THE BLOG
10/27/2013 01:06 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Millionaires Running Around in Their Underwear

The National Basketball Association opens its 2013-2014 season with three games on Tuesday, October 29, and one of those games features two Los Angeles teams, The Clippers and the Lakers.

The ailing star of the Lakers is their 6'6" shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who has amassed 31,617 points, has helped the team win five NBA championships, and will be making $30,452,805 this season. If the Lakers don't make the playoffs after the 82 game regular season ends, and if Kobe manages to play in every game, he will be making $371,387.87 per game.

Since Kobe has averaged 39.3 minutes of playing time each game during his career, which comes to $9,450.07 for each minute played this season.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the annual mean wage as of May 2012 was $45,790. Kobe would earn that much when he has played less than five minutes in the opening game.

Making Minimum Wages

Kobe is not the only player making enough money to feed his family; there are 58 others making more than $10 million. The NBA's four-time Most Valuable Player LeBron James of the champion Miami Heat will be paid $19,067,500 -- that's the ninth highest salary. The average salary of all NBA players is more than $5 million, and even an untested rookie will make a minimum wage of $490,180.

These are not bad wages for one of the approximately 450 tall, nimble men who run up and down a 94-foot wooden court in their underwear. They dribble and occasionally pass a basketball to teammates, in an attempt to throw the ball into an 18-inch wire hoop for a score.

The Center of Attention

There's a down side to what some players still call a slave situation, in that they can be traded away to another team if their salaries get too high, and their production is too low. The Golden State Warriors were encumbered with Andris Biedrins, a seven-foot tall, 242-lb., 27-year-old center from Latvia, who received a 2012-2013 salary of $9,000,000. It must be remembered that the owner offered that outrageous sum because seven-footers are rare and should be useful under the basket.

The Warriors current center is Andrew Bogut, who is seven feet tall and weighs 260 pounds. He just signed a $36 million, three-year contract, even though he only played in 32 games last season because of recurring injuries. Bogut astutely reasoned his success, and that of Biedrins could be attributed to one simple factor, "If you can walk in a straight line and chew gum, there is a premium on 7-footers in the league."

Andris appeared in only 52 games last season, played 9.3 minutes per game while averaging a miniscule 0.5 points. He "earned" $109,756 per game, and $11,801 for each minute that he played. While he averaged far fewer points than Kobe's 27.3 per game, he made more for each minute he played while running around in his underwear.

The Family Must Be Fed

When it comes to earning enough to survive, Latrell Sprewell takes the cake, or wouldn't take the cake. He was set to earn $14.6 million in the 2004-2005 season, when his then current team the Minnesota Timberwolves offered him more than $21 million over the next three years. Sprewell described the offer as "insulting," and said, "Why would I want to help them win the title? They're not doing anything for me. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed." Latrell never played in the NBA again. In 2007 his million-dollar yacht was repossessed, and 2011 he owed the state of Wisconsin unpaid income taxes of $3.5 million.

If only he had been willing to take an insulting salary, none of that may have happened, and he might have been better able to feed his family.

The seemingly inappropriately large salaries of the players are comparable to the $509 million average value of an NBA team, and the $2 billion in television revenue shared by the thirty franchises. There are also moneys to be made in each game, and if you are looking for one courtside seat for the Lakers opening game, you will have to come up with $2,700. If you can't afford that there's always a seat in the oxygen-needed, upper area for $70. That doesn't include parking, food and drink, but that wouldn't bother Jack Nicholson who has two courtside seats for all of the Lakers home games.

After Kobe makes a spectacular play, Jack has paid for the opportunity to high-five him as Kobe runs by in his fashionable purple underwear with yellow stripes.

Former Chicago Bulls super star Michael Jordan has made millions in his retirement with product endorsements. In part, he has able to do so as a spokesperson for Hanes, without having to run up and down the court wearing a pair of their underwear.