Baseball fans love to joke that July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day because the Mets pay him more than $ 1 million a year on that date despite the fact that he retired in 2001. While Bonilla might be the example more famous than an athlete paid not to play, he is not the only one in that situation.
It happens with professional athletes in all sports. In the NBA, one of these players is Josh Smith. He hasn’t played in a game since November 2017, but still receives a healthy salary every year thanks to the contract he signed with the Pistons.
Josh Smith’s career in the NBA
Josh Smith had a long career in the NBA after the Hawks took him with the seventeenth pick in the 2004 NBA draft straight from high school, where he was a highly recruited player at Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy in his senior year.
He had committed to playing for Indiana University, but ultimately decided to drop out of college to go straight to the pros. He ultimately played for five teams in 13 seasons.
During that time, he averaged 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, along with 1.9 blocks. While he was never among the best players in the league, Smith provided good production for the teams he was a part of.
The end of Josh Smith’s tenure in the NBA
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Smith last played in the NBA in the 2017-18 season, taking part in just three games for the Pelicans, coming out of a 2016-17 season in which he played in the Chinese Basketball Association.
New Orleans signed him as a short-term solution as an extra body to deal with the multiple injuries they had between their players, and the team gave him up a couple of weeks after signing him, after Smith had played in three games.
But it wasn’t the end of him playing basketball. In 2019, Smith played for Bivouac in the BIG3 basketball league, which features 3-on-3 action, with many former NBA players among the league’s players.
I still get paid with NBA money
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Despite the fact that Smith hasn’t played in an NBA game in nearly three calendar years, Josh Smith still gets paid significantly, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The Pistons signed Smith for a $ 54 million four-year contract in the 2013 off-season, but was cut in December 2014 after playing just 105 games for the team.
Smith didn’t live up to expectations during his short tenure in Detroit, so the contract ended up being terrible for the Pistons – and they’re about to stop paying for the mistake they made in giving him the deal.
Every year since they cut Smith, the Pistons have paid him more than $ 5.3 million each season. That figure represents more than he was doing for the teams he has actually played for since being cut by the Pistons.
So the Pistons paid Smith more than $ 25 million to play for other teams, another league and this season to sit on his sofa due to the contract they gave him before it turned into a bankruptcy for the franchise.
But there is a silver lining for the Pistons and their fans. The 2019-20 season marked the last that the team will owe Smith that money. This means that the most recent payment of over $ 5.3 million is the last that Smith will receive from the Pistons, finally closing the book on that terrible contract for Detroit. But it has been costly for the team so far and may have hurt them trying to sign free agents in recent years.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference