Reassessing The True Worth Of 10 Of The Most Valuable Players In Sports

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By Brandon Caldwell / @dayandadream

A few weeks back, like most random items of life that lead to sports conversations, Jason Clinkscales hit me on Facebook wondering if I agreed with Bill Simmons’ assessment that LeBron James - if basketball had an open market much like football - would be worth $75 million a season. To note, I responded absolutely without hesitance given the fact that LeBron has swung an entire local economy in TWO states just by moving.

But then like most great ideas, the wheels started turning in my head. Baseball, in terms of contracts in American sports, might be king. MLB contracts almost seem guaranteed right off the bat and have essentially made fools of plenty a GM (hence why I’m not holding out hope for a Houston Astros World Series ring until the time my kids are born, God willing). Have that idea translate to the other sports, and you pretty much have a free-for-all in moving currency. A free market translated to the other three major American sports would mean plenty of teams would rethink how they’d build their rosters, and maybe once and for all it would stick a number to the real worth of certain players who might get held down and be ... underpaid even.

If we were to assess everyone from every sports roster playing American sports (sorry, Messi), then these 10 players at least would be raking in more money than the GDP of some small countries. I’m not kidding. Your most valuable players in sports, if their wages were in an open market, are ...


10. Tony Romo

Current Salary: $9 million
Proposed True Salary: $11 million

At no point in life will I ever stop slandering the Dallas Cowboys and their sometimes boneheaded decisions. However, paying Romo big money might either make or break the ‘Boys for the next few years. As a starter these past two seasons when fully healthy, Romo is by and large one of the better QBs in the league with some of the worst game-managing skills around. Only he could throw a 5-pick game in a season and then follow it up with putting your team a game away from the playoffs almost on a consistent basis. Between him and DeMarcus Ware, who holds the keys to the Cowboys future for the next few years will be pitted between these two in a tug-o-war with Jerry Jones in the middle. Without him, the Cowboys are dealing with Kyle Orton on a daily basis. Think about that.

9. Robert Griffin III

Current Salary: $390,000
Proposed True Salary: $12 million

Here’s where this might get tricky. At best, Aaron Rodgers is arguably the league’s best bet at QB being that he hasn’t touched 30 yet and can still put up numbers. RGIII? RGIII could solve the national debt in Washington and be immediately sworn in as a senator in no time if his growth as a QB translates how everyone thinks it will. In one year before his knee gave out on him, he pulled off a Rookie of the Year and could have pushed the Skins into the 2nd round. His upside is limitless in Chocolate City, and had his contract still fallen under the old system where rookies became instant millionaires from their first deal then he would have easily cashed out. For now, $12 million for a QB who might be more beloved in Washington than the president sounds about right.

8. Andrew Luck

Current Salary: $390,000
Proposed True Salary: $15 million

To a city that all of a sudden gets spoiled with quarterbacks, Luck might be the most dangerous of the three rookies that made the playoffs last year. Forget all the metrics of him being a gamer and someone who could possibly hoist up a Lombardi Trophy; understand that he’s a physical freak who despite throwing more interceptions than anyone in the league showed enough grit to pull out more fourth-quarter comebacks in the regular season than anyone else. That and given the fact he’s a slightly smaller version of Cam Newton can only mean that Indianapolis would give up naming rights on the stadium if it meant having Luck around for a decade plus.

7. Chris Paul

Current Salary: $16.65 million
Proposed True Salary: $19 million

Individually, Chris Paul is the league’s best point guard, operator of the NBA’s only murder-death-kill aerial squad (it’s still relevant to pour out a little liquor for Brandon Knight). Being that Paul systematically breaks down defenses left and right whether it be his nature to dish to his bigs or take over games in the 4th quarter, his appeal is what makes Lob City work. Or the Crescent City Connection that he had with Tyson Chandler back in New Orleans. He’s selfish to a degree and not in the Rajon Rondo sense, which is why his salary is just about right. Now only if Donald Sterling wasn’t so tight.

