If you know one thing about Kentucky’s John Calipari, it’s that he loves to talk about all the NBA draft picks he has produced. However, even more than that, he loves talking about the value of the contracts his players have signed in the NBA, now totaling over $3 billion.
This number is one he has proudly mentioned a number of times, making it a can’t-miss element of his recruitment strategy for the Wildcats. It has been mentioned in a number of official statements from the Kentucky athletic department and is something Calipari references regularly in interviews and speeches, and most recently on Twitter.
But, they all know that their brand and value will ultimately be decided between the white lines! That has always been the case here and it’s why our players have earned $3 billion in NBA contracts. The brand will always be WINNING!
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) July 23, 2021
Clearly this is something he is extremely proud of, and rightfully so. The goal of most high-major basketball players is to play in the NBA and make tons, and tons of money. Calipari totalling the amount of money signed to his players and showing it off as a reason to come to Kentucky is a pretty good sell job.
After seeing the $3 billion number thrown out once again, it had me thinking–just how much have Florida players made in the NBA in that same time? Should Mike White be flaunting just how much money Gators have made in the NBA?
To find out, I used several contract tools such as Spotrac, HoopsHype, and NBA Statistics to look at the career earnings of every Gator in the NBA.
However, to compare it next to Kentucky’s crop of NBA talent, I capped it from 2009 to the present. That’s because when Calipari references the $3 billion number, it’s Kentucky players from during his tenure. He’s been at Kentucky since 2009, so we’ll just be looking at Gators’ earnings from 2009 to the present. That means that a number of players such as the members of the national championship teams, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and David Lee’s total earnings for this exercise aren’t their career earnings, as they started their careers before 2009.
The numbers include all contracts that are currently signed, so there is money from 2022 and 2023 that is being counted in these numbers since the NBA has guaranteed contracts and players such as Bradley Beal and Al Horford are signed for multiple more years. When John Calipari counts his players’ money he’s also counting upcoming money from contracts that have been signed, so that’s how it’s being counted here as well.
Here are all the Gators, in alphabetical order, that have played in the NBA since 2009 and their earnings during that time.
So, the Gators come over the $1 billion mark.
That’s a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of successful NBA careers. Of course, Mike White can’t take credit for many of these guys, so he won’t be recruiting against Calipari with dollar numbers quite yet.
As you can see, the highest earner has been Al Horford who has gained that title with both quality and longevity. However, the title of highest-earning Gator will almost certainly belong to Bradley Beal by the time things are all said and done as he’ll likely have one more mega contract after his current one runs out, one that sees him $34 million this season followed by $37 million the next.
And, remember, this is all guaranteed money.
A reminder of this is Chandler Parsons who, despite not having strung together many healthy seasons, has made well over $100 million. He continued to get contracts based off potential despite a myriad of medical problems, and even though he has had more injury ridden seasons than healthy ones, he had made generational money.
You’ll also see that Tre Mann has already signed a contract for over $14 million. As a first round draft pick he gets a guaranteed contract amount, and he chose to take a fourth year on that deal, something you often don’t see from players in his position. A lot of first round picks only take three years (the minimum term) because they are gambling on their own ability, and are hoping to sign a more lucrative deal in year four. Mann, however, took on a fourth year. This is a safer move because it’s more guaranteed money, though he may end up making less than his market value if he ends up being a solid NBA player.
One player who is playing for well under his market value is Dorian Finney-Smith. He’s currently on a three-year deal paying him $4 million a year, something that at the time seemed a bit low and is now looking like an absolute steal for the Dallas Mavericks. Since signing that deal Finney-Smith has become a starting three-and-D wing for the Mavs, a role that sees his value as nearly double what he’s making. While he’s currently making less than market rate for someone providing his services, as an undrafted player who made the safe move of guaranteeing him and his family $12 million over three years, and he’ll have another chance to cash in on his basketball ability since he’ll still only be 29 when his contract runs out.
While the Gators don’t quite have Kentucky contracts rolling in to their alumni, there is something else that’s worth considering.
Kentucky didn’t “make” a lot of these NBA players–they recruited them. Many of these players didn’t perform well in college but were drafted anyway on potential, and it has worked out for most of them. Many of these players were destined for huge NBA careers already, and could have gone to any school and still been on the same trajectory. For a number of these Florida players, it was their time in Gainesville that got them from someone on their way to play in Europe to on their way to the NBA.
It might be a while until Mike White is in a position to start bragging about the NBA contracts his players have signed but the Gators are bringing in talent on track to play at the highest level such as freshman Kowacie Reeves and 2022 commit Malik Reneau, and hopefully they become stars in the NBA and allow the Gators to further their recruiting pitch.
Even since 2009 there have been a number of Gators to go on to the NBA, and that’s something that Florida can always sell to recruits.