The NBA was reportedly close on Monday to finalizing a new broadcast contract with its current television partners, ESPN and TNT, with estimates of $2 billion per year offered. That would slightly more than double the amount of the previous deal, which encompassed eight years for $7.5 billion, an average of about $930 million per year.
While those numbers will put a smile on the face of everyone in an NBA office, it should especially delight those Cavalier fans who suffered panic attacks when details about LeBron James’ new deal two months ago were made public. That contract had him signing just a two-year deal, with an opt-out after the first season.
Given time to explain, the team put to rest any indication that another Decision-like debacle was in the offing next year or in 2016. James signed the contract (for the odd total of $21,573,398 this coming season), knowing full well that the league’s TV contract was up after his second season, and knowing that a huge increase in rights fees would be part of the next deal.
The salary cap for the upcoming season will be $63 million, and James’ salary fits just under the maximum of 35 percent of that amount.
Some, like Chris Sheridan, have hinted that James would ask for a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $200 million when negotiations get underway. However, that’s based on Sheridan’s belief of a $100 million salary cap, which is much too high for this pending deal.
Instead, the cap is likely to be somewhere in the $85 million range, which will still provide James a tidy windfall of around $30 million per year. It will also free up some additional cash down the road for either Kevin Love and/or Kyrie Irving, as well as the newcomers who take the place of the numerous veterans who currently make up a good portion of the roster.
Of course, given the fact that the NBA has a soft cap in place, it may not matter what the final financial numbers end up being. Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert showed during the superstar’s first stretch here that he was willing to go over the cap in his ultimately futile quest to bring home a championship. Actually winning a title or two may help rekindle those days, but accepting the Larry O’Brien trophy is always easier said than done.
There is one potential drawback to these visions of parades through downtown Cleveland. While the current CBA runs through the 2020-21 season, either the owners or players can opt out after the 2016-17 season.
The players could take that action based on the fact that the last agreement cut their guarantee of basketball revenues from 57 to 50 percent. Meanwhile, owners may do it in order to force a hard salary cap that would disallow the aforementioned approach taken by Gilbert.
Right now, however, the Cavaliers’ focus is on the opening of training camp, and the seven exhibition games that precede the October 30 season opener at home against the New York Knicks.