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LeBron James Has a $100 Million Contract, and It Isn’t Enough

This season, he’ll earn about $1.3 million every two weeks — plus more facts about the LeBronTract

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

After taking the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history, breaking the city’s five-decade-long major sports title drought in the process, LeBron James’s re-signing with the Cavs has seemed like a sure thing that just hadn’t happened yet. To the surprise of no one, James’s return is now officially official.

Shea Serrano and I talked about it. We also talked about moats, dick pics, the CBA, and more.

Jason: Shea, I’m so happy for LeBron. The King just agreed to sign a three-year, $100 million contract to return to the Cavaliers, then released a video just to say "Now sign J.R." I remember the first time I signed a $100 million contract. It was just this afternoon in the deepest, most brazenly ambitious part of my imagination where I’m the best at everything and everyone realizes it. What an awesome feeling.

If I was doing a power rankings of stupendous emotions felt by LeBron James since 2014, it would look like this:

  1. Winning the 2016 NBA championship as a Cleveland Cavalier.
  2. In Game 7, almost dunking on Draymond Green in such savage fashion that if you gave Green a choice between having that dunk go down or having a snap of his genitals get disseminated on the internet, he’d shrug and go dick pic every time.
  3. Making Dan Gilbert fly to Florida to grovel for forgiveness.
  4. Re-signing for $100 million over three years. In 2016–17, he will become the highest-paid player in the league for the first time. (Since 2000, there have been only three top earners in the NBA: Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. Before LeBron agreed to his new deal, the top stacker of cake was set to be MIKE CONLEY, a.k.a. YUNG TELEVISION MONEY.)
  5. Returning to the Cavaliers for $42.2 million over two years after watching Dan Gilbert grovel.

Yes, I’m saying signing a $100 million contract is not even in the top 3 of best feelings LeBron has experienced in the past two years. Spot the lie — you can’t.

Shea: Let me start with three things.

  1. I am very excited that we’re calling this the LeBronTract. That’s great. It’s the second happiest thing I can think of right now. The first happiest thing is …
  2. There’s now a proper list that has the names Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Mike Conley on it. Could there ever have been a list that had those five names on it before this precise moment? I would argue nope.
  3. You linked to that video of LeBron announcing his return to the Cavs. That’s an especially LeBronian video. Beyond him passive-aggressively demanding that the Cavs get J.R. Smith’s deal sorted out, he also (A) is making the announcement on Uninterrupted, the multimedia site he owns, which furthers its reach, while (B) wearing a Kermit Tea hat that’s actually a customized Kermit Tea hat where the tea has been replaced with a championship trophy. I think that tells us that LeBron’s most favorite things are making money and being petty, and let me tell you: A business plan that accounts for pettiness is my favorite kind of business plan.

Just to go off topic real quick before we move on: Has anyone ever recovered from a dick pic scandal faster than Draymond Green? It was legit, like, maybe 30 minutes and then the noise was gone. People always say that staying healthy is a valuable skill. I will argue going forward that is also true of dick pic resiliency. Imagine if it was any other athlete’s dick pic. Imagine how absolutely nuts everything would’ve gotten if it was Steph’s wiener out there in the e-world.

Jason: I think we’ve just reached a point of total dick pic saturation in the culture. We don’t have time to ruminate on stuff like this anymore. Draymond’s snap had to compete with more famed celeb wangs belonging to Justin Bieber and Orlando Bloom, who, for some reason, had his dick out while paddleboarding.

Shea: I miss the days of the dick pic news extravaganza.

Jason: I take it back: In a perfect world where cameras, the internet, and other people don’t exist, paddleboarding naked in Hawaii is the ideal way to live life.

Shea: I’m just too afraid of a sea creature grabbing hold of it, is all.

Jason: Back to LeBron — The King doesn’t get enough credit for being an innovator when it comes to business. When James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh structured their respective extensions so they’d all be free agents in 2010, it seemed shady. Now, players timing their free agencies to maximize leverage and take advantage of events like a massive television money–induced salary cap spike is just the way it’s done. When James returned to Cleveland in 2014, he pioneered the "one plus one" superstar contract structure — one year plus a player option. This summer, Wade, Pau Gasol, and Kevin Durant inked similarly constructed deals.

