How Anthony Tolliver Made More Than $353,000 For One Day’s Work
After going undrafted out of Creighton in the 2007 NBA Draft, Anthony Tolliver played in summer league for the Miami Heat, which eventually parlayed into a training camp contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Tolliver’s contract with Cleveland was a typical ‘summer’ contract. It was a fully unguaranteed one-year rookie minimum salary contract, which, in the 2007/08 season, was equal to $427,163. Tolliver was one of several training camp signees for Cleveland that season, and was an outside shot to make the roster.
Concurrent with these moves, Cleveland was embroiled in the long-since-forgotten-about holdouts of Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic. Both were restricted free agents out of contract, both were unhappy with Cleveland’s best offer, and yet both were seemingly unable to get more on the market. The pair held out of training camp, waiting for enormous deals that never came.
The holdout lasted all through the free agency period, all through training camp, all through preseason, and into the regular season. It is precisely because of this that Tolliver made the Cavaliers open night roster that season.
It did not last long. Pavlovic was the first to crack – he agreed to re-sign to a partially guaranteed three year, $13,696,250 contract that he was waived after only two years of. He signed this contract on 31st October 2007, the second day of the regular season. And when he did so, Tolliver was waived to open up a roster spot.
It seemed relatively innocuous, as Tolliver earned only a few dollars by NBA standards for his brief Cavaliers stint. There were 170 days in an NBA regular season at the time (up to 177 now), and players unguaranteed for a lack of skill are paid per diem for each day that they are on the roster, including partial days and time on waivers (which, at the time, was 48 hours not including weekends).
For his one day of work, then – a day on which he did not even make the active list – Tolliver received four days of pay for his two days on the roster and two on waivers, equal to $10,051 (calculated as $427,163 / 170 4). However, the day-and-a-bit he spent on the roster benefitted him beyond just that amount.
The amount a player receives in a minimum salary contract differs based on his number of years of experience, but ‘years of experience’ is itself something of a misnomer. To gain a year of experience, a player need spend only one day of the regular season on a team’s roster, and it does not even need to be on the active list.
The two days Tolliver spent, then, was enough to count as a full year of experience. And the by-product of that has been increased salaries ever since.
Tolliver did not sign in the NBA again that season, splitting his remaining time between the then-D-League and Germany. But the following July, Tolliver signed a two-year minimum salary contract with the San Antonio Spurs, including a $200,000 guarantee in the first season. He made the regular season roster, and stuck with the time right up until January, whereupon he was waived in advance of the league-wide contract guarantee date of January 10th.
In that time, Tolliver earned $309,719, 74/170ths of his one year veteran minimum salary of $711,517. Later that season, Tolliver signed a ten day contract with the New Orleans Hornets, earning him a further $41,853 (10/170ths). Cumulatively, then, he earned a total NBA salary that year of $351,573 – had he not spent the two days the previous year with the Cavaliers, he would have earned prorated amounts of the rookie minimum of $442,114, for a cumulative total of $218,456.
Tolliver further added this benefit in future seasons, and although there stopped being any functional benefit to this added year of experience after 2018 – players with ten years or more experience get the same amount in both their minimum salary and pension amount, no matter how far beyond the 10-year line they are – the total dividend was a significant one.
Any time Tolliver has been on a minimum salary contract, the above applies, and several times in his 14-year NBA career, he has been on the minimum.
In total, Tolliver wound up pulling in $353,485 in extra NBA salary across his fourteen seasons in the league, all because of a day and a half win which he did not even have to suit up. And he owes it all to Sasha Pavlovic’s ambitious contract demands.
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