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In Sports Commentary

LeBron James, right, is seeking a max contract this coming season. That may not leave room under the cap for a player like Ray Allen. (PHOTO: Dave Begel)

Huge salaries bedevil NBA and MLB most seriously

So LeBron James is on the market again and probably about to take his talents elsewhere, if he gets the "max salary deal."

Wonder what a "max salary deal" would be worth? I did too, and I found out it would be about $20.7 million for one year. ONE YEAR. $20.7 million.

Now, I know I'm aging and I know I get crankier as I get older. But come on now. How in the world can anybody be worth that kind of money? And how in the world can someone pay him that kind of money and still have cash to buy his kid's dinner and a safe place to sleep?

The world of professional sports is crazy over big salaries. But I wondered where the craziest people lived? For a moment or two I thought it might be the PGA Tour, but there were only 33 golfers who won more than $2 million last year. For all the fancy clothes and cool shoes, professional golfers are pikers.

So, I set out to try and figure out which league was the nuttiest.

My data (and for those of you who know me you know how much I like data) comes from the last professional season for the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL which are the only leagues playing in this high-dollar game.

First of all I tried to come with a number that represented a lot of money. I started at $1 million, but that seemed like pocket change in the world we live in now. So I kept going up, two, three and four million. I was getting close, so I settled on the figure of $5 million in annual salary. I figured that was a lot of money and put whoever was getting it into a breathless aerie where none of us normal people are ever going to spend any time.

The first thing to do was to get a number of players in each league. What I did was go with the maximum number of players who can suit up on game day. For the NFL the number was 45, for MLB it was 25, for the NHL 23 and for the NBA 12. I know people will quarrel that rich guys on injured reserve, for example, should count. But that kind of figuring is well beyond my shaky math skills so I just went with the basics.

After I got all those numbers I took a nap, followed by some complex multiplication. I wanted to come up with a total number of players in each league. I know you think it's impossible but if you multiply the number of players on each team by the number of teams, you come up with the total number of players in each league. Huzzah!

We end up with 1,472 football players, 750 baseball players, 690 hockey players and just 360 basketball players. It was now time to look at the money and for that I turned to, a site where they keep track of these things for a living.

Information from that site reveals that there are 91 NFL players who make at least $5 million a year. Major League Baseball leads the way with 228 players over the threshold followed by hockey with 112 and basketball with only 108.

On the surface it looks like the owners of baseball teams are the craziest on the "how can you pay so much for a player" scale. But I took it one step further after consulting with John Friedmann, a friend and mathematician at UWM.

I did some long division and discovered that 30 percent of the players in the NBA earned over $5 million a year, a figure matched by baseball.

Hockey was the next house of big spenders with 16 percent making over the figure.

The NFL, the most popular sport by far, has just six tenths of one percent of its players break the $5 million mark.

I'm not sure what all of this proves, except for the fact that way too many professional athletes make way too much money and we should all be more angry about this than we are. Other than that I just think it shows that I am not as stupid as either I or other people think I am.

Go figure.


milROCKeeguy | July 8, 2014 at 2:49 p.m. (report)

What's the point of this article besides you know nothing about math? You pulled all this "data," which an 8 yr old could've done, and just came up with the conclusion that pro athletes make a lot of money? Really? You couldn't realize that 108 basketball players out of 360 is 30%? You had to phone a friend for help? How about you talk to Jim O. and have a point to this rant? Or maybe, break into super crazy math and do a per game amount? Woooooaaaaaah that would be nuts! It took me 5 minutes to read this article out of a day that consists of 1,440 minutes. That's like...crap...can you ask your friend at UWM to get the percentage of my life that I would like back?

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