Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 9:45 am  |  90 responses

Shaq: Joe Johnson ‘Not a $20 Million a Year Guy’

by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

During his 19-year NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal never shied away from voicing his opinion on other players. Now that he’s retired from the League, his new job is to express that very opinion (often, in critical form.)

Asked by the Times-Picayune for his thoughts on the current labor war, Shaq puts the blame on the team owners, and uses Joe Johnson as an example of the kind of atrocious contract that has put the NBA in the mess it finds itself in:

“They are stalling us out,” O’Neal said. “All the issues they are talking about on TV, those aren’t real issues.” O’Neal said the owners are partly to blame for the league’s current financial woes. The NBA announced last spring that 22 of the league’s 30 teams lost money, including the New Orleans Hornets which have been owned by the league since last December.

O’Neal said a number of owners have overspent to keep players on rosters despite incurring significant revenue losses. O’Neal points to the Atlanta Hawks’ decision to re-sign guard Joe Johnson to a six-year, $119 million contract in July 2010 as a prime example of a franchise overpaying for a player when they not bringing in significant revenue to offset the costs. “I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy,” O’Neal said. “Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.” O’Neal said the league’s current lockout only hurts the fans, especially if it jeopardizes the entire 2011-12 season.

He’s only saying what everyone who follows the NBA already thinks, but the difference is that — with very few notable exceptions — TV talking heads are usually too afraid to do so.

I’m fairly confident that we’re going to enjoy Shaq’s television career — though not all NBA players might feel the same way.

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  • JR

    So insightful, Shaq!


    This coming from a guy who said, “I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time.”


    I see another Charles in the horizon. TNT will be amazing whenever this bs ends

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Is this how Shaq’s TV career is going to be like? Telling us ish we already know.

  • http://nba.com GP23

    Joe Johnson is a really good player, really good…. but I’m with Shaq on this.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    We allready know this for over a year..

  • http://www.newyorkshockexchange.com ShockExchange

    No kidding Sherlock.

  • http://www.slamonline.com UNFROZEN CAVEMAN LAWYER


  • JEr dawg

    If players don’t want to have former players like Shaq and Charles then the current players should really start stepping up their game and play like franchise players. I know every player isn’t the same and some players work hard. That’s all they owe to the owners; giving all they got. I can’t hate Joe earning that money because he stays consistent and plays as hard as he can. Rashard Lewis is more of a disappointment after his one great playoff performance vs. Cavs in 2009.

  • bike

    Who, for that matter, is really worth $20 million or more?

  • T-Money

    That’s kind of foul, though. How can JJ not be mad at Shaq for putting him on blast like that?

  • Wray

    Shaq: Still an asshole.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    “Who, for that matter, is really worth $20 million or more”?
    Umm…. where should I start. Kobe is worth more than 20 mill to the Lakers and NBA, Bron, Wade, KD, DHoward, Dirk, CP, and DRose are all worth more than 20 mill to their respective teams and the L. So….there you have it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_dfrance dfrance21

    This is nothing new and I’m sure JJ has heard it many many times since he signed that deal. I don’t know, I think EJ, Kenny and Charles provide the right amount of joke and insight into the game required for the show. They really should have kept CWebb. He added a new element to the show with his passionate rebuttals. Shaq is just going to try and one up Charles and its going to be lame. I hope he proves me wrong tho.

  • logues

    JTaylor21: no professional athlete is worth 20 million

  • JC

    totally, if the stupid owner doesn’t care about his money and wanna offer Joe $20M, why should Joe say to no ?
    and the owner is now whining about players getting paid too much ?

  • Kilo

    I live in Atlanta and I sit in the empty arena all the time to watch the games. Joe Johnson is the quietest playing star in the Leauge. He doesn’t have 20 millon dollar a year impact game to game or in the playoffs.

