The End Game: When Belief and Understanding One’s Value Goes Terribly Wrong

When it comes to salary negotiations, the NBA isn’t all that different from any other business. You have those who control the purse strings. You have those trying to pull and tug at those purse strings to loosen up and in doing so, put a few of those coins in their pockets. But ultimately, deals are done when a player and a team mutually agree on what that player’s financial value is to that team. Doing so successfully requires all sides to, as best they can, predict the economic conditions of the marketplace.

Which brings us to Dennis Schröder, one of the top NBA free agents this summer; at least, that’s what he thought.

It turns out, the demand for his services and the price tag he and his camp put on them (four years, $120 million), did not align with what others across the NBA landscape were thinking. And so the anticipated financial windfall the 28-year-old was seeking never materialized after having already turned down a four-year, $84 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.

So as the big-money spenders in the NBA this offseason invested elsewhere, Schröder had to settle on a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics that’s worth $5.9 million.

There’s not much sympathy for someone who makes that kind of miscalculation, but there’s a lesson to be learned that goes beyond the obvious which is you don’t turn down that kind of money unless you know with absolute or near-absolute certainty that you are going to get that money or something pretty damn close to it, from somewhere else.

Clearly, that did not happen.

What happened with Schröder speaks to a more universal issue that has impacted many but particularly Blacks, which is an individual’s belief in themselves while understanding their worth.

As we’ve seen in sports and other sectors of society and business, you’re never going to get what you’re worth, only what you negotiate.

Kevin Merida, a veteran in the world of journalism on all platforms, was hired this past May as the Executive Editor at the Los Angeles Times. Having held various leadership positions at some of the most iconic news organizations in the world such as the Washington Post and ESPN, his hiring by the Times was heralded as a huge success. And as the congratulatory messages poured in, Merida responded to the outpouring via Twitter.

Kevin Merida on Twitter: “Well, it’s been quite the day. And I appreciate all of the love. Thank you, @DrPatSoonShiong and the @latimes for believing in me and understanding my value. Let’s create something truly transformative. Let’s shake up the world.”

Believing in me. Understanding my value.

Those two points raised by Merida spoke to not only his situation, but also what most Blacks are seeking but don’t get nearly as much of, when it comes to the hiring process.

Far too often, companies may have faith but fall well short of understanding an individual’s value whether it be putting forth a below-market salary or providing limited opportunities that effectively stunt one’s growth.

Which is why Schröder’s situation is so terribly disappointing.

His belief in himself is noble, but displaced in this instance for failing to recognize the situation and the salary on the table, wasn’t going to get any better. The Lakers offer would have provided a slight raise over his previous contract (four years, $70 million). In addition, he would be playing with a Lakers team led by LeBron James that was built to be a title contender for the life of his new deal which most likely would have included Schröder’s role with the team expanding. Instead, he continued to double-down on believing in himself while completely missing the boat on his value in the eyes of others.

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So the Lakers did what all quality organizations do in that instance—pivot in another direction. And that led to them trading for Russell Westbrook, a former league MVP who is one of the better players in the NBA—certainly better than Schröder.

Schröder’s miscalculation cost him millions, the kind of multi-generational gaffe that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by fans, media or Schröder, certainly.

In addition to the money and location that would have come with re-signing with the Lakers, he would also be playing with LeBron James whose teams typically make deep playoff runs which means significant exposure and opportunities to play in the biggest games when the stakes are highest.

And despite the hefty contract, because of James and another top-shelf star in Anthony Davis already on the Lakers roster, Schröder wouldn’t have the kind of, “live up to your contract” pressure that a lot of players feel when they sign a new deal.

Now he’s feeling a different kind of pressure.

It isn’t to live up to the contract, but play well enough to get a more lucrative, multi-year deal elsewhere beginning next season.

Otherwise, this lesson in understanding one’s own value will be pointless other than to remind us all how badly Schröder crapped out when he bet on himself.

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