Betting on himself and keeping his options open is how LeBron was able to make his personal rebound caddy, Tristan Thompson, the first 8–8–8 player (eight points, eight rebounds, $82 million).

Shea: How do NBA players get paid? Is it a thing where they get a two-week check 26 times a year like normal people? Do they get paid per game 82 times a season? Is it a one-time payment delivered in a gigantic treasure chest?

Jason: According to the original CBA god, Larry Coon, the default pay structure for contracts signed under the current collective bargaining agreement is 24 bimonthly checks, dropping on the first and 15th of each month, starting each November. For LeBron this season, that would mean $1,290,143.75 per check without accounting for taxes and such.

That said, there are various ways to get paid according to a different schedule. Contracts from the previous CBA drop twice a month over six months. And stuff like signing bonuses, advances, and loans can be paid out at any time.

Shea: It sounds to me like you’re saying the treasure chest is still in play.

Jason: Shea, if I get one $1.2 million check, you will never see me again. I will buy a house in the hills, surround it by a moat, stock it with canned food and weapons, and never interact with the world again except through random cryptic tweets. That’s a promise.

Shea: If I got a $1.2 million check, I would also build a moat, except it wouldn’t be a normal moat, it would be a moat filled with poor people. That’s the alpha-money moat stunt move. A moat filled with water is a good moat, but it’s the most basic of moats. A moat filled with water and alligators is great. A moat filled with alligators but no water is better still. It’s just alligators on top of alligators in that bitch. But a moat filled with poor people is the tops of all. Sadly, as it stands now, I am not a poor people moater. I’m a poor people moatee.

Another LeBron question for you: The last year of the contract is a player option, but let’s assume that LeBron is going to stay through the full three years of the contract. How many championships is he going to win during that period? I’m guessing Cleveland is going to win at least one more title. I think the Cavs beat the Warriors in the 2017 Finals (at the conclusion of which the earth opens up and 100 demons climb up through the crack and grab hold of Kevin Durant and yank him into eternity). LeBron gets two for Cleveland, and he goes down as the second-best player of all time. That’s what I’m guessing. But, OK, let’s say he goes 0-for-3. Is that even a thing we can consider a failure? Will anyone ever be able to call LeBron a failure again? Or was all that erased forever since he got the 2016 title for Cleveland? Does his Kermit Tea Championship hat shield his crown forever?

Jason: I also think the Cavaliers win the title this season.

Why? Because Draymond Green’s life is in a low-key tailspin. His past three months: knees Steven Adams in the nuts like 15 times in a row on national television; crotch chops LeBron and gets suspended, thus losing the Warriors the title after a season in which they won 73 regular-season games; gets charged with assault and battery after slapping a guy; takes a dick pic during the Olympics; had to explain to Mike Krzyzewski — a.k.a. the dude who colors his hair with sharpie, a.k.a. the most un-fun leathery Gollum who has ever lived, a.k.a. the man whose weirdly sharp cheekbones turn bright baboon-butt red when he yells, a.k.a. the guy whose whole worldview was shaped by Bob Knight and the Army — about how pictures of his penis came to be on the internet and how Snapchat works (not, obviously, that Green really knows). That’s like the last 20 minutes of Goodfellas in three months. At this pace, I’m not sure Draymond is even alive when spring rolls around.

Shea: Poor Draymond. The universe is really just trying to bury him alive. What happens to the Cavs during this three-year period, though? What sort of moves are they still able to make? Does LeBron’s contract cut their legs off? Or does it not even matter?

Jason: Well, there’s a possibility that either ownership (shaken by assemblage of the Golden State superteam) or the Players Association (realizing that the league is making more money than ever and that the players are making the smallest percentage of that money ever) opts out of the current CBA after this season. But, it’s fair to say that as long as LeBron is making over $30 million a year, the Cavs, or whichever team has him, will be over the cap unless something very weird has happened. LeBron will always want to play with real players, and he’ll always want those dudes to get paid. See: Smith, J.R.

One more prediction: LeBron declines his third-year player option, but ultimately re-ups with the Cavs for a five-year max contract, winning one more title before engineering a trade to the Knicks at age 38 for Kristaps Porzingis and two first-round draft picks, retiring after one season, then buying the Cavs and becoming KP’s mentor.

Shea: I feel like the Cavs should go ahead and give him another $100 million right now just for that even being in play.