LeBron James doesn't think it's possible to be paid his actual value under the current NBA rules. Because of it, he said, he's been willing to "sacrifice" on his contracts.
"What I do on the floor shows my value. At the end of the day, I don't think my value on the floor can really be compensated for, anyways, because of the (collective bargaining agreement),"
"If you want the truth. If this was baseball, it'd be up, I mean way up there."
There is no salary cap in Major League Baseball. James, who took a pay cut to sign with the Heat in 2010, is making $17.5 million this season, tied for 13th-highest in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant is first at $27.8 million.
In 2011, when he was asked what it would take to get him to play in Europe during the NBA's lockout, James speculated his play might be worth $50 million a year.
In the past several months, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies have traded star players because they were concerned about their salaries being too costly when a more stringent luxury tax arrives next season. The Thunder traded James Harden last fall, and the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay this week.
James and teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all took less than the maximum salary when they signed three years ago. That should enable the Heat to keep them together next season, even with the new tax rules. James doesn't believe they have gotten credit for that decision.
"I have not had a full max deal yet in my career -- that's a story untold," James said.
"I don't get (the credit) for it. That doesn't matter to me; playing the game is what matters to me. Financially, I'll sacrifice for the team. It shows for some of the top guys, it isn't all about money. That's the genuine side of this, it's about winning. I understand that."
Forbes recently estimated James earns $40 million per year in endorsements and sponsorships, thanks to deals with Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, State Farm and Samsung.