- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- 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)," James said Friday ahead of the Miami Heat's game against the Pacers (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Indianapolis.
"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.
Bosh also is earning $17.5 million this season, while Wade is making $17.1 million. Had they taken max deals in 2010, each could have made just under $20 million this season. It would have cost the Heat an additional $8 million in luxury taxes, roughly $12 million next season, and they might not have been able to add players Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Ray Allen to the roster.
The Heat, however, would be subject to what is known as the "repeater" tax starting in 2014-15 if they keep James, Wade and Bosh together because they would be over the luxury tax for four years in a row. In that case, the Heat would pay a tax rate that is currently more than four times the current dollar-for-dollar rate. James, Wade and Bosh do have opt-out clauses in their contracts in summer 2014, however.
"I think teams understand that you need three guys to do big things; the "big three" thing is pretty cool if you can get it," James said. "To keep teams like this together, you may have to take even less because of the new CBA. I guess we'll find out."