Ben Simmons has just inked a US$170 million NBA contract extension and is arguably Australia’s brightest international sports star, yet he remains a misfit both here and in the US.
The Philadelphia 76ers have offered Ben Simmons a five-year, $170 million contract extension that will come into effect for the 2020-21 season.
The new deal, worth $244.8 million Australian dollars or close to $50 million Australian per year, will make Simmons the highest-paid Australian athlete of all time.
Simmons’ 2019-20 salary of $8.1 million USD (or $11.7 million AUD) was already among Australia’s highest for athletes, a list dominated by NBA players and golfers. Simmons’ salary ranked just behind fellow NBA players Joe Ingles ($15.5 million AUD), Patty Mills ($17.85 million AUD) and ahead of Aaron Baynes ($7.84 million AUD). At the top of the list is golfer Jason Day, who has reported earnings of approximately $19 million AUD in 2018.
However, his new yearly average salary of nearly $50 million AUD per season easily eclipses the competition. In fact, his new contract is so rich he will earn more throughout this contract than the entire NRL playing group will earn in 2019, the same goes for the AFL. That isn’t a mistake. The NRL salary cap for 2019 is $9.6 million for the top thirty players at each club, for a total of $153.6 million across all sixteen clubs. It’s a similar story in the AFL where each clubs’ salary cap is $12.76 million, with total annual player payments being $229.7 million. Simmons could individually bankroll five NRL clubs or four AFL clubs with his annual salary.
Simmons is also on track to surpass Greg Norman as Australia’s highest-earning athlete ever. Norman has estimated career earnings of approximately $425 million AUD. His rookie contract and this extension would have his career salary earnings at $283.1 million AUD. Given the continued growth of the NBA and its revenue, we can expect Simmons’ next contract, which he would sign for his age 28 season, will be significantly greater than this current offer.
Add in his likely endorsement deals and it is not hard to imagine his career earnings far surpassing Norman’s $426 million.
Now, this new salary is conditional. The $170 million USD offer represents the maximum extension the 76ers can offer Simmons and he would need to qualify for the “Rose rule” to be eligible. The Rose rule allows a club to sign a player coming off a rookie contract to an extension worth 30 per cent of the salary cap rather than a standard maximum of 25 per cent.
The rule is so named after Derrick Rose who won NBA MVP in 2011 while still on his rookie contract and is designed to reward players who are deemed to be a higher calibre than their peers and to incentivise players to remain with the team that drafted them. To be eligible Simmons will need to either win the league’s most valuable player award, the defensive player of the year award or be selected to an All-NBA team.
Selection to an All-NBA team is the most likely avenue to a full max contract for Simmons. All-NBA selection means being one of the 15 best players in the league and while not impossible for a player as talented and uniquely skilled as Simmons, it would require another significant improvement next season.
Simmons and the 76ers are permitted to agree to a full 30 per cent max deal prior to the season concluding and before he has secured his eligibility. If he is unable to earn eligibility and consequently the full maximum contract the offer made by the 76ers will automatically revert to the standard 25 per cent maximum.