The last time Jaylen Brown took the floor for the Boston Celtics in a win-or-go-home game against the Miami Heat, the All-NBA second-teamer had 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and eight turnovers while shooting 8-of-23 from the field (34.8%) and 1-of-9 from 3-point range. It was a brutal performance that raised some serious questions about whether Brown, who had to take on a larger role that night after superstar forward Jayson Tatum suffered an ankle injury in the game’s first minute, was really a member of the NBA’s elite class or simply a very good player who is adept at stuffing the stat sheet during the regular season.
No one knows how Boston’s brass truly feels behind closed doors, but the Celtics made the decision to pay Brown as if he is one of the best basketball players on the planet and agreed to a fully guaranteed five-year supermax extension that’s worth $304 million. It’s the richest contract in NBA history and will pay Brown nearly $70 million in the 2028-29 season.
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Thanks to the contract, which will not be Brown’s last as he’ll only be in his early 30s when it expires, the former No. 3 overall pick will make around $430 million in career salary earnings if he never signs another deal. That’s far more than double what Tom Brady, who played 23 seasons in the NFL and won seven Super Bowls while snaring almost every single passing record in professional football, made in salary during the course of his illustrious career ($176,168,500). As of now, only four-time champion LeBron James ($530,882,395), two-time champ Kevin Durant ($499,843,653), four-time champ Steph Curry ($470,090,010) and Damian Lillard ($449,910,157) are ahead of Brown on NBA’s all-time projected earnings (salary only) list.
Viewed in comparison to Brady and others, Brown’s deal, which comes in the same week that star quarterback Justin Herbert and the Chargers agreed to a five-year, $262.5 million deal and PIF-controlled Saudi soccer club Al Hilal made a $1 billion deal to secure French star Kylian Mbappe for a single season, seems silly. And it is. But, viewed in comparison with what Brady made in his career, it also seems ridiculous that MLB star Mike Trout, who has never won a playoff series in 13 seasons with the Angels, is on pace to have banked $458,975,125 in salary by the time his contract is up in 2030.
In team sports, you can’t buy wins. (Unless you’re the Golden State Warriors.) But you can try, and the Celtics are going to have to because Tatum is due for a supermax of his own before next season that will make him the new owner of the richest contract in NBA history. By the time Tatum’s extension kicks in for the 2025-26 season, he, Brown and big man Kristaps Porzingis — who agreed to a two-year contract extension worth around $60 million after being traded to the Celtics during the offseason — will take up about 90% of Boston’s salary-cap space.
It’s a $600 million problem that will turn into a solution if the Celtics can win a championship while Brown and Tatum are together in Boston. If they don’t, the NBA’s richest contract may end up looking like one of the silliest deals in the history of pro sports. It kind of already does.