By HoopsHype | December 31, 2015
10. Andrei Kirilenko (Russia): The Russian forward was paid like a franchise player by Utah early in his career, but never played like one, which left a bitter taste with the Jazz fanbase. For a brief period of time, Kirilenko filled the stat sheet like few others in the NBA, yes… But a max player he was not.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria): The Nigerian big man came into the NBA too early to rake in the big money. Only made eight figures late in his career with the Houston Rockets, when he was past his prime. How much would a player like him make these days? (*) Incomplete contract information; three seasons’ salaries missing.
8. Manu Ginobili (Argentina): Based on talent and performance, Ginobili should be ranked higher in this list. Like many other Spurs, he left some money on the table to keep playing in the San Antonio NBA paradise. It paid off in the form of championship rings, of course.
7. Nenê (Brazil): Never became the star some expected him to be, but the Brazilian big man was a solid starter in Denver and Washington for many years. Ranks second in salary and 11th in minutes played for the Wizards this season.
6. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania): Started his NBA career as an injury-plagued big man and developed into one of the top centers. (Although that has something to do with the dearth at the position during his prime years in the NBA). Overpaid players are often vilified in the league, but that was not the case with Ilgauskas, who remains a beloved figure in Cleveland.
5. Tony Parker (France): Much like Ginobili, Parker passed on the possibility of richer deals (and bigger stats) to contend for the championship year after year in San Antonio. One of the most dominant point guards in the last decade, the Frenchman has never been a Top 30 player salary-wise.
4. Dikembe Mutombo (DR of Congo): Put up terrific numbers against Shaquille O’Neal in the 2001 NBA Finals and subsequently signed a four-year, $68 million contract he couldn’t possibly live up to. Would only have a double-double season after that.
3. Steve Nash (Canada): The Canadian legend was No. 50 in the salary rankings his first MVP season in Phoenix and No.47 during the second one. Doesn’t come much cheaper than that. Partly made up for that with his last deal with the Lakers, when his wheels were totally falling off.
2. Pau Gasol (Spain): Made max money for many years in Memphis and Los Angeles, but is quite a bargain for the Chicago Bulls these days at a $7.4 million salary following an All-Star season. Don’t be surprised if he keeps leaving money on the table to chase that third championship ring.