Call it an anecdotal observation, but NBA players tend to be more outspoken than NHL players. Some of that can perhaps be attributed to Adam Silver, the NBA boss who has shown tremendous support for his players speaking their minds on social and political issues since being named commissioner in 2014.
P.K. Subban thinks it has more to do with money than anything else.
“If we’re talking about sports let’s talk about money because that’s really what it’s about,” the Nashville Predators defenceman said Tuesday on Good Show with Ben Ennis and JD Bunkis. “You look at the NBA and the reality is the top players make more money off the court than they do on the court, so they can be more frank, they can be more straightforward in terms of the decisions they make and what decisions they make off the court. Especially in basketball, the players have more of an influence because they make more money.
“Someone like LeBron James signs a half a billion or billion-dollar deal with Nike and he’s only getting paid $30 million from his basketball team, so it’s hard to control somebody like that because the reality is he really doesn’t need the paycheque from his basketball team. He’s set for life and that’s not just in his case. That’s in a lot of the players’ cases in the NBA, so the influence is different whereas in hockey that’s not the case at all.”
The top NHL salary in 2018-19 according to CapFriendly (in terms of dollars owed, not cap hit) is the $15.9 million John Tavares is set to make in his first year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tavares is one of 14 NHLers scheduled to make at least $10 million next season and every one of those players is a bona fide star, Subban among them.
By comparison, though, the NBA has 134 players scheduled to make at least $10 million in 2018-19—many of whom aren’t even starters—and 74 players will have higher salaries than Tavares in particular.
“History shows that the majority of hockey players make their most money playing hockey [through] player contracts and that gives the league more control,” Subban said. “That gives the league more control over players and what decisions they make and how they structure things and that’s just the reality of it. That’s the nature of the sport. That doesn’t make the league bad or good. It doesn’t make the players bad or good. That’s just the reality of it. It’s all based on dollars.”
Subban continued: “You look at someone like LeBron James who’s opening up a brand-new school now. He’s funding a school, he has his own production company, he’s got other things going on where he’s making a lot of money, but he’s also doing a lot of good things too. He does a lot of things in the community and I think a lot of players in the NBA are seeing that and everybody’s trying to do their part for themselves and I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
Silver praised his athletes during NBA All-Star week earlier this year for letting their opinions be known publicly, saying: “I’m incredibly proud of our players for using the platform they have as players in the NBA and on social media to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
Subban is among the most well-known hockey players on the planet with 1.1 million Twitter followers and happens to be one of the most vocal as well. Still, you don’t hear him and his hockey peers being as outspoken as other pro athletes.
“In regards to hockey I think it’s just different,” Subban added. “It’s in a different financial space. You look at what players are making in the NBA, look at what the hockey players are making and there’s a big, big difference in money and I think that’s a huge influence on what players are comfortable doing and what they’re not comfortable doing.”