NBA player and he has been named to only two All-Star teams during his career. Randolph will be 34-years old at the start of the upcoming season and thus he could have several chances to be on a title-winning team before he rides off into the sunset. Nobody is going to view Randolph as being one of the best big men of his era, though, and no amount of money that he makes is going to change that reality.
24 Dwyane Wade: $152,915,934
The 2014-15 NBA season was not even over before there were certain supposed knowledgeable individuals claiming that Dwyane Wade was going to take an absurd discount to rejoin with LeBron James and sign for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the summer of 2015. Wade, shockingly to nobody who has followed the situation, did not do that and he instead returned to the Miami Heat to the tune of $20 million. Wade and James may, in the future, spend a season together in Cleveland, but not before Wade makes sure that he gets one humongous check from the Heat. He deserves it considering all that he has given that franchise.
23 Carmelo Anthony: $153,686,279
Carmelo Anthony is well on his way to retiring as one of the 15 highest-paid players in the history of the NBA. You can make your own “is he paid per shot that he takes during games” jokes as you see fit. It was widely agreed after the 2014-15 season that the New York Knicks made a mistake by giving Anthony such a sizeable contract in the summer of 2014. 'Melo is not giving any of that money back and it is going to be some time before he can realistically be moved to a different club. The situation is what it is Knicks fans and things are downright ugly for the team right now.
22 Allen Iverson: $154,494,445
Allen Iverson will be remembered in different ways by different fans. Those who cheer on the Philadelphia 76ers will recall how Iverson helped carry an undeserving team to an NBA Finals berth. Casual basketball fans can probably close their eyes and imagine hearing Iverson complete his infamous rant about practice. Everybody who enjoys the sport of basketball should, however, recognize Iverson for being one of the greatest players of his generation who was never fortunate enough to play on a championship team. Those crossover-dribbles made for entertaining highlights, yes, but Iverson's overall abilities on the court should not be underrated.
21 Rashard Lewis: $155,332,815
Is Rashard Lewis done making millions of dollars as an NBA player? Not if he has anything to say about it, he isn't. Lewis was set on playing for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2014-15 campaign until it was learned that he required knee surgery and that problem kept him sidelined for all of last season. He is now, if rumors being floated out there are to be believed, ready to stage a NBA comeback. Lewis could possibly be one of several players enjoying a reunion with LeBron James, this time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, if Lewis is able to prove that he can go for one more year.
20 Rasheed Wallace: $158,110,581
Some athletes leave legacies that go far beyond what they achieved on the court during their careers, and that will be the case as it pertains to Rasheed Wallace. It is Wallace who has been credited with popularizing the “Ball Don't Lie” phrase that is used when an opposing player misses a free throw after a controversial foul is called during a game. That phrase has also been used in soccer communities by fans and journalists whenever a penalty kick is not converted following a questionable call. Thanks for everything, Mr. Wallace. Society thanks you.
19 Pau Gasol: $160,050,855
Pau Gasol is a player who has quietly had massive amounts of pressure on him at multiple points during his NBA career. Gasol only became a mainstay in All-Star games after he linked up with the Los Angeles Lakers via a trade in 2008 and his time with the Lakers had ups and downs, despite the fact that the team won multiple championships after he arrived to Los Angeles. It is now on Gasol and others within the Chicago Bulls to attempt to hang with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings and whenever those sides meet up in the playoffs. Best of luck.
18 Amar'e Stoudemire: $161,628,892
Amar'e Stoudemire has become far more known for his body betraying him time and time again over the past several years than for being a dominant big man in the NBA. Stoudemire will now be looking to prove that, at just 32-years old, he can still be a contributor for a team that is capable of making runs in the postseason. The Miami Heat have taken a flier out on Stoudemire on a deal that is not going to cost that franchise all that much money. A healthy Stoudemire can be a solid role-player for the Heat, but whether or not he can stay fit for an entire NBA season is a mystery.
