Sometime late this week, the New York Knicks will announce that they have signed Jalen Brunson. The news will shock no one; his signing had been telegraphed more than a few days out from even the legal start of NBA free agency. His contract will be well-known by then, too; numbers started trickling out last Tuesday. When The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted that he’d receive a four-year deal worth more than $100 million, there were still 58 minutes to go until free agency began.
But when the Knicks send out the press release they will include a familiar phrase: terms of the deal were not disclosed
The Knicks aren’t the only ones, though. In a league governed by a salary cap, where the money is a driving force in nearly every contract and word of the salaries leaks almost immediately after any deal is struck, every NBA team is still governed by that one line. It is familiar to almost every NBA fan and reporter. It is a blanket phrase used by teams to avoid revealing what was once sensitive financial information. Now, it’s not just antiquated, it’s also confounding as agents give out contract terms on the record to reporters or themselves.
No one quite knows why. One longtime public relations person in the league said it was done because it had always been done that way.
There might be a reason, though it’s unclear if anyone actually knows it. Teams, players, agents, the NBPA, and even the NBA itself are prohibited from disclosing contract terms, a league source said. Announcing contract terms publicly is, surprisingly, a violation of the CBA. Whether anyone cares or would even get punished is unclear.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Teams in Major League Baseball and the NHL regularly divulge contract terms when they announce a signing.
When the Braves signed Matt Olsen in March, they put out a statement, and said how big the deal was — eight year, $168 million — and that it came with a $20 million club option for 2030. Atlanta spelled out his salary for every year of the deal, and even added how much Olsen would donate to their foundation. The Tampa Bay Rays laid out the full sum of their contract with Wander Franco, incentives and all, when he signed it last fall.
“Ever since I came into the NHL, I was with San Jose before Dallas, and It was always terms of the deal were not disclosed,’” Tom Holy, the Dallas Stars VP of communications, said.” That was always the end line of every opening paragraph I ever wrote up until that Jamie Benn one.”
On July 15, 2016, Holy and the Stars did something audacious. They were transparent about their contract with Benn, an eight-year, $76 million extension with their franchise star. Now, they do it on every deal it, except two-way contracts.