LeBron James makes $17.5 million dollars a year. To the majority of professional athletes, that figure would be a gigantic overvaluation of their talents, but when it comes to the Miami Heats’ best player, his salary is actually a serious undervaluation. At least that is his take on his current paycheck, and from a logical perspective, it’s hard to disagree with him.

He is, almost without question, the best player in the National Basketball League; yet, he’s only the thirteenth highest paid player. Kobe Bryant makes $10.3 million dollars more than him per season. Because of the way the NBA salary structure works, the Heat aren’t even legally allowed to pay James more than twenty million dollars this season, and the superstar actually decided to take a few million less, along with his teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in order to keep the team from going over the salary cap and being forced to pay luxury tax penalties.

James told ESPN he has no idea how much he would get paid if the finances worked like they do in baseball, but since these are the rules in play, he’s content to prove his worth on the floor. Plus, since he reportedly makes around $40 million a year from off the court endorsements, it’s not as if he’s having any trouble paying the bills.

If a player stays with a single team for much of his career and is among the best in the league, a team can eventually bestow Bryant-like contracts on them, but as Lakers fans are all too aware, clogging the top with expensive talents can lead to a serious lack of good role players off the bench.

If free market capitalism was truly at play in the NBA and he was only concerned about lining his pockets, James would probably be making somewhere around $35 or $40 million a season. He’s frightfully underpaid, but if taking less can win him more championships, he’ll look back and be pleased with that decision twenty years from now.

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