After last season ended, and the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions once more, Kevin Durant signed yet another short, 2-year deal with the Warriors. One of the theories why he keeps signing short term contract with them is that the Warriors will have his Bird rights next season. That way, he could get a five-year max contract out of them. But what exactly are bird rights?
As you might’ve already expected, Bird Rights have something to do with the NBA legend Larry Bird. In 1983, the NBA was discussing a salary cap in the league, so teams couldn’t spend an unlimited amount of money on their players’ salaries. But, as not every situation is the same, they left room for enough exceptions.
One of those situations came to be when the contract of Larry Bird ended after the 1983-1984 season. Before the Bird situation, this exception was named the ‘Qualifying Veterans Free Agent Exception’, but these days everyone knows it as the Bird Rights. If a free agent, that has played for a certain team for three consecutive years, wants to play and sign a contract with the same teams again, the team can sign that specific player for his maximum player salary and they won’t have to take the salary cap into account.
This way, signing a loyal star player won’t influence the salary you can pay the other player on the team. Furthermore, there’s a smaller chance one of your competitors will be able to sign the star player, as the other teams will definitely have to take the salary cap into account. So, through the Bird Rights, loyalty between teams and players is rewarded on both sides. Fun fact: The Bird Rights weren’t used on Larry Bird in 1983, because he signed a new contract before the salary cap was finally implement. He would later use those Bird Rights in 1988, when he signed another contract with the Celtics.
We have to at least wait one more season, before we find out Kevin Durant’s intentions for his next contract. Will he stay with the Warriors, but demand a max contract, or is he just keeping his options open in the case that the Seattle Supersonics get a second chance in the NBA.