6. Sidney Crosby

Current Salary: $7.5 million
Proposed True Salary: $22 million

If hockey wants to survive, it needs legit stars like Crosby fighting for championships every single season. He’s still the face of the league whether the Blackhawks want to believe it or not, and somehow he’s eclipsed his party-hard friend in Washington in terms of consistency. His worth to Pittsburgh almost reads the same way as Edmonton’s with Wayne Gretzky before he moved to L.A. You know he’s the league’s best all-around player and he need be compensated as such. With him leading the NHL’s “legit” winning streak of the season and the Pens leaning on their other “possible best in the world” forward Evgeni Malkin, Crosby’s worth to not only the Pens but the league itself is exponential.

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5. Russell Westbrook

Current Salary $12 million
Proposed True Salary: $24 million

Plain and simple, there’s no greater wild card in basketball other than Westbrook, who could possibly win or lose you a series given how he’s been at times. You’re probably wondering why you would pay Westbrook more than Chris Paul when Paul’s worth to a team like the Clippers is far more than what Westbrook could even manage for OKC. Here’s why: Like a flash, Westbrook could break you and your entire squad within a moment's notice and flash the sort of evil grin that Kobe used to give off. He’s that explosive and scary that whenever he makes a play, you fear for not only the rim but the bench. His upside if he ever decides to harness all of his gifts? Unreal.

4. Aaron Rodgers

Current Salary: $8 million
Proposed True Salary: $25 million

Think about it here, few players in the NFL are worth over $20 million per season (and no, Joe Flacco, despite one playoff year, isn’t one of them). Rodgers since he realized the true potential of his powers has gone on to become absolute money in the regular season, breaking QB rating records, coming close to breaking Tom Brady’s single-season touchdown record all while posting two solid back-to-back seasons where the Packers looked like legit threats to win another Lombardi Trophy. Think he isn’t the most valuable person in the state of Wisconsin, government included? Please. Between Drew Brees (who is getting paid about a million or three more his worth) and Flacco, only AR-12 should be the NFL’s $20 million man.

3. Kevin Durant

Current Salary: $17 million
Proposed True Salary: $35 million

Oklahoma City once had the brutal decision of either keeping James Harden or Serge Ibaka and chose the shot-blocking, jump-shooting athletic freak from the Congo. Durant? Durant’s just the next guy who might be worth more than Bob Stoops at Oklahoma as the most important guy in the state. At best, Durant is what we imagined Alex Rodriguez would be on the baseball diamond, except he doesn’t fear anything. He’s not nice, rather cold-blooded and could do no wrong. He’s worth more than Westbrook is in OKC, even if Westbrook is the literal embodiment of Hulk at his most unpredictable on the basketball court.

2. Johnny Manziel

Wait, whoops. I forgot you can’t pay Johnny Football yet. Excuse me.

2. Adrian Peterson

Current Salary: $8 million
Proposed True Salary: $55 million

Peterson, given his position, is bar none the best in football. Also add to the fact that he’s a legit cyborg with tissue as soft as the blanket they laid Jesus on and we’re talking about Jim Brown’s distant cousin down the line who means more to his football team than anybody else in the league. Take Peterson away from the Vikings and Percy Harvin might have legit punched out four people before getting traded and leading America on a weird odyssey where we’re chasing his car down a road in Minneapolis. Still his contract pales in comparison to our #1.

1. LeBron James

Current Salary: $17 million
Proposed True Salary: $75 million

When one man swings the entire net worth of two franchises over a sentence, you know his power. When you realize that without said player, your franchise doesn’t win 27 straight games with him at his absolute peak and you might be reduced to fighting for the sixth seed in the East, you know his power. Five years ago, Pat Riley saw the future and probably saw what LeBron James could be if he tapped in to that piece of his potential that everyone knew existed the moment he appeared on our television screens in a St. Vincent-St. Mary jersey. LeBron to the league right now is maybe a few notches below Jordan once he started winning titles. David Stern might have said nothing about “The Decision” three years ago, but I’m pretty certain he started playing Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard In Da Paint” with Adam Silver once he realized what kind of buzz it would bring to the NBA. There’s no more valuable asset in sports than LeBron James. Sports Illustrated knows it, and you know it too.

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