  • LA Huey

    Anytime JTaylor will recognize a positive to Mamba, you know he’s either desperate or responding to something very, very ridiculous.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    No professional athlete is worth 20 mill yet CEOs, Commissioners, Movie Stars and Stock Brokers are? N*gro please!

  • http://j.mp/r3xvbr Allenp

    And Shaq is unfaithful.
    Since we’re just making obvious statements, I figured I’d get in the game. Click my name for more information.

  • LA Huey

    @logues, that’s silly. You aren’t recognizing the fact that sports franchises are worth hundreds of millions and even a billion dollars. If you’ll at least recognize that, you can’t admit that the employees that generate the revenue can’t be worth tens of millions to employ?

  • Bt

    In defense of Joe:

    A) Atlanta knew he wasn’t worth 20 mil a year when they signed him

    B) Joe has been playing to the level expected of Joe, he lived up to the expectation Atlanta and everyone else had of him.

    You can’t complain if you overpay for a sedan and it doesnt perform like a Ferrari. Joe is 0% to blame for his contract, blame the owners for creating an inflated market

  • IDOT

    Shaq coudln’t be more right. Joe would be a 2nd or 3rd option on a contending team. I wish the Hawks would have just let Joe walk and let Jamal Crawford be the man of the team. Joe plays like he doesn’t care at times and he never steps up in the playoffs. I’ve been a Hawks Fan all my life thru the good and bad and been to half empty Hawks games. Signing Joe to that contract was the stupidest thing in Hawks and NBA history.

  • LA Huey

    To me, it’s odd to diss JJ about agreeing to that contract. It’s not like the man complain of not having enough help or something. If my boss offered me a salary twice my value, I’ll sign on that dotted line so fast it might scorch the paper. The folks that deserve your ire are his bosses. So Google search “Atlanta Hawks ownership” and “Atlanta Hawks GM” if you want a name to appropriately blame for Joe Johnson’s ridiculous contract.

  • robb

    No sh*t Big Sherlock

  • EJ

    Yea professional athletes can be worth 20 million. Not that I think they should make that much money. But when you look at it as an investment, paying 20 million a year to guys like KB, Lebron and KD is profitable, which makes them worth 20 million.

  • Red Star

    Shaq actually sounds sensible! This is too weird!!

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    AllenP, funny story. I’m dying here just trying to imagine big a** Shaq stalking someone, you could see dude coming from a mile away. Dude is like the Don Corleone of the basketball world, sending his goons, henchmen, and henchwomen to handle his light work.
    Tiger Woods ain’t got nothing on Shaq.

  • bike

    On the surface, determining how much a player is worth seems simple: athletic talent contributes to wins, wins attract fans, fans spend the bucks, and the buck generate X amount of revenue. The problem is with anticipating how productive a player will be. There are multitudes of factors that make anticipating productivity of an athlete somewhat more difficult than say some executive of a multi-billion dollar corporation. It’s easy to say that Atlanta really blew it with JJ since he’s not the type of player that puts fannies in the seats. What about Kobe? Is a player in his 30’s who is showing signs of slowing down really worth 25 million/year? Is LA basing that on what he has done in the past? Can they quantify how many butts he puts in the seats now and in the immediate future? What about the upcoming seasons with a new coach? The anticipation component is rife with uncertainty. Hence the problem.

  • Yesse

    I don’t think we need a system, that protects the owners. The owners just have to get smarter.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    with LeBron James the value of the Cleveland Cavaliers increased over $100M in (2) Years. If you need more proof that an athlete is worth at least $20M then your just an idiot.


    some athletes are worth 20 million. In the NBA probably 4 Wade James Kobe and Durant. That’s why people like Pat. He added almost 15% increase to the franchise value while paying less the stars. houdini

  • Kilo

    The revune these men genrate is abusrd. If Kobe makes 20 millon a year and takes the Laers deep in the playoffs the team makes a profit. The dumb franchises like the Hawks overpay for one star and don’t bulid a good team around him.

  • robb

    @JTaylor21 you made me remember Shaq and Nash doing that “SuperBADge” short.

