Now that the Golden State Warriors won their third championship in four seasons and are fresh off of their fourth-straight Finals appearance, other franchises around the NBA might attempt to replicate their team building strategy.
But, that might end up being impossible for one distinct reason: the concept of sacrifice.
Superstar Kevin Durant famously took $10 million less in salary when he signed his one-and-one deal last summer to ensure that the team’s core remained in-tact for another title run. In the end, that paid off.
A number of proven veterans took smaller contracts in order to chase a ring as well.
But, one man’s sacrifice has flown under the radar. In the summer of 2015 right after Golden State won their first title in over four decades, Draymond Green signed a five-year, $82 million extension. In doing so, he left $12 million on the table.
Although the sacrifice wasn’t a major story at the time, it opened the door for the team to sign a high-profile free agent the next summer. Although Green was a second-round pick and clearly could have taken every last penny he was offered, he studied the collective bargaining agreement and crunched the numbers so that a maximum contract could fit into the books the following summer, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.
Everything went as planned
That player ended up being Kevin Durant and Green claims that he had KD in mind all along.
"I took less so we could go after KD," Green told Haynes during the Finals. "I am a student of this game, and I studied the business side of it and the numbers, where some people don't. They leave it up to their agent to do it.”
Overall, championships mean more to Green than making a few more million dollars.
"That money is not changing my neighborhood," Green said. "It's probably $6 million after taxes and fees. It's not changing my neighborhood, but championships can. Championships can change my life.”
Interestingly, the $82 million mark was the first number that Green brought up in negotiations. The team didn’t even have to convince him to take a pay cut since he was so well-prepared.
"So it's about what's important to you. And I knew how important it was to me and the opportunity we could have if I did what I did. And I didn't need [Warriors general manager] Bob [Myers] to explain that to me. Bob never once explained that to me. I knew it going in. So that's where I based my negotiations at. The number I asked for, I got," Green explained.
Although Green is personified as a ruthless, cutthroat player on the court, he has proven to be quite the opposite when it comes to being a teammate. One man in particular inspired Green to make the decision.
"I remember my rookie year," Green said, "[Former Warriors assistant coach] Pete Myers used to always tell me you get paid for the next young guy to get paid, and it's your job and your duty to give back to the next young guy and show them the way. You owe that to the game. And I will never forget that. So I try to do whatever I can to have relationships with younger guys, to teach them the way, so they can teach the next guy.”
Although there’s no guarantee that he will take another pay cut when his current contract expires, it’s interesting to look back and understand the role that he played in landing Durant, who is fresh off of his second-straight Finals MVP award.