If you know two things about Rashard Lewis, they are A) that he reached an agreement to join the Miami Heat today, and B) that he once signed a contract worth over $100 million. It was the summer of ’07, about five years ago to the day, when the Orlando Magic decided to dole out the 26th largest contract in the history of pro sports, which was to pay Rashard in excess of $21 million for the season that was 2011/12, during which the since-traded forward averaged a whopping 7.8 points per game for the twenty-win Washington Wizards.
It’s been a slow and steady decline for Lewis, who was once good for more than 22 points per game for the Seattle Supersonics. Fortunately for the Heat, they don’t need 22 points a night (or anything at all, really)… they’re just looking for a guy to come off the bench and spread the floor for LeBron James. If Lewis, the soon-to-be 33-year-old, is unable to locate his stroke, he’ll simply occupy a spot on the bench, Eddy Curry style. Seeing as he’ll be paid just $1.35 million (or the veterans minimum) for the coming season, it’s a pretty low-risk signing from Miami’s point of view.
That’s really all there is to it, but I got to thinking… has Rashard Lewis just taken the biggest pay cut in NBA history? Like, has anyone ever gone directly from a maximum deal of $20+ million per season (few players have ever even made this much) to the veteran’s minimum? Technically, Rashard will still earn about $15 million over the course of this season because the Hornets gave him something like $13 million just to disappear… but I’m still curious—has anyone’s salary ever instantly decreased by more than $19,700,000?
Although it seems that the answer is no, there is one player who nearly accomplished this feat in 2009. Stephon Marbury, who was bought out of his $20.8 million deal by the Knicks, went on to sign with the Celtics for the veteran’s minimum, or approximately $1.3 million. Assuming the information I’ve gathered from ESPN is correct, this would make Marbury’s pay cut a close second at about $19.5 million.*
That also makes Marbury the first player I know of to go directly from a max contract of over $20 million to the veteran’s minimum. Well how about that, Rashard; you’re not alone in infamy. Not surprisingly, it’s a New York Knick you’ll be joining.
*Unlike Lewis, Marbury took his buyout in the middle of the season. Even though he didn’t play a single game for the Knicks in ’08/09, I believe this means he’d already collected some of the $20.8 million he was owed before taking the buyout and signing with the Celtics. Still, from contract to contract, his salary dropped off by about $19.5 million.