  • O

    Players who are possibly worth $20+ mill a year: Rose, LeBron, CP3 & Dwight.
    $15+ Mill a year: Kobe, Melo, Blake, Durant, Wade, Dirk.
    $10+ Mill a year: Stat, Bosh, D-Will, Joe Johnson, Westbrook, Pierce, Both Gasol brothers, and Nash.

    Given, Kobe WAS worth the $20 mill he was making when he was consistent and healthy, but he’s past his prime. Rose, LeBron and Dwight effect both sides of the court something serious, so they worth the $20. Everyone in the $15 bracket are really offensive forces who leave something to be desired on D. And the $10 mill bracket are for those cats that are dope ass players, but you can’t really build a franchise around them. But that’s just my take on what being FAIR is. I know I left some players out, but those just some of the BIG names that come to mind.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Everyone that is under the impression that a players worth is linked to their skill level is kidding themselves. Players salaries are based off of the revenue they bring in, more then the stats they put up. Kobe is still Top 2 in the league in Value Added. His $23M Salary this upcoming season is still probably a little lower then the proper % of his share of revenue. LeBron makes more then 100% less then he should. The only star player to earn a proper cut (not over or underpaid) in the NBA in the last 20 years is Michael Jordan, at $35M

  • bike

    Since the wages of all athletes salaries are determined by how much the player produces (wins, fans in the seats) and how much that product can be sold for and the numbers that quantify those two are unknown to the general public, one could argue that no NBA player is worth 20 million. On the other hand, they could be worth a lot, lot more. Point is, we (fans, general public) don’t know.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Players also sell jersey’s, shows, and attract TV Ratings. Your operating under the impression that Ticket Sales is the only barometer for a players worth. TV Ratings (because TV Deals yield a much higher amount of money then Gates at Games) – like how Cleveland went from the most watched team in the league to the bottom half in less then a year. Its clear which players are in the $20M Conversation (James, Bryant, Howard, Rose, Durant, Wade), and it’s clear that at least 2 (LeBron and Kobe) are worth well over that number.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    shoes* – (which increase popularity which increases revenue…F.E. Michael Jordan)

  • chingy

    Read it again guys, Shaq isn’t dissing JJ. He even said he loves the guy. He’s just saying the owners are inflating the market. Shaq being sensible, for once?

  • alex

    this is what i dont get, people are really quick to blame atlanta in all this, but what exactly would you have them do? tell the fans, they are letting a star go for nothing, when they have not perfect attendance as it is? if they dont overpay, he goes to the bulls or any other big market/big money team for less, and again they are left with nothing. if they kept doing that for every good player they have, they would just eventually become a stepping stone for players to get to bigger teams.

  • http://j.mp/r3xvbr Allenp

    Thanks for making that point about TV and merchandising and sponsorships, NBK. You think Jerry Buss gets that mega deal from Time Warner without Kobe being Kobe? Hell no.
    I showed people everything included in Basketball Related Income. It’s not just tickets. It’s a massive pie.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Yeah a huge huge pie. Its the role players that are vastly overpaid, and the stars that are vastly underpaid. The system is broken, if it were a free-market system like the rest of the working world, Kobe & LeBron would make in the upper $20M every year, while guys like Jared Dudley and other role players would make somewhere around $300K (which is still a ton of money a year compared to the average working class person aka your real life role player)

  • yo

    I always like it, when somebody just tells the truth.

  • bike

    Agree that it is a multifaceted, massive pie above and beyond ticket revenue and contribution to a team. Ticket revenue and player contribution are the starting points. What I am throwing out there is how to you quantify all facets of revenue generated by a single player and derive a fair salary? nbk states the superstars are underpaid and the role players are overpaid. Ok, then the question becomes ‘by how much?’. How does one nail that dollar figure down?

