NBA Union Boss Says Salaries to Average Near $8 Million by Contract’s End

The average National Basketball Association player’s salary will be near $8 million by the end of the pending 10-year labor agreement, according to union head Billy Hunter.

Collective salaries for National Basketball Players Association members will grow to more than $3 billion by the 2020-21 season from $2.17 billion last season, Hunter told his players last night in a six-page letter detailing the proposed settlement of the group’s antitrust lawsuit against the league. A copy of the letter was obtained by Bloomberg News.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined in an e-mail to comment on Hunter’s letter.

The average pay in the NBA, with revenue of $4.3 billion last season, already is the highest among major North American professional team sports.

Salaries averaged $5.2 million last season, according to NBA.com. National Football League players, who signed a labor deal in August, averaged $2.2 million at the halfway point this season, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said in an e-mail. Major League Baseball salaries averaged $3.3 million on opening day last season, according to the Associated Press. The average pay in the National Hockey League was $2.4 million, according to figures compiled by Yahoo! Sports.

Even though NBA owners could save about $3 billion over the life of the agreement when compared to the terms of the one that expired July 1, player salaries will continue to grow “thanks to the enormous success projected for the NBA,” Hunter said in the letter.

‘Fair Settlement’

He said the deal, agreed to in principle on Nov. 26, is worthy of ratification.

“We believe the settlement agreement is a fair one that may rightfully serve as the basis for negotiations over a new 10-year CBA,” the letter says.

The letter details a four-step process by which the lockout would end and training camps open by Dec. 9 for a season now set to begin on the Christmas Day holiday Dec. 25.

Lawyers for the players and owners already were jointly writing the principle terms of the settlement agreement, with plans to finish last night or today.

The NBPA is beginning its process of reforming as a union so that it can serve as the collective bargaining representative with the NBA. The union dissolved on Nov. 14, leading to the antitrust lawsuits against the league that are now on hold because of the tentative settlement.

Once a majority of players authorize the NBPA to resume its previous role and the NBA recognizes the union, the two sides will negotiate a contract, addressing settlement terms as well as secondary issues such as drug testing, the NBA commissioner’s disciplinary powers and workplace rules, according to the letter. This process likely would begin by Dec. 2.

Players Vote

The agreement then would be given to the players next week to ratify or reject.

The letter also addressed several details of the settlement, which would give both sides an opportunity to end the agreement after six years.

The biggest issue between the two sides other than economics was the league’s interest in a harder ceiling, or salary cap, on team payrolls. While the new accord includes a harsher luxury tax, several exceptions, new mechanisms and rules “should provide adequate opportunities for free agents to market their services,” Hunter said in the letter.

Minimum team salaries, which were 75 percent of the salary cap, will increase to 90 percent by the third year of the deal, forcing lower-spending teams to remain active in the player market.

The owners’ revenue-sharing arrangement will be “memorialized in an agreement with the players” for the first time, Hunter wrote.

Money Shift

“The plan will shift tens of millions of dollars from high-revenue to low-revenue teams,” Hunter said. “The owners will agree in writing to continue this revenue-sharing plan throughout the 10 years of the agreement.”

The agreement would create a 66-game season ending on April 26. The last possible day of the NBA Finals would be June 26.

“We appreciate your trust and solidarity and look forward to working through the process described above in the very near future so we can get back to doing what we all want to do: play basketball,” Hunter told the players.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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