This week, the Golden State Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million. This comes after the Warriors won 73 games in a season, signed the second best player on the planet the following offseason and cruised to back-to-back NBA titles. There was a phrase going around this postseason that “KD ruined the NBA,” and now it’s safe to say that the Warriors collectively have ruined the NBA.
But that’s just the beginning.
Over in the NHL this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs landed John Tavares, one of the league’s best players for the next seven years. A heartwarming story, as the Mississauga, Ontario product returned home to play with his childhood team he grew up idolizing. The Leafs instantly bounce into Stanley Cup contention, with Vegas already putting them as the favourites to win the cup next year. On the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this deal. Then you dive into the contract itself. Tavares’ base salary over every season he’s signed with Toronto doesn’t go over $1 million per season. Some players who spend half their season in the minors make more than Tavares will make just off of base salary. The $77 million that Tavares will make comes mostly from signing bonuses every year, handed out straight in cash by the Maple Leafs. For this year of his contract, Tavares will receive $15.25 million, which he actually already received the day he signed with Toronto. Because of his low base salary, Tavares’ cap hit is only $11 million per season, despite getting paid over $16 million a season. While it’s only the first time this has happened in the NHL, it’s a slippery slope that the league will continue to slide down unless the league steps in. With more free agents next off-season, teams will use the method used by the Leafs to take in top-tier players while lowering cap hits.
And in the NHL (and the other major sports), not all markets are like the Maple Leafs. Most teams across the NHL don’t have this kind of money to throw around in salary bonuses in order to attract these players. The Ottawa Senators would have to sell the barn in order to make an offer like the one the Leafs made to Tavares. Meaning that only the richest teams in the league can afford the top players in the game, even with a salary cap in place. And it all started with the Golden State Warriors.
Granted, the MLB doesn’t have a salary cap, so teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox have been poaching the top talent in baseball for years. But that’s not what we want in major sports, the unfair balance in payrolls and talent on certain teams. To an extent it’s okay, but when some major league players are making more money than the Oakland Athletics are paying out to a whole team, it’s a little ridiculous.
While the NFL hasn’t quite experienced anything like the NBA’s current landscape has, there’s no saying certain players come together to create super-teams in the future and chase championships. The NHL now seems to be heading in that direction, and the MLB has been unbalanced for decades. The NBA is pretty much decided for the next two years, as we await something to change in Golden State.
And that’s not a good thing for sports.