NBA

LeBron James deal about 'brand' as well as ability, says sport finance expert

By Sports Desk August 19, 2022

The Los Angeles Lakers' decision to give LeBron James a two-year contract extension worth $97.1million is as much about the player's brand as his ability, says sport finance expert Dan Plumley.

James had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.

The extension takes the 37-year-old to $532m in guaranteed career earnings, which would mean he is the highest-paid player in the history of the league.

Despite his increasing years, James is still one of the top performers in the NBA, averaging 30.3 points per game in the 2021-22 season.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Plumley admitted he is surprised by the short-term nature of the deal not usually seen in US sports, but understands the brand of the athlete is often as important as the ability.

"I think that's now more the case than ever in every professional sport," said Plumley, who is principal lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University. "Every team's looking at how they can use their superstars across respective sports.

"Of course, it's about first and foremost what they can do on the court, on the pitch, it's absolutely still about that.

"But the other side of it is what do they bring from a commercial side of things and what's the brand association, and what's the fit like, and how can the club or team leverage some of that against the superstars that they've got?

"It's absolutely the case with LeBron James. Of course it is. But I think it's the case across the board now for a lot of professional teams."

With James approaching 40 by the end of the two-year deal and with a history of injuries, there appears to be significant risk in the investment for the Lakers, but Plumley thinks it will be worth taking if it produces a championship or two.

"I think that there's the risk... but there was also the risk of losing him and losing the asset and losing the brand association and the value that somebody like LeBron James brings with the Lakers and everything else he's got going on in his personal life as well," he said.

"We know he's connected to Liverpool [Football Club, minority ownership] and the wider network that he operates in. So there's that at play where you're balancing the risk.

"From the playing side of things, yes, the injury risk is there but I think the Lakers felt that it was enough to get the next two years where they could potentially win something again with LeBron, and that risk was far lower than losing him. I think that's where they've ended up at.

"With the NBA, we know that careers can go a little bit later versus other sports. I think when you balance that off, the Lakers have obviously arrived at the decision that it's better to keep him now for a couple of years than potentially lose him."

In terms of the wider future of the NBA, Plumley understands there is danger in seeing deals increase in size, but believes basketball and other US sports will be safe from significant damage due to their closed nature and draft system.

"I think there's always the danger that you see figures like this, and we know that the salary cap is there, and there will always be a limit on this," Plumley added.

"But we've seen increases in the salary cap over time, which is not unusual when you think about the amount of money coming in. So if there's more money coming in, then there's an argument to raise the salary cap.

 

"I think what teams will always be suggesting and the way that side of things has gone is that there's an expectation that they need to keep raising the salary cap. And that's always okay if you've got the money coming in to support it, so I think that will be the trade-off.

"It's always a risk in any professional team sport. They are reliant on broadcasters and they're reliant on commercial partners to generate that revenue at the league level. And while that's okay and growing, these little increases in salary caps have been okay.

"The question always is 'where's the benchmark?' And if the benchmark has gone higher, because this is the biggest contract we've ever seen, then others will start to look towards that as the new benchmark. And I think that's just the risk in the background that you run.

"American sports are a little bit more protected in that sense, because of the nature of their league systems."

Related items

  • 'We all were hurting' – Steve Nash addresses Kevin Durant's offseason ultimatum 'We all were hurting' – Steve Nash addresses Kevin Durant's offseason ultimatum

    Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said there are no lingering ill effects from Kevin Durant’s trade request or his demand that Nash be fired this summer. 

    Nash told reporters Tuesday that he met with Durant last month to "move forward" and "clear the air".   

    "We're fine," Nash said after the Nets' first practice of the season. "We're good. Ever since we talked, it's been like nothing's changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it's behind us. That's what happens. It's a common situation in the league. 

    "We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year, and also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff."

    Durant shook the NBA this offseason when he demanded to be traded, citing the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat as his preferred destinations.  

    When it became clear that an ideal trade was not imminent, Durant met with Nets owner Joe Tsai and reportedly said he was willing to remain in Brooklyn if Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.  