17 Vince Carter: $161,663,315
Those running marketing programs for the NBA during the latter half of the 1990s were desperate for the next Michael Jordan, who would be throwing down dunks and making highlights, to emerge on the scene. Enter Vince Carter, a basketball player seemingly made for SportsCenter segments and the covers of video games. The man known as “Vinsanity” found himself on the receiving end of some criticism because he never took that next step into greatness, even though he has thus far featured in eight NBA All-Star games. Carter is going to have his day at the Hall of Fame at some point in the future, an honor he has earned.
16 Tracy McGrady: $162,978,278
It is a bit harsh to classify Tracy McGrady as “One of the Greatest Players Who Never Was.” McGrady is on a short list of young men to enter the NBA straight from high school who evolved into a player capable of consistency making All-Star squads during his career. The seven-time NBA All-Star never won a championship in the NBA and he never got to the level of all-time greats such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett or LeBron James. That should not in anybody's eyes classify McGrady as an NBA failure. He merely did not meet what were unrealistic expectations.
15 Gilbert Arenas: $163,061,257
Those of you who are looking for investment advice need to stop reading this and immediately find a way to contact the financial advisers had by Gilbert Arenas back in the day. Arenas made a salary of $22.3 million in 2013, which is amazing when you realize that he was not even playing in the NBA at that time. There have, over the years, been numerous stories written about the ways that Arenas has spent millions of his fortune. One cannot blame Arenas for choosing to be a bit liberal with his spending. He was, after all, being paid millions upon millions of dollars literally for nothing.
14 Elton Brand: $165,338,631
Elton Brand is not technically an active NBA player in that he is not on a roster as of the posting of this piece, but that could change before training camps open up. Brand is one of several available free agents who is reportedly attracting interest from multiple teams and the Dallas Mavericks and/or the New York Knicks could come calling for his services at some point during the summer. The Atlanta Hawks could also choose to re-sign Brand, who has been hailed for his contributions to that team on the court and behind the scenes, to a one-year deal if the veteran is not yet ready to retire.
12 Jermaine O'Neal: $168,794,021
It is not yet known if Jermaine O'Neal will make any more money as an active player before he calls time on his playing career. The free agent has been mentioned as a potential target of the Dallas Mavericks, but how much left the veteran of 18 seasons has left in the tank may be unknown even to him. O'Neal is banged up as would anybody be who has spent nearly two decades playing professional basketball. His best days are in the past. O'Neal may, when all is said and done, decide that enough is enough and that it is time to move on to a new career.
11 LeBron James: $169,643,842
The amount of money that LeBron James is going to make as a NBA player will be fascinating to examine over the next decade or so. James, who made an emotional return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in July of 2014, is going to routinely opt-out of future contracts to make sure that he is paid amounts of money deserved by the best player in the world for as long as he holds that distinction. Do not for a second think that James is planning on uprooting his family and making an exit from the Cavs. That is not happening, at least it is not anytime soon. King James is merely going to make Cavs owner Dan Gilbert pony up the cash in the summer months.
10 Joe Johnson: $170,232,905
The future status of Joe Johnson is one that continues to remain in limbo one month into the summer of 2015. Johnson is either on or off of the trading block per the last story that was released by a beat reporter or an NBA insider. He has been one of several players linked with a potential move to the free-spending Cleveland Cavaliers. The Brooklyn Nets would, in a perfect world, like to keep Johnson for at least one more season, but the question does have to be asked: Are the Nets really going to be able to hang with the likes of the Cavs and the Chicago Bulls in 2015-16, even if Johnson stays with the team?
9 Chris Webber: $178,230,697
One would think that former “Fab Five” members Chris Webber and Jalen Rose could just let the past remain in the past. Both are doing alright for themselves as television analysts these days; Webber works for Turner Sports, while Rose makes appearances on ESPN programming. Webber also managed to make close to $200 million off of his NBA salaries alone. So what if the “Fab Five” ESPN documentary did not showcase Webber in all that positive of a light? Move on everybody, as the events depicted in that piece occurred decades ago.
