By Julie Buehler
LeBron James is the 3rd highest paid athlete on earth, according to the Forbes. In fact, you’ll find his teammates Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade on the same Forbes list, ranked 57th and 23rd respectively.
But know who you won’t find? A San Antonio Spurs player.
Peyton Manning raked in the dough this past year, he ranks 26th among top paid athletes, as does Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons (10th), Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions (18th) and many other NFL players from a variety of teams.
But one team without a single player on the list? The Seattle Seahawks.
The fact is the sports industry is a marketing business and therefore, athletes that can be the “Face of the Franchise” are paid a premium to represent that franchise. But the whole purpose of playing sports is to win a championship, and with this latest list of highest paid athletes, the ones watching their bank accounts surge happen to be the ones watching their opposition win rings.
Coincident? I think not.
The Broncos and Heat are just two examples of major sports franchises that chose to import their talent and pay the high costs associated with that. Granted, the Heat won 2 NBA titles before losing their latest attempt and played in 4 straight NBA Finals, they’ve hardly been a failed experiment; and the Broncos went to back-to-back AFC title games and found their way back to the Super Bowl after a 15-year drought with their pricy quarterback.
But both franchises, led by star players drafted by other franchises had enough star power to get out of their conferences, but once they faced a true team, one that had as many brick-and-mortar type of players as stars, they found themselves badly outmatched.
It was like watching a Ford F-150 run over a Ferrari. Because teams built to win “now” with those high-priced egos and suffocating pressure tend to burn hot and run out of gas faster than teams built slowing through great drafting, developmental coaching and proper team building.
Fans don’t want to hear that, they want their team spending money and hoping the bloated budget brings a parade at the end of the season.
Most coaches don’t want to admit they can’t control the intangibles that make sports unpredictable. Ask any coach in the NBA or NFL and they’d tell you having talent like LeBron James and Peyton Manning is a dream come true. But reality is, when one guy is driving that Ferrari and he’s not at his best, there’s no way to soften the collision that’s inevitable.
Yet, when one night Kawhi Leonard is the star and the next night Paddy Mills and Danny Green erupt unexpectedly or Doug Baldwin burst open for a big play after Marshawn Lynch goes on a dramatic run, stopping the force of a whole team is much tougher than slowing the pace of one man.
And that’s why when I see the likes of Colin Kaepernick getting a $126 million dollar deal, I cringe. Yes, reports indicate the deal is team friendly, but anytime, 1 man gets the lion share of budget, that means fewer players, in a salary-capped sport, can get paid to do their job at the highest level.
I always say, high-priced player means low-priced depth and in today’s sports, the great advantage any team can have at any level is depth. It’s how UCONN won a men’s NCAA title, how the Los Angeles Kings pulled off an improbable and exhilarating Stanley Cup victory.
Taking care of the team first and the stars second.
Money can’t buy happiness, or championships, but it can land you on a Forbes list. So there’s that.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.