Whether you’re at a sports bar or shooting the breeze at work, it’s always fun to talk about how much money athletes make.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of sports salaries is the arbitrary value assigned to a player based on market demand, often in discordance with their performance (see Mike Glennon). Once a certain skill level is reached, timing, more than anything, often determines a player’s fortune or misfortune.

For instance, if you asked fans to name the highest-paid Chicago athlete, most would probably guess Cubs pitcher Jon Lester.

That would be wrong.

With Dwyane Wade taking the buyout from the Bulls, Jason Heyward owns Chicago’s No. 1 spot at $21.5 million in base salary. Wade was slated to make $23.8 million had he stayed for the final year of his contract.

OK, so Lester isn’t even the top-paid Cub, but he has to be the highest-paid pitcher, right?

Nope. 

That would be White Sox veteran James Shields, who makes a cool $21 million despite his 5-7 record and 5.23 ERA this season.

According to base salaries compiled by Spotrac.com, 73 Chicago athletes can call themselves millionaires. That’s a far cry from three decades ago, when there was one — a retiring Walter Payton, who made exactly
$1 million.

Here are some of the more interesting anomalies that jump out from the list:

With his $8 million in base pay from the Cubs, Jon Jay banks more than teammates Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber combined.

• Bulls center Robin Lopez makes $13.78 million. Bulls backup center Christiano Felicio makes $7.84 million. Three-time Blackhawks Stanley Cup winners Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each make $7.8 million.

Cubs pitcher John Lackey has a base salary of $16 million. That’s more than the entire White Sox roster makes, minus Shields, Jose Abreu ($10 million) and Avisail Garcia ($3 million).

Bulls guard Justin Holiday, who has started 13 games since joining the NBA in 2013, will be paid $4.6 million this season. That’s more than the combined base salaries of Bears linebacker and 2016 Super Bowl champ Danny Trevathan ($2 million), National League MVP and World Series winner Bryant ($1.05 million) and five-time NHL All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup champ Marian Hossa ($1 million).

Bastian Schweinsteiger is the seventh-highest-paid player in MLS and will make $5.4 million in his first season with the Fire. Four-time All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup winner Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks is in his 13th season and will make $5 million.

As for Glennon, who was demoted to backup this week, his base salary is $8 million, but he’s guaranteed about $18.5 million. New starter Mitch Trubisky has a base salary of $465,000, but his signing bonus as the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft puts him at almost $20 million. The player they replaced, Jay Cutler, will make $5 million in base salary and $10 million guaranteed from the Dolphins. In addition, Cutler will collect $2 million from the Bears.

Follow me on Twitter @dancahill_cst.

GO FIGURE

According to Spotrac.com, 79 Chicago athletes are making a base salary of $1 million or more in 2017. But players’ salaries don’t always correspond to their worth. For instance, White Sox starter James Shields, who won only five games this season, is making nearly $20 million more than the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP.

Jason Heyward, Cubs $21,500,000

James Shields, White Sox $21,000,000

Jon Lester, Cubs $20,000,000

Ben Zobrist, Cubs $16,000,000

John Lackey, Cubs $16,000,000

Jake Arrieta, Cubs $15,637,500

Robin Lopez, Bulls $13,788,500

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls $12,500,000

Jose Abreu, White Sox $10,825,000

Wade Davis, Cubs $10,000,000

Jon Jay, Cubs $8,000,000

Mike Glennon, Bears $8,000,000

Cristiano Felicio, Bulls $7,843,500

Patrick Kane, Hawks $7,800,000

Jonathan Toews, Hawks $7,800,000

Akiem Hicks, Bears $7,000,000

Anthony Rizzo, Cubs $7,000,000

Jose Quintana, Cubs $7,000,000

Pernell McPhee, Bears $6,950,000

Brandon Saad, Hawks $6,250,000

Kyle Long, Bears $6,250,000

Corey Crawford, Hawks $6,000,000

Koji Uehara, Cubs $6,000,000

Hector Rondon, Cubs $5,800,000

Pedro Strop, Cubs $5,500,000

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Fire $5,400,000

Duncan Keith, Hawks $5,000,000

Artem Anisimov, Hawks $5,000,000

Leonys Martin, Cubs $4,850,000

Josh Sitton, Bears $4,650,000

Justin Holiday, Bulls $4,615,385

Connor Murphy, Hawks $4,600,000

Brent Seabrook, Hawks $4,500,000

Bobby Massie, Bears $4,200,000

Kris Dunn, Bulls $4,046,760

Quincy Pondexter, Bulls $3,853,931

Laui Markkanen, Bulls $3,821,640

Jerrell Freeman, Bears $3,750,000

Prince Amukamara, Bears $3,500,000

Zach LaVine, Bulls $3,202,218

Avisail Garcia, White Sox $3,000,000

Markus Wheaton, Bears $3,000,000

Marcus Cooper, Bears $3,000,000

Richard Panik, Hawks $2,800,000

Justin Wilson, Cubs $2,700,000

Quintin Demps, Bears $2,500,000

Cameron Payne, Bulls $2,203,440

Denzel Valentine, Bulls $2,186,400

Geovany Soto, White Sox $2,000,000

Danny Trevathan, Bears $2,000,000

Dion Sims, Bears $2,000,000

Brian Duensing, Cubs $2,000,000

Alex Avila, Cubs $2,000,000

Nate Jones, White Sox $1,900,000

Justin Grimm, Cubs $1,825,000

Charles Leno, Bears $1,797,000

Rene Rivera, Cubs $1,750,000

Kyle Fuller, Bears $1,740,955

Jerian Grant, Bulls $1,713,840

Nemanja Nikolic, Fire $1,700,000

Jarell Eddie, Bulls $1,524,305

Bobby Portis, Bulls $1,516,320

Zach Miller, Bears $1,500,000

David Nwaba, Bulls $1,312,611

Diamond Stone, Bulls $1,312,611

Paul Zipser, Bulls $1,312,611

Kendall Wright, Bears $1,250,000

Zach Putnam, White Sox $1,175,000

Leonard Floyd, Bears $1,167,403

Kris Bryant, Cubs $1,050,000

Marian Hossa, Hawks $1,000,000

Lance Bouma, Hawks $1,000,000

Cody Franson, Hawks $1,000,000

Willie Young, Bears $1,000,000

Mark Sanchez, Bears $1,000,000

Tom Compton, Bears $1,000,000

Christian Jones, Bears $1,000,000

Sherrick McManis, Bears $1,000,000

Mitch Unrein, Bears $1,000,000