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Will A New Deal Finally Bring NBA D-League Players A Livable Wage?

NBA players earn 160 times their minor-league counterparts do, and that’s bad business

For all of the millions earned in professional sports, the athletes who exist on the fringes—from the minor leagues to arena football—endure a very different lifestyle than their big-league counterparts. The NBA is no exception, with players relegated to the league’s development arm, the D-League, earning barely a sliver of a what even the NBA bench players enjoy. Currently, players in the D-League receive one of two salaries: $19,500 per year or $26,000 per year. That’s it. But a new sponsorship deal between the league and Gatorade leaves players hopeful that the extra revenue will provide athletes with a livable wage.

The recently announced sponsorship deal includes renaming the league the Gatorade League (G-League) and using Gatorade logos on balls, courts, and uniforms. More importantly, the revenue, if properly shared with the players, will benefit both the D-League and the NBA. Since the D-League’s inception, it’s been imagined as a destination for players who are on the cusp of NBA-caliber performances. But the meager salaries have effectively killed its ability to recruit players who can find thousands, if not millions, more in leagues abroad. Higher wages mean that global and domestic talent stays closer to home, which makes the D-League more viable as both a self-sustaining entity and talent pool to up the level of talent at the NBA level.

The D-League will also enjoy access to Gatorade’s Sports Science Institute, a resource used by Cam Newton, Dwyane Wade, and other elite athletes. D-League president Malcolm Turner shared his excitement, stating, "I'm excited that we're able to partner with Gatorade to not only showcase, but incubate, new emerging innovations that we can deploy across ... locker rooms."

That benefits the Gatorade brand and hopefully helps a league of players who exist near the national poverty line ($12,500 for a single person). It is also a better return on investment for the both Gatorade and the league, which so far have been champions of many progressive social issues.

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