Leading Off

It pays to play in the NBA these days

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be (Dallas) Cowboys. Don’t let them throw footballs and play tackle or touch.

Make them shoot free throws and grab rebounds and such.

Why would any parent want their kid to grow up to play in the NFL, where teams pay their players like sweatshop workers – at the risk of long-term health issues – with non-guaranteed contracts and for salaries that don’t seem to add up when the league is valued at $45 billion.

If you want your kid to live a lifestyle of the rich and famous, where he goes to sleep each night with champagne wishes and caviar dreams, put a basketball hoop in the front driveway and let him shoot free throws until the street lights come on.

Life in the NBA – for owners and players alike – has never been more profitable.

Vivek Ranadive, the new resident on the NBA owners’ street of dreams, was the principal investor in purchasing the Kings in 2013 for $534 million. Today, that same tough-luck franchise that will open a new arena in a little more than a year is valued at $800 million, according to Forbes.

Last month, about 60 NBA free agents signed contracts with a combined value of $2.35 billion, and salaries will continue to climb. The salary cap for the 2015-16 season is a record $70 million, and it’s expected to reach, if not surpass, $90 million for the 2016-17 season after the NBA signed a new TV contract with ESPN and TNT for $24 billion.

The average salary for an NBA player is $4.58 million, and all contracts are guaranteed after a period of time. The average NFL player, who has a much higher chance of short- and long-term injury, makes $2.11 million.

On Friday, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signed a four-year, $89 million contract, with $60 million guaranteed. That’s big money for an NFL star, but about the price of starting power forward in the NBA.

Victor Contreras, (916) 326-5527, vcontreras@sacbee.com, @sacbeevictor


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