How Much Basketball Players Make

The popularity of basketball has allowed the top players in the world to make millions and millions of dollars in salary alone. Not only are they getting paid very well by teams, but they are outstanding spokesmen for brands as well.

This all adds up to basketball being a very lucrative career for those reaching the top of the sport. Even those who are not stars can still make a great living, but just how much do basketball players make? It is sometimes a little tricky to figure out exactly how much players are bringing home each year, but they are amongst the best paid athletes in the world.

How much do basketball players make? The average salary for a basketball player in the NBA is 7.7$ million per season. However, the best players can earn up to 40$ million/season. While most NBA players earn a very healthy living, players in the less competitive leagues can have a hard time making a living.

What Do The Top Players In The NBA Make?

The NBA uses a salary cap that allows for teams only to max out a player to a certain extent. This means that there is a limit on how much a player can make from a salary perspective. If there was a true open market, the top players could potentially earn significantly more. The NBA has decided to go the salary cap route to make everything as competitive as possible.

The highest-paid players based off of last year‘s numbers

PlayerYearly Wages
Stephen Curry$30.4M
Chris Paul$29M
Russell Westbrook$29M
James Harden$28.8M
John Wall$28.7M

The general recipe for making a lot of money in the NBA from a salary perspective is to be more than just a star player. It is also important to stick with a team for a while, hit free agency at the right time, benefit from Bird Rights (which allows teams to pay slightly more for team loyalty), and more. All five players above were signed using their Bird Rights, which helped out the team by putting them under control instead of hitting the open market.

How Much NBA Players Make In Total

Salary is just one piece of the pie for a lot of athletes out there. In fact, if a player is exceptionally marketable, they can make more money from their endorsements than they can make from the NBA team they play on. Famously, Shaquille O’Neal claimed that he never spent any of his NBA paychecks during his playing days. Instead, he lived off endorsement money only.

The most obvious example right now is LeBron James. He tops the list in total earnings, and he only comes in at sixth for the highest salary in the NBA. While the Lakers are still paying him $28.2 million, he is benefiting from over $60 million in endorsements. Below is a look at the top five players based on how much they make in total.

PlayerSalary/WinningsEndorsementsTotal Earnings
Lebron James$28.2M$60M$88.2M
Stephen Curry$30.4M$44M$74.4M
Kevin Durant$28.9M$35M$63.9M
James Harden$29M$27M$56M
Russell Westbrook$28.8M$19M$47.6M

Why Are Basketball Players So Marketable?

In major sports, a lot of top athletes are hiding their face when they are performing. Football players are always behind a helmet and facemask, which makes them very tough to recognize without a jersey on their back. Most people know what the quarterbacks and some of the star skill position players look like, but some outstanding football players are mostly anonymous to even football fans.

Hockey and baseball also run into similar issues, as at least part of their face is constantly covered during play. Baseball players also specifically run into the problem of not being able to take over games as much as other team sports. No matter how good a player is, they can only bat when their time is up in the lineup, and they can only make plays in the balls hit them.

This leaves soccer and basketball as the two major worldwide sports that offer a tremendous amount of marketability. This is largely due to players being fairly out in the open during play. Everyone knows what the top soccer and basketball players look like, simply because they are not covering their faces.

This makes them so much more marketable, because even people who do not follow sports have probably seen some of the top players. Michael Jordan and Lebron James are more recognizable worldwide than any NFL player ever, despite the NFL doing much better in ratings.

Less Players Equal More Money

The NBA makes a considerable amount of money, much like the other major sports around the world. One difference is that instead of having to split all the revenue up in a bunch of different ways, basketball players proportionately get more of the cut because there are fewer players on each team. A lot of football players can’t make huge amounts of money compared to the NBA, simply because teams have four or five times the amount of players to pay.

There is a salary cap in the NBA, and other professional leagues as well. With that said, top players are still making a ton of money, and it helps out the middle class in the NBA as well. Guys who are still above-average players but might not star can make a ton of money, simply because there is a demand for those guys to fill out rosters. They might not grab headlines, but these secondary players are the keys to a championship run.

Can Players Not In The NBA Make Great Money?

There is a reason why players around the world are striving for the NBA. They pay the most by far, but that does not mean that there are plenty of professional basketball players making money in other leagues or even different ways entirely.

Overseas, G-League, and more

The best way to make money outside of the NBA is to sign on for one of the premier teams in other countries. For example, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and CSKA Moscow are just a few organizations to hand out big money to top-end talent. They compete in domestic leagues, as well as the Euroleague. This is widely known as the second-highest level of play at the professional level in the world.

Here are some of the best paid players in the EuroLeague:

PlayerClubYearly Salary
Nikola MiroticBarcelona$5.4M
Alexey ShvedKhimki$4M
Walter TavaresReal Madrid$3M
Nando De ColoFenerbahce$2.6M
Nick CalathesPanathinaikos$2.55M
Jan VeselyFenerbahce$2.43M

There is so much money available with these teams that some players are making more and having a more prominent role for the team here compared to the NBA. There are limits on how many imported players can suit up, but there are ways around that stipulation as well. Some become naturalized citizens so that they can stay on a team and not count as an international player, and they even get opportunities to play for the national team at times.

As for the G-League, there are positives and negatives to playing in the minor league system for the NBA. The good news is that this is where the majority of call-ups during the regular season come from, so those wanting to make the NBA should stay here. The bad news is that the G- League does not pay nearly as well as the top of European leagues, so some players are taking a significant pay cut just for the chance to maybe make the roster of an NBA team at some point during the year.

The G-League is making an effort to increase salaries, but there is the enticing fact that so many success stories start in the minors. They are even targeting younger players looking to bypass college basketball altogether. This could be a way to turn professional earlier.

WNBA & International Opportunities

WNBA is the NBA equivalent for women, and it allows players to play professionally in the United States. It is not that great financially compared to international opportunities, but since the vast majority of players come from the United States, plenty still participate in the league.

There has been a lot of discussion in trying to figure out ways to increase salaries at the WNBA level, but they will need to make more revenue for that to occur. Reworking television deals, bringing in new fans, and securing crucial sponsorships can make that dream a reality.

The top players in the WNBA make enough money to live comfortably, but no one is getting rich off of their salary alone. Many players will use the off-season to play for another team overseas, and they also rely on sponsorship deals and endorsements to make a healthy living.

The Future Of Money Opportunities In Basketball

Basketball popularity continues to soar, and it has true worldwide appeal as time goes on. With major countries tuning in, the money will be there for quite a while.

The game is becoming more global than ever, and players are taking an opportunity to make money anywhere they can. Whether it is reaching in the NBA or securing a spot on a top club team in a different country, salary should only start going up from here on out.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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