2016/08/18

Rio Olympics: The Highest-Paid Basketball Team Of All Time

The U.S. men’s team takes on Argentina Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Olympic basketball tournament. The U.S. was a perfect 5-0 in group play, but surprised many with three straight close games. Despite the stumbles, the U.S. remains an overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal with the latest odds at 1-20.

The U.S. team already has one title locked up as the top-earning collection of basketball talent ever assembled. The 12 members of the U.S. team earned a collective $257 million in salary and endorsements over the past 12 months, surpassing the total of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team of $230 million ($241 million adjusted for inflation).
Kevin Durant looks to lead Olympic team to a gold medal. (Photo: ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant leads the way with earnings of $56.2 million, including $36 million from endorsements with Nike NKE -0.04% his primary backer thanks to a 10-year deal struck in 2014 worth as much as $300 million. Durant nudged out tennis star Novak Djokovic as the top-paid Olympian overall. The other highest-paid players on the U.S. team are Carmelo Anthony ($30.9 million),Kyrie Irving ($27.6 million) and Paul George ($24.1 million).

Every U.S. team member earned at least $10 million with the exception of Harrison Barnes, who is the pauper of the bunch with an estimated $4.4 million, including endorsements. Don’t feel too bad for Barnes. The former Golden State Warrior inked a max-level free agent contract last month with the Dallas Mavericks worth $94.4 million over four years.

The U.S. men’s basketball team dominated Olympic competition for the first half-century since basketball was introduced to the Games in 1936 in Berlin. The U.S. teams, using only college players, won nine golds and lost only one game—a controversial last-second loss to the Soviet Union in 1972—while racking up 78 victories. But in 1989, international basketball’s governing body, FIBA, opened the Olympics to NBA players and a new era was born with high-priced pros.
The U.S. brought its “Dream Team” to Barcelona in 1992 with NBA superstars Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. They got the rock star treatment in Spain and won their games by an average margin of 44 points. Most basketball fans point to the Dream Team as the greatest collection of talent ever assembled, but the modern-day NBA is oozing with money pushing salaries ever higher. NBA salaries are getting a further boost thanks to a new national TV deal worth $24 billion over nine years and triple the previous annual rate. The league’s salary cap jumped from $70 million last season to $94 million for the upcoming year.

Durant moved to the Warriors in the biggest free agent move last month in a pact that pays $26.5 million in 2016-17, 32% more than his salary last year. Olympian DeMar DeRozan was one of the biggest winners of the summer. He re-signed with the Toronto Raptors for $139 million over five years, which was the second biggest NBA contract ever when it was signed (it now ranks third). The shooting guard made $9.5 million with the Raptors last season, but will almost triple that to $26.5 million in 2016-17.

For all of the riches of the U.S. team, there is much more sitting on the sidelines. The U.S. Olympic team includes only three of the top 12 earning NBA players over the last 12 months with LeBron James ($77.2 million), Kobe Bryant ($50 million), Derrick Rose($34.1 million), James Harden ($32.8 million) and Dwyane Wade($32 million) all not in Rio.
Endorsements make up barely one-quarter of the $257 million haul for the U.S. Olympic team with Durant responsible for more than half of the $70 million in total off-court earnings for the group. Nike is the biggest sponsor for nine of the 12 members of the U.S. team with Barnes and Kyle Lowry attached to Adidas and Klay Thompson pitching for Chinese brand Anta. Several members of the current U.S. team have a relatively low profile outside of their home markets, but the Olympics give players a chance to build their brands internationally and expand their endorsement portfolios. A gold medal certainly helps as well.
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