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    nbk, I’m just wondering why Dirk wasn’t included in your worth 20+ mill list. I know he may not be the most popular guy out there but in terms of his value to the Mavs, it’s huge. I doubt Mark Cuban and the Mavs would be half as successful (financially and team success) as they are today without Dirk. When Cuban both the team in ’00 for 280 mill and as of 2011, it’s worth 438 mill (via Forbes), so it’s value began to rise during Dirk’s 2nd season (breakout season). Dirk has a lot to do with the Mavs and Cuban’s success.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    They don’t lol, that’s why they have the system that they have. And the argument (as I’ve heard it) is that it is a team sport. LeBron wouldn’t be worth 20+ Million Dollars if there weren’t thousands of Paul Shirley’s out there trying to be professional. So they should, on account of “you would be worth nothing without us” get a cut of what that star player is worth. And then you have the salary cap issue, and making the league competitive in every city. Basically in the name of fair competition players will never, ever, get paid exactly what they are worth.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Cuban has plastered every available all star he can onto the Mavs. And when he bought the team Michael Finley was their best player. Nowitzki maybe should be in the conversation after this season, although with his popularity and the fact that he doesn’t represent any major influx of viewers or fans I can’t put him in their as someone who “definitely belongs” year in and year out – idk though, with the championship your probably right, but will Dallas win another title? Is Dirk really worth that extra (say 5ish million) that he generated this year in the playoffs, annually?

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I’m asking your opinion, not trying to sound like I’m right or think I know more then you.

  • seriousblack

    No sh#t Shaq. Thanks for announcing what the world already knows. Public comments like this from a former player don’t help the union, even if it is true.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    The only person in the WORLD worth $20,000,000 is… me. (lol)
    And THE KING.
    The King and I are worth 20 mil.

  • http://www.thekevinburkeproject.com KB

    Shaq wasn’t worth $20M a year when the Heat gave him that

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    He was worth more

  • http://slamonline.com Tae

    He’s never been a 20 mil a year player

  • MLK4Life

    I can’t wait for the season to start…whenever it does start. TNT will be must-see tv. I’d prefer Shaq over C-Webb. Shaq will be more entertaining to watch than C-Webb, no disrespect to him. And we all know he’s right. Joe probably knows himself that he doesn’t deserve $20 million. He should be in Chicago with D-Rose. The Hawks won’t get any better. They’ll be a #5 or #6 team and get put out in the first or second round every season.

  • ratguts

    well duh.

  • fish sticks

    of course joe knows he’s not. but what would you do if someone offered you 20 mill a year to do your job? You’d turn it down because you dont think you’re worth it? no you take that money and never have to worry about financial issues again lol

  • Chukaz

    Joe Johnson is worth 20 million dollars a year. At least for the Hawks. If they didn’t think he was worth that kind of money they woulda let him walk. And if they had some other team woulda given him those 20 million a year. NBA teams are stupid. Players are salesmen. Teams gotta stop thinking about stats and treat this sh*t like a business. If a guy doesn’t sell enough merchandise and tickets, then he’s not worth his contract and he’s got to go. And the whole competitive balance issue is stupid. Its a market economy so why would they install price ceiling on labor? if the lakers are willing to spend 120 million a year on payroll and the buck are only willing to spend 69 million, then the lakers deserve s better shot at the title. You get what you pay for. And seriously, using joe johnson as an example is stupid. If the hawks didn’t give him a ton of cash, then the knicks would, or the bulls, or the heat, or the mavs. He signed for his market value. The only problem is that teams only measure value in terms of basketball skills and stats and not in a business way. Kevin Love gives you better stats than blake griffin and yet i’d rather have griffin cuz he’d sell a ton of tickets and merchandise, even if he was the inferior player (which he’s not)

  • http://www.slamonline.com nbk

    He signed for more then his market value. He signed for more then any other team could legally pay him. He signed for at least 20 Million Dollars (over the course of his deal) then any other team (with money for a “max” player) could offer. And the Lakers are willing to spend $120M compared to the Bucks at $69M because they will still TURN A PROFIT. It is treated as a business, one that relies on the weak just as it does the strong. Do you honestly think the Lakers would get all of that revenue from an 82 game season if there were no small market teams? There is no good without evil. There is no superstar without all of the role players. There is no professional team without the amateur teams. — Ultimately the sport is a business, and WINNING always yields the highest profit. Which is why “typically” (save for the over-the-hill superstar who still sells tickets and jerseys) the most productive players get the most money.

