Next season’s NBA draft has been labelled one of the deepest drafts in recent history. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker lead a host of players who look poised to make immediate impacts on an NBA squad, and that is great news for fans, since last year’s draft was fairly shallow with regard to talent. Hopefully for fans, All-Star-caliber players will emerge from next year’s draft, but even if they do, it will be hard for those players to collectively match the professional success that the players drafted in 2003 have had.
Few drafts in NBA history have been glutted with as much talent as 2003’s draft. Four players from that draft—Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh—look destined for the Hall of Fame, and a handful of others have made at least one All-Star game. Indeed, the 2003 draft is arguably the greatest draft in the history of the NBA.
With three of the best players from the 2003 draft now playing on the same team, the draft also marks a change of culture in the league. In the 90s, it would have been insane for Michael Jordan to consider teaming up with Patrick Ewing, or for Shaquille O’Neal to consider joining forces with Karl Malone and John Stockton. But in today’s NBA, players have far more amicable relationships with their opponents, and ostensible enemies can be found working out together in the offseason. So when James, Wade, and Bosh went behind everyone’s back and arranged to team up, the NBA witnessed three of its most talented players from the 2003 draft do something that would have been unthinkable in previous generations.
This list looks at the top 10 highest-earning players from the 2003 NBA draft. Each player’s career earnings have been listed. Whether it marks a good shift or a bad shift in the league, the 2003 draft will be remembered as long as the NBA is around.
10. Darko Milicic – Career Earnings: $52,323,642
Amongst the future Hall of Famers drafted early in 2003, there was Darko Milicic, who was drafted second overall by the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were one of the league’s best teams, so they were not looking to build around their newest addition. Though he is one of the highest-earning players from the 2003 draft, Darko no longer plays in the NBA, and if this list ranked the top 10 players in terms of on-court success, Darko would not make it. He still managed to get paid—and handsomely, too.
9. Boris Diaw – Career Earnings: $59,365,921
At 6’8″, Boris Diaw has played a polymorphous role for several clubs over the years. In some lineups he plays power forward, and in others he plays shooting guard or small forward. His versatility allows him to make a positive impact wherever he goes. This season, playing for the San Antonio Spurs, Diaw is averaging 9.2 points per game, while shooting over 50% from the floor.
8. Mo Williams – Career Earnings: $59,561,931
An All-Star for Cleveland back in 2009, Mo Williams continues to have a successful career in the NBA, playing for the Portland Trail Blazers this season. His numbers are down this season because he backs up sophomore sensation Damian Lillard, but nevertheless, he is averaging 9 points per game. Williams has averaged 13.4 points and 4.9 assists per game over the course of his career.
7. Kirk Hinrich – Career Earnings: $66,092,268
Despite brief stops in Atlanta and Washington, Kirk Hinrich has played his entire career in Chicago, and throughout his time in the Windy City, he’s been a dependable point guard. With Derrick Rose out again this season, the team has called on Hinrich, hoping that his experience would help give the team some traction. However, the former Kansas standout is not playing very well, as he is shooting under 40% from the field. Hinrich will need to work on his efficiency if he wants to stay in the league.
6. David West – Career Earnings: $75,668,418
Despite all the high school stars and freshmen who declared for the 2003 draft, David West quietly entered it as a decorated senior from Xavier. This two-time All-Star has been a positive asset for every team he has played on, and continues to be a reliable presence in Indiana. As a member of the New Orleans Hornets in 2008-2009, West had his best season with regard to statistics, averaging 21 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Over his career, he has averaged 15.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
5. Chris Kaman – Career Earnings: $76,727,368
Chris Kaman has had a solid career in the league, though his career earnings suggest that he has been better. Kaman was on the winning end of a lucrative contract that he signed with the Clippers, a contract that paid him as much as $14 million in one season. He will never see that kind of money again, and injuries have hampered his effectiveness this year, limiting him to only 28 in-game appearances thus far. Over the course of his career, he has averaged 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
4. Dwyane Wade – Career Earnings: $121,321,666
Of course, Dwyane Wade needs no introduction; his reputation precedes him. This season, though, has highlighted Wade’s ageing body, as he has missed a handful of games due to lower body issues. But Flash, as he is affectionately known, continues to dominate when he gets on the court. Indeed, though his production has dropped this season, he remains efficient, shooting slightly under 55% from the floor in 36 games. His play in the postseason is the only thing Wade’s year will be measured by.
3. Chris Bosh – Career Earnings: $123,404,753
After running for the hills when his contract expired in Toronto, Bosh has played steadily for his new team, though he has lost a good deal of the cultural capital that comes from being regarded as one of the NBA’s elite. Bosh is indeed not one of the NBA’s elite, having been surmounted by players like Kevin Love in the last three years. But if Bosh continues to win championships in Miami, he will have a strong Hall-of-Fame resume when he retires. One thing is certain: when Bosh retires, he will have a deep bank account, which should help overcome his sorrow should he not be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
2. Lebron James – Career Earnings: $129,155,913
With his recent comments about deserving to be a face on the NBA’s version of Mount Rushmore, Lebron has finally started to evince a Jordan-like hubris. But Lebron does not need to worry about adducing an affable public persona, since his on-court play continues to bring NBA fans to their knees. This season, King James is averaging 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, while shooting slightly better than 57% from the floor.
1. Carmelo Anthony – Career Earnings: $135,865,275
Unfortunately for Carmelo Anthony, his team is having an atrocious season, and the media keeps extolling the play of two other stars from his draft—Dwyane Wade and Lebron James—while questioning Melo. That said, fans and experts alike still agree that Melo is one of the league’s best scorers, if not the best. Melo will undoubtedly have a drama-filled offseason, as he has to decide whether he wants to jilt New York for greener pastures or stay in the Big Apple. If he takes the former route, he will forego over $23 million, the amount that the Knicks are scheduled to pay him in 2014-2015.
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