    Nash pushed back Tuesday that Durant ever demanded a coaching change.  

    "I never thought that was 100 percent," Nash said. "There was a lot of things. It's not black and white like that, so there was a lot of factors. A lot of things behind the scenes.

    "A lot of things reported are not accurate. A lot of things that are reported are not 100 percent accurate. So you get fragmented bits of truth. You get things that are flat out not true. It happens... so I never really get caught up in all that stuff. 

    "I'm going to hear it from Kevin when the time is right. I'm going to talk to Sean, I'm going to talk to all the parties involved. So you just work through it step by step. You don't overreact. We stay calm and work on communication and facts and here we are."

    One of the central challenges for Nash this season will be to keep his team focused on the court despite the seemingly never-ending storm of storylines surrounding the Nets.  

    "I think we're in a really good position to start the season," Nash said. "And regardless of the way everyone wants to talk about drama all the time, we've been through this. I played in the league for 17, 18 years… It does not impact me the way maybe it impacts people on the street or in the media, so it was never really as a big a deal to me. 

    "I always thought we'd have our moment, we'd discuss it and we would choose a course and we're fortunate to all be in the gym working together again and excited. I think the energy's been outstanding."

  • Lonzo Ball to undergo second knee surgery this year Lonzo Ball to undergo second knee surgery this year

    Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is still unable to run or jump without pain in his surgically repaired left knee and will undergo a second arthroscopic surgery, ESPN reported Tuesday.  

    His discomfort remains nearly 10 months on from his initial injury back in January, with Ball telling the media it is nothing like he has ever experienced before. The operation is scheduled for Wednesday.  

    "There was a point where we would warm up and stuff, and I would go through certain days and it would be fine," Ball told reporters Tuesday. "Then whenever I got to real basketball activities, I just couldn't do it.  

    "Unfortunately, this is what's at hand and has to be dealt with. We feel like surgery, again, is the best option." 

    The Bulls said that they will reevaluate Ball in four to six weeks, but neither the team nor Ball himself was willing to put a timeline on the point guard’s return from a third career surgery on his left knee.  

    "For me, this will be my third surgery, so this time around I really don't want to rush anything," Ball said.  

    Ball’s continued pain and stunted recovery have been both a surprise and a mystery to his medical team as he continues to struggle with some day-to-day activities, including walking up stairs.  

    "From my understanding they're going in there to see what it is, because it's not necessarily showing up on the MRI," Ball said. "It's clear that there's something there that's not right, so they're going to go in, look at it, and whatever needs to be done is going to be done. 

    "I've never felt pain like this or was able to ramp up a little bit but never fully, so definitely a unique situation. The doctors and the Bulls, we're all trying to figure out what it is." 

    Despite the considerable setback, Ball does not believe the injury will sideline him for the entire season.  

    "That's not in my mind right now, but that would be the worst-case scenario," Ball said. "I'm at a point now where I know I can't get back out there until I'm comfortable playing and can actually play. So whenever that day comes, that's when I'll have the jersey back on." 

    The news comes as the Bulls practiced for the first time in preparation for the 2022-23 season. Chicago hopes to improve on last season when they started hot but ended up as the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed and losing their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. 

  • Portugal 0-1 Spain: Late Morata goal steals place at Nations League Finals Portugal 0-1 Spain: Late Morata goal steals place at Nations League Finals

    Alvaro Morata's late goal gave Spain a 1-0 victory over Portugal and snatched a place at the Nations League Finals from their hosts in Braga.

    Spain needed to win to leapfrog Fernando Santos' side atop Group A2 but had looked set to be frustrated, with Portugal enjoying the better of the first-half opportunities.

    However, substitutions from Luis Enrique after the break changed the game, and Nico Williams' header across goal was smashed in by Morata to steal a precious victory.

    The dramatic win means Spain will join Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands at next year's tournament, with Portugal left to rue missed chances and sloppy defending in the closing stages.

     

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.