Large, warm-colored boxes represent heavily fined players. Small, cool-colored boxes represent less-fined players.
Most Fined Player (Number of Fines): Rasheed Wallace – Eight fines for $205,000
All-Time Largest Player Fine: Vladimir Radmonovic – $500,000
We’ve discussed this one. Shoulder injury while snowboarding = breach of contract and hefty fine.
Coaches - (54 Total Fines for $1,327,500)
Coaches have the lowest average fine amount at $22,761. Criticism of refs is almost always the reason why a coach is fined. Phil Jackson alone has been fined seven times for criticizing the refs. Jackson, Larry Brown and Doc Rivers are the three most frequently misbehaving coaches, and they account for 23 of the 54 total fines levied against coaches since 2003. The chart below functions just like the last one.
Most Fined Coach: Phil Jackson – Eight fines for $380,000
All-Time Largest Coach Fine: Jeff Van Gundy – $100,000
Back in 2006, Jeff Van Gundy was coaching a Rockets team that was faced with a tough challenge against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. One night, after the Rockets second victory in the series, Van Gundy allegedly received a call from a referee not officiating the games. The referee, whose identity is still unknown, told Van Gundy that the refs would be watching Yao Ming closely because Mark Cuban had been complaining to them about missed calls on the Rockets’ big man. His decision to publicly announce this phone call without disclosing the source earned him a $100,000 fine and may have contributed to the end of his coaching career, which came the following year.
Teams - (32 Total Fines for $2,860,000)
Teams have the highest average fine amount at $104,675. In 2006, the Knicks and the Nuggets were both fined $500,000 for their brawl at Madison Square Garden. Surprisingly, the Malice at the Palace incident in 2004, which one would think was more serious than the Knicks-Nuggets brawl, did not incur fines for the teams involved. However, players involved in the Malice at the Palace incident were suspended, which caused them to lose wages for each game they missed. Their total lost wages for that event were likely in excess of $25 million.
In 2009, the NBA came down hard(er than usual) on ref criticism. Most of the coaches who criticized the refs that year were fined and in addition, their team was fined as well. This explains the sudden spike of fines for teams in 2009.
The Spurs usually fly underneath the league’s disciplinary radar, yet in the chart below we find them among the most fined teams in the NBA. This is due mostly in part to the recent $250,000 fine handed to them when Gregg Popovich decided not to play Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for a game against the Heat earlier this season. Not only did they not play, they boarded a plane back to San Antonio, so they weren’t even in the city where the game was being played. Even though the Spurs’ bench put up a valiant effort, and nearly defeated the Heat, the move to sit stars was frowned upon by fans who had purchased tickets.
Most fined Team (Dollar Amount): Knicks and Nuggets – $700,000 each. Both teams incurred two fines.
Most fined Team (Number of Fines): Lakers - Five fines for $225,000
All-Time Largest Team Fine: Timberwolves – $3.5 Million
This is the largest fine ever issued in the history of the NBA. The Timberwolves were caught circumventing the salary cap in 2000. While attempting to sign Joe Smith, the Timberwolves used a sneaky secret contract to hide the true amount of money they planned to pay him. This is clearly illegal, and unfortunately for the T-Wolves, they got caught. It makes you wonder how many teams get away with this sort of thing…
Owners - (20 Total Fines for $1,945,000)
Owner fines are even rarer than team fines, but they do happen. Owners have the second highest average fine amount, at $74,042. In 2010, several owners made the mistake of discussing LeBron James’ free agency publicly, violating the league’s anti-tampering rules and earning fines totaling $235,000.
One of my personal favorite fined offenses also happened in 2010. Celtics GM Danny Ainge was fined $25,000 when he threw a towel into the air to distract JJ Hickson as he shot free throws.
Here is a chart displaying the most heavily fined owners. As you can see, Mark Cuban runs away with this category. Keep in mind, this chart doesn’t even include the fines he received prior to 2003.
Most Fined Owner : Mark Cuban – 10 Fines for $835,000 (His grand total is much more than this. See below.)