8 Ray Allen: $184,356,410
Ray Allen may manage to break into the top-seven of this list before July 2016 arrives, if certain rumors are to be believed. Allen has yet to officially announce his retirement despite the fact that he did not play a second of NBA basketball during the 2014-15 season and it has been speculated that he will be ready to return at some point during the upcoming campaign. Allen has a reputation for remaining in tremendous physical shape, he can still drain three-pointers during playoff games with the best of them, and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers may need the help come next April. We shall see.
7 Jason Kidd: $187,675,468
One has to hand it to Jason Kidd for not just earning a ton of money as a NBA player. He has also managed to make enemies among fans while on the court and also serving on the sidelines as a NBA coach. Kidd made a public exit from the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2014 that was not accepted well by New York fans and media members, and good feelings that were had about his situation with the Milwaukee Bucks were overshadowed by rumors that there could be a power struggle in the team's front office. Never change, Mr. Kidd. Never change.
6 Paul Pierce: $190,508,302
You would have to look far and wide to find a NBA player with the resume had by Paul Pierce, who continues to be willing to sacrifice his body and continue to pursue winning championships even though he will be 38-years old by the time the fall rolls around. Yes, the money that he is being paid by the Los Angeles Clippers for at least one more season certainly does not hurt, but his salary had nothing to do with Pierce draining a game-winning shot to help the Washington Wizards secure a playoff victory this past spring. Remember, everybody, that Pierce did not call “bank” on that night. He called “game.”
5 Dirk Nowitzki: $208,313,028
The first $200-million+ man to check in on this list has somewhat sneakily made a small fortune as a member of the NBA. What has to be remembered is that Dirk Nowitzki has been playing in the league since 1998, and the 37-year old has plenty of reasons to keep going strong and remain as fit as possible for the next couple of years. Nowitzki is set to make roughly $17 million in the final two years of what may be his last NBA contract. He will be 39-years old at that time, and nobody could blame Nowitzki for choosing to hang his sneakers up for good at that time.
4 Tim Duncan: $235,631,050
He may, all things considered, be one of the most-respected professional athletes of his generation. Tim Duncan is a winner who also happens to be known to be a great teammate. Duncan has not, unlike other athletes, bankrupted the San Antonio Spurs with salary requests that have prevented the Spurs from routinely building rosters capable of qualifying for the postseason and winning titles. Duncan just keeps going and going and going, to the point that he will, so long as he remains healthy for at least one more season, be a starter into his 40s. He should already have a wing in the Hall of Fame dedicated to his career.
3 Shaquille O'Neal: $292,198,327
It is ironic and even a bit humorous that spots No. 3 and No. 2 in this list are filled with former teammates who famously did not get along for a period of time. The rocky relationship had by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant is one that has been discussed in interviews and in books, but they also made for one of the best one-two punches in the history of the NBA. More than a few basketball pundits have speculated that Bryant would not have had as legendary a career without playing alongside Shaq for as long as that tandem survived. Bryant has defeated O'Neal in one aspect of the business and that will forever be the case.
2 Kobe Bryant: $323,312,307
The NBA careers of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan will forever mirror each other, even if most would agree that Jordan was the better overall player. Neither man will go down as being the best teammate in sports history. Both were all-time greats who need multiple trophy cases to hold their awards. Both also held on to their playing days for as long as possible to the point that they stayed around years after they could have walked away with grace and with heads held high. It has been a pleasure and an honor to watch Bryant play and he should be remembered for what he was when in his prime.
1 Kevin Garnett: $331,826,371
The first ever $300-million man in the history of NBA players has never been a multimedia superstar equal to the likes of Michael Jordan or LeBron James. He is neither a movie star nor is he an international sensation. Kevin Garnett has merely been one of the most-consistent players in the history of the NBA, a man who was able to cash in on his first ever NBA contract right out of high school and a player who has won a NBA Championship while with the Boston Celtics. Garnett will likely close his career back where it all started with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he will not do so before cashing in a couple of more massive paydays.