Millionaires vs Billionaires

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Good basketball related activities during the lockout:

  • Watching old games on Youtube.
  • Wearing your favorite team’s apparel.
  • Cry.
  • Spend some time working on your jump shot.
  • Learn financial terms you never knew until Zach Lowe stopped talking about pick and rolls and started talking about amnesty clauses.
  • Did I mention cry? Weep profusely.

Bad basketball related activities:

  • Reading comments sections on other blogs. Ugh.

Fans online (a notoriously venomous bunch, to begin with) seem to have decided that, quite frankly, both sides can just go to hell. A quote from Berbes on Pro Basketball Talk, an excellent NBC sports blog:

~ i hate the billionaire owners
~ i hate the millionaire players
~ my pity is for the bartenders & waitresses in the empty bars & restaurants across the street from the empty courts

Very admirable of you, Berbes. You sound like a working class, high quality individual, used to working with your hands, like the guys in those Red Wing Shoes ads. Oh, also? Shut up.

Let’s take a second to think about this. Last offseason, the Timberwolves signed Anthony Tolliver to a two year deal, fully guaranteed. The contract itself was worth $4.5 million. For two years, Anthony Tolliver was guaranteed to be a VERY well paid man.

But let’s say something awful happened. What if Tolliver blew his ACL? What if something prevented Tolliver from playing basketball? Timberwolves fans (should) love Tolliver because he scraps, and he has a great attitude, but if he wasn’t able to come back full strength from a tough injury, would teams be lining up to hand a damaged, journeyman role player another guaranteed contract? (Answer: no.)

“True,” you say, “but Tolliver is GUARANTEED $4.5 million! That’s more than I’ll ever make in my life!”

A fair point, and I feel you. But let’s do some math. A family budget per year in the United States is $40,000. If Tolliver stuck to this model, he would have enough money to live for 112 years, making only financial decisions for the survival of his family. That’s a good amount of time. He could certainly pull it off.

Glen Taylor, the owner of the Timberwolves, is worth $1.8 billion, according to Forbes. He would be able to survive considerably longer. (Seriously…brace yourself. I’ll even put it in a new paragraph for emphasis.

4,500 years.

Financially, Glen Taylor could survive Y2K, Y3K, Y4K, Y5K, and Y6K before he would run out of money, living in survival mode.

Can you see why players are fighting for a better deal? Much has been made about the owner’s leverage (they have other income, and can survive without an NBA season, whereas players can’t) but that same reasoning is also why the players need to fight for a better deal. Once Anthony Tolliver stops playing and retires, his BRI goes down to zero. That’s all he can make from basketball. Done. The owners will be able to keep being rich and owning until they pass away in the year 4000 on a pile of $100 bills.

Don’t get me wrong: the players have very large contracts, and I certainly am a little envious of the amount of money Jeff Foster has accumulated during his time in the league. The players aren’t (or at least, they really really shouldn’t be) charity cases. They make a lot of money.

But not every player has Foster’s financial savvy, and to be honest, few (if any) of us would have it either. If I was handed millions of dollars at the age of 20, I would have blown most of it on nice guitars, garages full of Nikes, and an indoor, wood floor basketball court in my basement. Berbes, mentioned above, would have bought a lot of nice Red Wing boots. Can we really judge players for buying nice cars when they suddenly realized their dreams? Eventually, money runs out. And that will happen for players much, much sooner than owners.

Canis Hoopus pointed out on Twitter the gigantic difference between a million and a billion, and they were absolutely right. To say that this is purely a matter of millionaires versus billionaires shows a pretty fair amount of ignorance, and to write it off as a bunch of rich, greedy people battling over scraps is severely underselling one side of the debate.

About Jonah Steinmeyer

Been a Wolves fan for probably way too long to be considered a sane human anymore. An avid golfer in my free time.