Every February, the NBA puts the breaks on its demanding schedule for All-Star Weekend, a brief stoppage that allows the league’s best players to momentarily disregard their rivalries with one another and play a relaxing, emotionless game wherein they can showcase their skills. Fans welcome this diversion, in that players do things that they would never do in a regular season game. Crazy alley-oops are thrown, risky passes are commonplace, and good-natured banter takes the place of the often cutthroat trash-talk that pervades regular season games. Indeed, the NBA’s All-Star Game is a carnivalesque affair that allows players and fans alike to recharge before the gruelling push to the playoffs.
And unlike similar games in hockey and football, players take the NBA All-Star game seriously, as no one wants to be embarrassed by their on-court rival. Sure, defense is relaxed, and players want to see their colleagues pull off amazing moves, but in the final minutes of the game, Lebron, for instance, is not going to let Durant have his way.
This year’s All-Star game was intriguing because it featured first-time All-Stars like John Wall, Damian Lilllard, and Stephen Curry. The youthfulness of this year’s game seems to be a sign of things to come, as the NBA prepares to enter into a new era that will be dominated by new faces. League commissioner David Stern, in fact, will step down as the league’s commissioner this offseason, so the youth movement seems apropos.
Based on this season’s salaries, this list looks at the top 10 highest earning players in this year’s All-Star Game. Though young players have begun to emerge, this list will show that old faces are still dominating the league, and commanding the highest salaries, too.
10 Blake Griffin - 2013/14 salary: $16,441,500
Though he is young, Blake Griffin has been a staple at the All-Star Game for several seasons now. Fans still remember his electrifying performance in the dunk contest from a few years ago, but this year, Griffin comes to the All-Star game as more of a complete player, having improved several important aspects of his game that were lacking in years past. This season, he is averaging 24.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
9 Kevin Durant - 2013/14 Salary: $17,832,627
Could this be the year Kevin Durant captures his first MVP Award? Durant is certainly making a strong case for himself. The former Texas Longhorn is averaging 31.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game this season. With Russell Westbrook out of the lineup, the Oklahoma City Thunder have counted on Durant, and so far he has gone above and beyond the call of duty. The All-Star game was no exception, as Durant brought up his All-Star Game scoring average to 30.6 ppg, the highest in history.
8 Chris Paul - 2013/14 Salary: $18,668,431
If Lebron James and Kevin Durant were not playing amazingly, Chris Paul would have an excellent chance of winning this season’s MVP Award. As it stands, though, Paul will probably not claim the title, but that does not change the fact that he is playing at a level few point guards can match. This season, he is averaging 19.2 points and 11.1 assists per game, as the Los Angeles Clippers try to secure a favorable first-round matchup.
7 Dwyane Wade - 2013/14 Salary: $18,673,000
Though his age is beginning to catch up to him, Dwyane Wade is still one of the league’s best shooting guards. He has missed a good deal of games this year, but the regular season does not matter for a team like the Miami Heat or a player like Wade. He wants more championships, and his team looks poised to get back to the finals for a fourth straight year. This season, Flash is averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game.
6 Lebron James - 2013/14 Salary: $19,067,500
The fact that Lebron James was selected to play in another All-Star Game surprised, well, no one. However, James refuses to capitulate to fans’ wishes to see him in the Dunk Contest. His refusal has confounded many fans and experts, since Lebron does not need to worry about being pigeonholed, and the Dunk Contest has been something akin to a rite of passage for greats like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Maybe next season...
5 Chris Bosh - 2013/14 Salary: $19,067,500
Chris Bosh has unsurprisingly been selected to another All-Star game. Love him or hate him, Bosh still does his job admirably. He is not going to surprise defenders with his physicality, but he can still knock down an important jumper when his team needs him. This season, the former Georgia Tech star is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Miami Heat will need him, if they want to get back to the finals.
4 Dwight Howard - 2013/14 Salary: $20,513,178
Since ending his drama-filled and sigh-inducing stint in Los Angeles, Dwight has climbed back into people’s good books as a member of the Houston Rockets. This season, he is averaging 18.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. With Howard, James Harden, and a group of fearless youngsters, the Houston Rockets look scary, and they will challenge the titans in the Western Conference come playoff time.
3 Carmelo Anthony - 2013/14 Salary: $21,388,953
Carmelo was one of the centers of attention this weekend, not necessarily for his on-court play, but for his imminent offseason decision as to where he will play next season. In New York, the ship is sinking, and Melo’s deft scoring touch has failed to give the metaphorical ship any buoyancy. He is averaging 27.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this year, but it is uncertain that the Knicks will make the playoffs, despite the Eastern Conference’s weakness.
2 Joe Johnson - 2013/14 Salary: $21,466,718
Fans have voted Joe Johnson into another All-Star Game, though his stats are rather pedestrian this season. He is averaging 15.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game on an underachieving Brooklyn Nets squad. Lucky for the Nets, weak teams pervade the Eastern Conference, so they will probably make the playoffs; if that happens, Johnson will have to step his game up.
1 Dirk Nowitzki - 2013/14 Salary: $22,721,381
Far from looking over the hill this season, Dirk Nowitzki has been back to his old self. The German superstar is averaging 21.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and the Mavericks are one of the league’s hottest teams. Few think that the Mavs will be able to compete come playoff time, especially given the competitiveness of the Western Conference, but with Dirk on their side, anything is possible.