  • LA Huey

    I’m interested to see what kind of analysis Shaq will do. I don’t know if I want to watch TNT as much if Shaq’s going to be a Barkley clone. There’s only so much obvious or shock value statements a show can have before I’ll lose interest in it.

  • Chi-City

    @ Iamorangeforever !! If you got hurt on company time do you not think YOUR company should pay for it ?

  • BillyQ

    Why don’t franchise players get say 13 million and a % of money generated off their name. Such as merchandise and gate takings. If the owner make money the player makes money with the potential to make more than the 20 mil.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Because of the Salary Cap.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    “some athletes are worth 20 million. In the NBA probably 4 Wade James Kobe and Durant.”
    MUBWAR…come on now…no love for the MVP? Really?

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Enigmatic, in all honesty the Bulls have always been a “successful” franchise ever since MJ skipped town but DRose increased the Bulls’ visibility significantly last season. Remember how many bulls “fans” were on here before the season started and how many are on here now, it’s like night and day.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    *successful* (team value and profit wise)

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    The TNT crew will miss CWebb, he actually spoke facts and seemed to talk more about basketball and what was happening on the floor. Shaq is nothing but a big wanna be Kevin Hart, it will be to many jokes and trying to call people out. Shaq who hates Skip Bayless is nothing but him now. Calling Heat big 2 and JJ not worth 20 mil. BOOK IT!!

  • simeon

    shaq speaking awfully a lot during this off-season. can’t wait to see him as an analyst.

  • http://Slamonline.com Mars

    For once he isnt’t wrong on this one.

  • tony

    Players get paid for past performance (playing for a contract, rookie/sophomore studs) as much as the are paid for future performance (sure bets, and . Striking a balance on between the two paradigms and being somewhat conservative on future expectations of a players performance should allow a GM to provide a fair value salary to a player. Unfortunately, some GMs get desperate or caught up in irrational valuations predicated by a mania to sign players (e.g-2010 free agency). The smart GMs will always be ahead, the well ran organisations willl always prevail, you can never blame the players for taking the money.

  • JoeMaMa

    The only thing crazier than Joe Johnson’s massive contract would be if he was offered that money, and declined it, saying, “that’s too much. I insist on less”. Shaq’s words were perfect: the new CBA should protect owners against other owners. Small market vs. big market. Small market teams need to take way more chances, as their TV deals, merch, ticket sales, etc., just aren’t competitive with the big markets. I don’t know if 22 teams lost money, but I can easily see half of them in the red. But it ain’t on Joe.

  • bashmo

    I don’t agree that Joe isnt worth 20 million either but I dont blame him for anything, just as Shaq said. He was offered the money, so of course he would take it. And Shaq himself is in a position, of ANY analyst to say this. Man was a monster and seriously speaking, was worth a max contract for a good 80 percent of his career.

  • http://bilibid.com deezndhaus

    @ O sept. 21 1:03
    You call Dwade an offensive force with something to be desired on D. R u serious? you ever see his blocks and steals ave. per season @ 6’4 sg and compare it to other Sg in the league as tall or bigger than him.you ever watch his games from 2006-2010. before lebron came to town?

  • EJ

    Nobody would get paid 20 million just for making the team better. Like imagine if Adolf Hitler was the best basketball player in the world. He wouldn’t be worth 20 dollars if he scored 1000 points per game.

