Donuts: Mavs Player X & His Missing $282,000
DONUT 1: First, a couple of disclaimers. a) I'm terrible at math. Feel free to alert me to any significant errors in calculations. b) My use of Dallas Mavericks Player X as a financial guinea pig is done for exhibition purposes only. Please do not take literally all of the details of the following exercise … but do take the seriously all the results.
DONUT 2: OK, here goes.
Mavs Player X was scheduled to earn $4,600,000 this year. (editor's note: I've changed this from the original calculation of $5 mil and 13 paychecks to $4.6 mil and the correct 12 paychecks.) Assuming that he planned to accept his bimonthly checks in the standard manner (on the 15th and 30th of every in-season month), Player X's pre-tax income was to be $384,000. … $384,000 every 15th and 30th of the month, from mid-November to the end of May.
In a way that has nothing to do with the labor dispute, that's jaw-dropping, I know. Remember, $4.6 mil is $1.2 less than the MLE! So our guy is a journeyman. But focus, please.
DONUT 3: Now, some players have done what they could to ease their way around this. Caron Butler, for one, opted to put himself on a longer-term, deferred payment plan. So Caron's checks were smaller, and more spread out, and the way he's budgeting his money today quite possibly is the result of becoming accustomed to receiving his pay in smaller chunks.
DONUT 4: Let us assume that Mavs Player X stuck with the standard method of receiving payment (as most guys have). What happens on Nov. 15 when that pre-tax $384,000 doesn't show up direct-deposited at the bank?
I've heard players insist that starting two years ago, they devoted their thoughtful attention to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher and realized that the owners were prepared to "starve them out'' this way … so players saved up their dough. I have no doubt some did.
"We probably need to miss a few games in order for them to be convinced that there is resolve among the players," says Hunter, the executive director of the players union. "While we don't want to be out here, our players are not going to fall apart. We've spent two and a half years getting them ready. This is the worst-case scenario."
In fact, Mavs Player X did what he could to engage in smart savings. He's smart enough to want to avoid being one of the 60 percent of NBA players who go broke.
DONUT 5: Mavs Player X and his wife and children occupy a beautiful mansion in North Texas – as is their well-earned right, of course. They purchased it for $10 million. (It's not worth that now, but that's an American problem for another day.) MPX – not unlike most other American millionaires – also owns vacation property; his is in Hawaii. He also has a condo in LA. Additionally, MPX pays for his mom's $3 million place back home. He also owns a mansion in Florida and another one in the town in which he used to play. He'd like to sell the Florida place but it's a tough market. (Ask ex-NBA center Matt Geiger, who after four years of waiting finally sold his pictured $20 mil mansion for ... $8 mil.)
DONUT 6: Also: Mavs Player X has five siblings and a number of cousins who he considers "close family.'' He's proud that he's helping other family members to achieve their dreams … a college tuition here, seed money on a business deal there, an unofficial employment setup when it's requested …
DONUT 7: What happens when the mortgage comes due on a handful of homes and properties purchased for, listing them one-by-one, $10 million, $5 million, $4 million, $3 million, $3 million and $1 million? (Back when MPX did these deals, real estate was considered more of an "investment'' than it is now, you know.) Depending, obviously, on how much a guy invested as a down payment, a house costing $10 mil might mean monthly mortgage payments of around $60,000. MPX recently took advantage of 50-year lows in interest rates (yes, he called my guy Rodney Anderson). Still, MPX's monthly mortgage payments on his $25 mil worth of properties puts our guy on the hook for $150,000 monthly in payments.
DONUT 8: Now, start counting utilities on the four mansions, the private schools, the aircraft rentals. Do the bookkeeping on the cousins who are getting interest-free loans. Add up the car payments. Our guy doesn't own a Bentley, but his family owns seven cars and there's no Prius in there, either. Yes, seven cars. He drives one and plays with another. The wife does the same with her two. The oldest daughter drives a cute little BMW. Mavs Player X bought his mother a car and he bought his mother-in-law the exact same car – gorgeous brand new Buick Enclaves, fully-loaded, about $50,000 each.
DONUT 9: Oh, I left something out: MPX's 12 payments are not really the full $384,000 each. Uncle Sam needs his share. How much is Uncle Sam's? Let's say one-fourth? So our guinea pig is taking home $282,000 every two weeks. … and hopefully saving a nice chunk of that.
But "nice and chunky'' enough to make up for the fact that MPX received no paycheck in July or August or September or October? Nice enough to forfeit the anticipated $282,000 on Nov. 15 … AND the anticipated $282,000 two weeks after that … and the anticipated $282,000 two weeks after that?
When your lifestyle (again, deserved as it is) counts on you making $282,000 every two weeks … and then it's gone for three or four or six months …
DONUT 10: Does Mavs Player X "live paycheck-to-paycheck''? Not exactly. But does he have financial commitments that he made starting a decade ago when he entered the league, commitments that he values, commitments to which he remains tied?
Commitments that might eventually force him to say "Uncle'' to the arm-twisting owners?
DONUT 11: Mavs Player X is, basically, doing the same think with his $5 mil a year that you do with your $50,000 a year. … the plus side being that his salary is 100 times greater than yours, the downside being that he's only got a 10-year window during which to earn it. He is, as ridiculous as this sounds to you on first blush, on a budget. It's a big budget (Mrs. Mavs Player X is very active in charitable donations and is also very active in traveling to Paris annually). But it's a budget.
DONUT 12: Yes, he has some investments that are paying off, helping him to overcome some goofy, naïve and ego-driven decisions made as a young player – "Mavs Player X Café'' and "Mavs Player X Clothing Line'' "Mavs Player X Record Company'' never panned out, and that fancy condo he and the wife bought at the W Hotel across the street from the AAC "for entertaining'' is now worth half the $1 mil they paid for it. (He doesn't count this as a "loss'' because our man now rents out the condo to a young and transient Mavs teammate, thus helping to tote part of the note. Of course, the young teammate is not planning on paying the rent for October or November. Something will have to be worked out there.)
But those investments are part of a detailed plan to allow for his eventual retirement, to help all his children go to college, to be able to reap the rewards after his earning power in his chosen craft shrivels up by the time he's 35. He's planned to retire at age 35 (30 years sooner than you do). So he needs 30 extra years of income-from-savings – and hopefully, a continued quality of life that is extremely high and reflective of the live he leads now.
Again, he has fewer available funds than you think he does … and the available funds he does have are committed.
And soon will come Dec. 1 and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills due … while at the same time also due is a decision to turn down the owners' "unfair'' offer of another making $282,000 … and then another $282,000 … and then another $282,000. Will those five banks understand if his payments are late? Yes, his agent, his trainer, his personal shopper, his housekeeper and his personal chef will have to understand that they are being put on financial hold. But will his wife and his cousin and his mother-in-law understand when the subject of "downsizing'' is broached as they all convene in their luxurious kitchen?
DONUT 13: I'm not trying to forge an anti-player argument or an anti-union argument. I'm simply dealing in the financial realities that extend well beyond what anybody thinks is "fair.'' I believe that the validity of the owners' position, such as it is, will soon be immaterial. … the same way I believe that the legitimate arguments being made on the players' side regarding "who is giving up more'' will become moot.
As this debate becomes more and more about "winning'' and more and more about "principle,'' Mavs Player X will soon be faced with decisions regarding his financial life. A series of needed-but-missing $282,000 paychecks can soften a stand. "Principle'' cannot pay the family's mortgages, finance the kids' educations or gas up the mother-in-law's Enclave.