Editor’s note: This Point of View is part of a series of persuasive essays written by students in Sean Campbell’s AP Language and Composition class.
“Stop shooting threes,” “Stop the fancy dribbling,” “Pat Riley would never.” Those are some of the things my Dad says while he and I are locked into a Los Angeles Lakers game on a weekly basis. For my Dad, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird trading baskets in game 6 of the NBA finals is what he grew up watching. On the other hand, I grew up watching the tail end of the late Kobe Bryant’s career, the pure domination of Lebron James and the masterful shooting of Stephen Curry.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s whoever led their team to a championship scored the most points, or won the most MVPs, was automatically referred to as the league’s most valuable player. Today, although individual stats, accomplishments, and team success does still play a huge role in determining the NBA’s most valuable players, so does each team’s salary cap. Owners and executives from a variety of teams value the amount players are being paid, in their evaluation of players overall much more than before. The following is a list I assembled of the top four NBA players with the most value today.
1. Luka Doncic
Great players make great plays, a phrase echoed by every radio, TV or podcast host that covers sports around the world. Luka Doncic’s 3-point buzzer-beater to beat the Clippers in game 4 of the 2020 NBA playoffs was the definition of a great play. What makes Doncic so valuable in the NBA today is not only his historic individual stats, but his age and team-friendly contract. Luka Doncic recently turned 22 and has already achieved the honor of being the youngest player in NBA history to average 28 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists per game (“Luka Doncic 3-point Shooting,” The Ringer.com). With that being said, some might assume that Doncic is one of the highest-paid players, but think again. Every year players that are drafted sign their rookie contracts for a total of four years. These contracts are a lot cheaper than the contracts of longer-tenured NBA players. For example, for the 2021 NBA season, Luka Doncic will earn a total of $8 million, which ranks 160th in per year salary for the whole league (http://www.espn.com/nba/salaries). With the NBA salary cap constantly moving up and down, players with smaller salaries that produce, like Luka Doncic, are invaluable in today’s game.
2. LeBron James
Lebron James: arguably the league’s best player today and throughout NBA history. James has been a star in the NBA for 18 years. What the NBA looks like without Lebron James? He is the face of basketball in the USA, but also worldwide. After winning his fourth NBA title this past summer, the four-time MVP is in a prime position to add another MVP award to his resume. For the 2021 NBA season, James is averaging 25 points per game, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, which is just below his career average (http://www.espn.com/nba/seasonleaders). Lebron James is one of the highest-paid players in the NBA, and rightfully so. James is doing things that not any 36-year-old has ever done in the NBA, and most important he is showing no signs of slowing down.
3. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is also one of the NBA’s best players. After missing the entire 2020 season due to an Achilles tear, Durant is back playing at the same level he did before suffering the major injury. Similar to that of Lebron James, Kevin Durant is attempting to lead a team back to the finals while still being in consideration for what would be his third MVP award. For the 2021 NBA season, Kevin Durant is averaging 29 points per game, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game which is more than his career averages (http://www.espn.com/nba/seasonleaders). Durant is having one of his best statistical seasons coming off an Achilles tear at 32-years-old. Even though Kevin Durant is one of the highest-paid players at $40 million per year, he is also one of the league’s best players, making him invaluable.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The final player on the list is Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo is coming off of back-to-back MVP seasons, which has occurred only 12 times throughout NBA history. At 26 years of age, and just recently signing a 5-year $228 million contract extension, Antetokounmpo is again highly favored to win another MVP. Giannis’s freakish athleticism is what truly separates him from the likes of Luka Donic and Kevin Durant. His ability to sprint up the court with breathtaking speed and then deliver a ferocious dunk right over a defender all while being close to seven feet tall is truly amazing to watch.
Owen Glasman is a graduating senior at Homer High School.