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What is Bird Rights in the NBA?

When trade deals are taking place in the NBA, there is mention of a salary cap. Teams need to ensure they sit within the NBA salary cap. If you have looked at the salaries of players on you will see that a player may have Bird Rights written next to their name. This may make you wonder what is Bird rights in the NBA?

What is Bird rights in the NBA? There are three types of bird rights. The first is Bird Rights, the second is Early Bird Rights and the third is Non-Bird Rights . Bird Rights were established in 1983 through the NBA collective bargaining agreement to ensure that veteran players didn’t leave a team due to the introduction of a salary cap.

Bird rights were and still are a way for teams to meet a salary cap which was introduced to the NBA in 1983 without the salary cap being a hard enforced cap. Through the Collective Bargaining Agreement, NBA teams were allowed to go past the salary cap limit in order for a team to sign their own players in free agency. We have looked into the different types of Bird Rights and how it impacts players and teams.

Why is it called Bird Rights?

The answer is Larry Joe Bird. Larry Bird had joined the Celtics in 1979 and at the time was the highest paid rookie. Bird was voted as rookie of the year in 1980 and led the Celtics to an NBA Championship in 1981. Bird was a significant asset to the Boston Celtics particularly with the addition of Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, a potential dynasty was forming. However, the NBA wanted to bring in a salary cap in order to ensure that the NBA had a level playing field. However, if a hard salary cap was introduced, which meant a team could not go past a certain limit, then it would mean the Celtics would most likely lose Bird and this seen as an injustice. When a Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed, there was a provision which would ensure a soft salary cap. Larry Bird was used as an example of the rights, as Bird could of entered free agency that season and would of been the most high profile player to be impacted. Therefore, Birds name was assigned to the rights.

What are Full Bird Rights?

If a NBA player has been with a franchise for three years and not left in free agency then the NBA team and player are entitled to full bird rights. This means that a NBAteam can break the salary cap to keep the player and the player is allowed to be paid up to the maximum amount of their salary from the NBA team. The three years in which a player needs to be with a NBA team to qualify for full bird rights can be any combination of such as three one year deals , a three year deal or a two year deal with a one year deal.

What are early Bird Rights ?

If a player is with a team for two years then they are entitled to Early Bird Rights. This means that a team can offer Early Bird Rights to player and , not lose a player in free agency. It also means that a player has to approve a trade, as they will lose their Bird Rights if traded. If a player was traded with Early Bird Rights they could lose a considerable sum of money from the next year.

What are Non-Bird Rights?

Non-Bird Rights is when a player stays with a team for a year and a team acquires the players Non-Bird Rights this means the player can be paid 120% of their salary.

Benefits of Bird Rights?

Bird rights benefit the players greatly. Firstly, Bird rights allow a team to go over the salary cap and allow a NBA team to create lucrative deals for the players. If the player doesn’t like the deal then the player is able to find a more lucrative deal in free agency. Therefore, the weight is with the player in these negotiations.

If a player had been with a team for three years, when he is transferred to a new team, that team acquires the players Bird Rights.