Starting this Friday, 25% of NBA players’ pay checks will be withheld for the foreseeable future. The NBA and NBPA reached that agreement last month in order to ensure that players are bearing some of the brunt of the league’s lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic — and so that players won’t be required to surrender a significant lump sum in a few months if games are officially canceled and the CBA’s “force majeure” clause is triggered.
However, some players will still have to return money to the league down the road rather than seeing a portion of their pay checks withheld now. While most NBA players are paid in 24 bi-monthly installments, beginning in November, some players negotiated deals that see them receive just 12 pay checks, with the last one issued on May 1. As a result, those players have already received their full salaries for the 2019/20 season and withholding part of their checks starting on May 15 isn’t an option.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Paul George – all of whom are making $33MM or more this season – are among the players who have already received their ’19/20 salaries in full.
Because those players – and several others – won’t resume receiving pay checks from their respective teams until the fall, they’ll essentially owe the NBA an IOU for each pay date this spring and summer (until the 25% agreement ends), Marks explains.
By the fall, the league should better understand to what extent players’ 2019/20 salaries have to be reduced, and players like James and Curry will have money taken out of their advances for 2020/21 (on October 1) and/or their ’20/21 pay checks (beginning on November 15).
As Marks notes, the amount of money that players ultimately have to give up for the 2019/20 season will depend on how many games can be played this summer if and when the season resumes.
Players could lose approximately 23-26% of their full-season salaries if games don’t resume, according to Marks. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that the NBA is able to play its remaining regular season games and playoff games in full, teams would be responsible for returning players’ full salaries to them.
Adjusting player salaries based on the amount of games that can eventually be played should help the league avoid a scenario in which the salary cap fluctuates significantly over the next couple years based on this year’s lost revenue, since the NBA and its players share roughly a 50-50 split of the league’s revenue.