LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Butch Beard won an NBA championship ring at Golden State. He played in the 1972 All-Star game.

He finished in the top five in the league in field goal percentage twice, shooting a better percentage than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975.

You don’t have to be a student of University of Louisville basketball to understand that Beard was not Charlie the Chucker. Beard was a remarkably effective and versatile guard who played nine NBA seasons (missing one for military service during the Vietnam War).

The NBA has been in the news lately because the league is handing out money like Halloween candy. (Yes, I realize the owners are making even more cash and the TV revenue is outrageous.)

Don’t believe me? Allow me to call roll.

There’s $52 million for Joe Ingles. (I love basketball, but I can’t tell you a thing about Ingles. I just Eric Crawford if he knew Joe Ingles. No, sir.)

There’s $57 million for George Hill. (Hill is a solid player but he’s never been an all-star, an NBA champion or one of the league’s top five shooters.)

There’s $90 for Paul Millsap, $153 million for Jrue Holiday and, of course, $201 million for Steph Curry.

I asked Beard, 70, if he had considered how much money he would have requested if he had been a prime free agent this summer.

Yes, Beard laughed.

Sure, he had. Wouldn’t every retired NBA player think about that? Wouldn’t anybody who has ever launched a jump shot in the driveway think about it?

“Probably $15 million,” Beard said.

In 1975, when Beard started at guard and averaged nearly 13 points for the Golden State team that swept Washington in the NBA Finals, Beard was paid $75,000 – or $352,300 in 2017 dollars.

The most Beard earned as an NBA player was $375,000 – in 1979, his farewell season with the New York Knicks. According to one of those fancy calculators that converts 1979 dollars into 2017 dollars, that would be less than $1.3 million in today’s NBA.

Through the beauty of another website – BasketballReference.com – I found  information that stirred a louder, booming laugh from Beard.

BasketballReference features the traditional collection of scoring, rebounding and assist numbers. You can discover how many times a guy participated in the playoffs, his all-star status and, sometimes, salary information.

But the feature I enjoy is the one that compares players from different eras. They call it Similarity Scores – players with careers of similar quality and shapes.

Here are the guys ranked (in order) similar to Beard:

Dave Twardzik; Raja Bell; Ben Gordon; J. R. Smith; John Salmons; Eric Snow.

And then the name that rang the bell – J.R. Redick.

That’s the $23 Million Man – at least according to the contract Redick was offered by Philadelphia to leave the Los Angeles Clippers.

I told Beard when he negotiated another contract, I needed to do the talking. J.J. Redick is no Butch Beard. If Redick is worth $23 million, Beard had to ask for $25 million, not $15.

Like I said, Beard was having fun with this while completing his daily stretching regimen. Another laugh, louder and longer than the last one.

“I knew I was good,” he said. “I guess I was worth more than I thought he was.”

What about Wes Unseld, Beard’s U of L teammate who won the rookie of the year and MVP awards in 1969 on his way to a Hall of Fame career?

“Put Wes in the $30-to-$35 million range,” Beard said.

At least.

Make no mistake, Beard did not begrudge the ability of today’s players to make life-changing money.

“I don’t get upset,” Beard said. “They wouldn’t be paying them if they didn’t have the money to do it. And I was still making more money than most people my age were making.”

The Player Similarity Score was fun. Gordon Hayward will earn $32 million next season in Boston. He was compared to Alex English, who made $8 million in his eighth pro season. Holliday will make $30 million. He was compared to Vernon Maxwell, who made $1 million at a similar spot in his career.

Toronto agreed to pay Kyle Lowry $33.3 million. Lowry’s player comp was Gus Williams, who earned $790,000 late in his career.

Then there is J.J. Redick making $23 million, a penny or two more than Butch Beard earned on his way to a championship ring and the all-star game.

“It’s all relative,” Beard said.  “I’m glad they’re making the money. I just hope they all take care of it. There’s no reason for any of them to go broke, right?”


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