  • http://slamonline.com Ugh


  • Justin

    Look, nobody is worth $20M. At least not in today’s NBA. In today’s game is there anyone that can be said to have saved a franchise from a financial standpoint? One year a team is having attendance issues, then they draft a player and it’s all turned around because of him? Not that many. Michael Jordan was obviously one, David Robinson was another. Shaq and Lebron did it for their teams when they were drafted. But guys like Kobe went to a team where they were selling out every night already. And JTaylor, your argument of “You’re saying no athlete is worth $20M but actors are?” is dumb. Nobody said they were worth it either. But, if studios are making $200M on a movie and a large part of it is because of the actors involved don’t you you think they should get a cut of that?

  • Justin

    And btw, haven’t you people figured it out by now that these players that are voicing their opinion aren’t just calling up the media and saying “I don’t think Joe Johnson is a $20M/year guy”. THEY ARE ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM THE MEDIA!!! If they are asked a question, they are ALLOWED TO ANSWER HONESTLY! Idiots!

  • horsey

    I served Rashard Lewis and his boy at my bar tonight and he tipped 20% on a togo order. At least it looks like the money is going to good use…also, he looks way skinnier in person than I expected.

  • http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/deeply-embarrassed-white-people-talk-awkwardly-about-race/Content?oid=9747101 Allenp

    Total NBA revenue was $4 billion last year.
    That’s larger the GDP project of dozens of countries across this world.
    If $200 million gets you $20 million, what does $4 billion entitle you to receive?

  • Eric

    Although I agree with what Shaq says, I would LOVE to hear what his solution would be if HE was running the Hawks, and was facing a situation where no free agents want to come play in your city and your about to lose (questionably) your most talented player too.

  • alex

    the shaqtus is right but still he needs to just keep outta the biz right now cuz he is getting to be a guy i used to idolize but now he is just one of those old guys that wont let go of the game

  • Yerp

    Alex, Shaq can’t possible let go of the game in which he is paid to analyze and provide commentary right??

  • Masud Saeedi Team

    CLASS OF 2013 *****BALLER*****

  • http://www.fullc0urtpress.com KHoliday

    These comments are hilarious… In my personal opinion, I believe there are players that are worth 20 million a year. These players, especially the Tier 1 NBA SUPERSTARS generate all sorts of revenue for these teams, sponsers, and the NBA as a whole! They also service the community (even tho it may be NBA mandated most of the time) and put their bodies through hell for years! Are some players overpaid; of course! There are players that deserve that money though. Being an athlete is not a cake walk.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Cosign that.

  • seriousblack

    This Justin cat has no idea what he’s talking about.

  • onitnow

    The problem is no one is really sure just how much JJ is worth to the Hawks. Everyone will say the Hawks overpaid. Maybe so. Maybe not. In reality, the Hawks would still have had to pay him in the $15-16 million range to keep him or find and bring in someone with similar stats over the last five years (only Kobe and Wade have better avg. points, assists and rebounds).

    Okay, so for all the math scholars the difference is about $4-5 million less per season. I don’t know if JJ is worth $4-5 million dollars in basketball terms to you or me (I like him alot as a player), but if the hawks don’t have JJ, they would not have been in the second round of the playoffs for the last couple of seasons and would not have been on national TV. From the Hawks perspective JJ is a guy that turned the franchise around, put the Hawks in a position where they finish in the top 8 the last few seasons and is actually someone who wanted to be a Hawk. Think about it, who else could the Hawks have gotten at that caliber to go to ATL if JJ had left. Also, it was clear JJ was headed to the Knicks, the Bulls or as a long shot to the Heat. All teams in the Eastern Conference that would have pounced the Hawks and paid JJ a respectable $15 million.

    If that had happened, we would not even be talking about the Hawks now and nor would any fans be attending games.

  • bubblecat

    @IAMORANGE4EVER Sep.21 at 9:56 am
    It was Kenyon Martin who said that.

  • Lloyd

    Man Jamal Crawford should get paid more than JJ. He don’t get no love.