So when James was asked whether it was right that the league’s reigning MVP was not its highest-paid player, he just smiled. He later said money will not dictate his plans.
“I’ve not had a max contract yet, it’s a story that’s been untold,” he said. “I don’t get (credit) for it. But that doesn’t matter to me. Playing the game matters to me.”
Few players, even those earning more money, have a stronger resume than James.
He was the youngest player in league history to be chosen the NBA’s rookie of the year, the youngest to be the All-Star Game MVP and in January became the youngest player to top 20,000 points.
At 28, James is nowhere close to slowing down, either.
Last year, James won his third MVP award, his first NBA title, was a unanimous choice as NBA Finals MVP and earned his second Olympic gold medal.
So the money issue seems to pale in comparison, especially given that James has been able to supplement his income off the court.
“It’s not all about money. It’s about winning. I know that and I don’t mind,” James said. “It doesn’t bother me because I’m OK, I’m financially stable and my family is OK.”
The small markets may not be the only ones that have to swallow hard and watch some big stars walk away. The new deal was designed in part to level the playing field and try to discourage teams in big markets or glitzy locales from hoarding all the talent.
Even the mighty Lakers have expressed concerns about their bloated payroll going forward. That means the era of the super team could be coming to an end, unless players such as James decide to take less money to make it easier on a front office to lure more prime talent.
Of course, it still may not matter for several deep-pocketed owners, including Brooklyn’s Mikhail Prokhorov and New York’s James Dolan.
The Buss family in Los Angeles may also find the allure of championship chasing hard to resist and use revenues from a mammoth new television deal to help offset the major tax penalties they could incur.
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis also contributed to this report.
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