Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The 'Kevin Durant will lose a ton of money if he leaves the Thunder' fallacy

I've heard time and time again that Kevin Durant won't leave Oklahoma City because of how much more money he can make staying put, as apposed to signing a max contract somewhere else.  His best deals in each scenario are summarized in the photo above (which is accurate, despite the red line I added), and explained in detail here.

The thing is, that's just his NBA salary:

Forbes' numbers suggest that only 36 percent of Durant's income this year came from his regular day job, with the other 64 percent coming from endorsements--and that's with him playing in OKC, one of the least marketable cities in the league.  It begs the question:

Hmm, that's a pretty good point.  And even if a new locale wouldn't eliminate the salary difference with added off-court income, the $40-million gap over five years seems a lot smaller when you factor in the other $200+ mil he'll make in that time from his sponsors.

In a recent podcast (at the 33-minute mark), Bill Simmons discussed this topic with guest Malcolm Gladwell, who said the following:

"This I think is a fact that's changing sports in a way that's under appreciated. When you have situations when stars are making way more money off the court than on the court, that fundamentally changes the logic of their decision making about where they want to play. 
Hypothetically, imagine you said to Kevin Durant 'If I could give you 100 percent certainty that you could win a title in the next two years, would you accept an NBA salary of zero?' ... He would make so much more money off the court after winning a title that he could rationally accept an NBA salary of zero."

Simmons elaborated on this point by discussing Golden State's current payroll, of which the all-universe Stephen Curry is the fifth highest-paid player at $11.2 million.  The Warriors would never have been able to become the 73-win, defending champion Warriors that they are if they hadn't had the extra money to pay Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who each signed major extensions in the last two years.  Curry's superstardom and long-term earnings are likely better off because of his smaller salary (I once wrote a similar thing about LeBron James).

"Curry is positioned to make more money off the court this summer, if they win again, than anybody we've seen since [Michael] Jordan," Simmons said.

Durant may or may not be more likely to win a title and become an even bigger icon in Boston than he is in Oklahoma City.  However, those things will have a much greater impact on his total income than the few million more he'll make from the NBA by re-signing with the Thunder.

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