In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about players taking pay cuts.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh took less join the Miami Heat; the San Antonio Spurs’ Big 3 have done it to stay together; Dirk Nowitzki took less this summer to make the Dallas Mavericks big players in free agency.
Players taking pay cuts has become more common as the idea of taking less money on a contract will allow teams to be more flexible in building a winner. Taking a small contract could mean winning a championship.
In a Q&A with the Mid-Level Exceptional, Pacers President of Basketball Operations and former Celtics player Larry Bird explains why he doesn’t think young players should be taking pay cuts:
“But if I was a kid and I had an opportunity to make a lot of money, I’d go make it. Then at the end of my career, I’d try to go find a team that has a lot of good players and take a little less money. But not when you’re young. Not when you’re 20, 21, 22. I think you have to make the money first. Anything can happen. Your career can be over in one bad play.”
Bird prefaced that idea by saying that “players deserve everything that they get” and players should take big contracts if “people are going to pay you a certain amount to play.” He notes that the model of taking less has worked for teams like the Spurs because their big players have already made big contracts, and they want to stay together to keep winning.
Bird’s comments comes on the heels of Kobe Bryant saying he doesn’t approve of players taking less. Bryant’s reasoning was more about owners planting the idea in players’ heads that they have to take less to win and robbing players of their earning potential.
It’s interesting for Bird to have this view as president of basketball operations for the Pacers. Part of his job is to convince players to sign with the Pacers, and he mentions that Indiana can’t spend as much because they’re a small-market team and don’t have the same revenue as big-market teams.
Bird apparently won’t feel slighted if more players leave for bigger contracts.
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