All-Time Largest Owner Fine: Micky Arison and Mark Cuban – $500,000 each
- Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks, was handed this obscene fine for a comment he made about League Director of Officials, Ed Rush.
- Micky Arison is the owner of the Heat. In 2011, during the collective bargaining agreement discussions, he responded to a Twitter accusation that owners don’t care about fans by saying the instigator was “barking at the wrong owner.” This meant that his views on the subject were publicly available, which was strictly against the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
Mark Cuban Gets His Own Section?
Yes. Mark Cuban gets his own section. The chart below should clarify why.
As you can see, Mr. Cuban has been fined quite a bit over the course of his tenure as owner of the Mavericks. $1,840,000 to be exact. That’s roughly 10% of the total amount of money fined in the NBA since 2000, the year he joined the league. Cuban is the most fined individual in the history of the NBA by number (19) and by amount ($1,840,000). No one even comes close to the dollar amount of his fines, and only Shaquille O’Neal comes close to matching his total number of fines with 18.
Cuban has incurred:
- 6 fines of $100,000 (Rest of league: 7)
- 2 fines of $250,000 (Rest of league: 3)
- 1 $500,000 fine (Rest of league: 4)
Between November of 2000 and January of 2004, Cuban was the only NBA owner to receive a fine. In total, he received ten fines for a sum of $1,115,000. John Paxson interrupted Cuban’s hot streak with a $15,000 fine for criticizing the refs in 2006, then Cuban received three more uninterrupted fines totaling $450,000, all in 2006.
The one $500,000 fine he has earned is not only the largest in his portfolio, but it is also my personal favorite. After the Mavericks lost to the San Antonio Spurs 105-103 in 2002, Cuban was upset because he thought he saw Spurs big man Tim Duncan get away with a few traveling violations. “It happened multiple times right in front of me and they didn’t do a thing,” said Cuban. He went on to criticize Ed Rush the League Director of Officials at the time.
This hilarious statement cost Cuban $500,000. Worth it.
Another one of my faves happened back in 2006, during the NBA Finals between the Mavericks and the Heat. After the Mavs lost Game 5 by a single point, Mark went into a bit of a frenzy. Reportedly, he turned to David Stern, who was sitting in the stands with some other league officials and shouted “Fuck you! Fuck you! Your league is rigged!” He received a $250,000 fine for the incident. Later on, Cuban denied saying those things, but I like to believe otherwise.
While Mark Cuban has probably been a thorn in the side of the NBA on several occasions, he has definitely generated loads of publicity for the league, and he does something special with his wealth each time he is fined. According to Cuban, he matches every fine he receives dollar for dollar to a charity of his choosing. That means that in addition to the massive donations Cuban already makes, he has donated nearly $2 million just matching the fines he has received from the NBA. Cuban may at times exhibit “behavior unbecoming of an owner” ($100,000 – 2001), but he is doing great things with his fortune.
Do They Even Notice?
NBA Fines are truly massive. The average of all the fines in our data set is $33,689. For many people, that is a year’s salary. How do these comparatively huge fines affect their recipients? Consider the following.
Our Approximate Givens:
- There are 375 active players in the NBA at any moment.
- The average fine amount is $33,689.
- The average NBA salary is $5,150,000.
All players being equal, let’s say one receives a fine for $33,689 over the course of his six-year career. That $33,689 fine would eliminate a whopping .109% of his six-year income.
Now let’s say that same player was fined $1 million over the course of his career. He would miss out on no more than 3.24% of his six-year income due to the fine. For the record, no player has ever even accumulated $1 million in fines over the course of his entire career.
To put this in perspective, a $5,000 fine on LeBron James is the equivalent of an average earner in the U.S. dropping $6.25 out the window of his car.
In short, the answer is no. Players do not notice the fines. If they are not bothered by the fines, what’s the point of handing them out?
Where Does the Money Go?
NBA fines against players, coaches, teams and owners total nearly $12 million since 2003. That is a big chunk of change, and one that should not be ignored. Where does all that money go? Into David Stern’s pocket? To NBA Cares or other charities?