How Many Players Are In The NBA? (Full Breakdown)

The NBA is the premier basketball league in the world, so it is not surprising that every young basketball player’s dream is to enter the elite group of athletes that plays in it.

However, since there are only 30 teams with a maximum of 15 players per team, the competition for each slot is fierce.

Since the total slots in the NBA are limited, you may ask how many players are playing in the NBA?

The rules state that an NBA team can have up to 15 players on its roster. This leads to a maximum of 450 players comprising the 30 NBA teams. But there are also NBA players who are currently without a team, on a 10-day contract, on two-way contracts or waived during the NBA season.

Now, let’s look at how many players are in the NBA and learn more about this elite group of athletes.

How many players are in the NBA?

The NBA has 30 teams, 29 in the US and one in Canada. Each one of these teams can have a maximum of 15 players.

So, a simple computation will lead us to 450 players (30 teams x 15 players per team).

However, this number is dynamic since more players are getting drafted each year; some are retiring, while others became free agents and are now playing in other basketball leagues outside the NBA.

During the offseason, an NBA team can sign up to 20 players. The NBA can have as many as 600 players during the offseason.

However, the number of players on the roster must be reduced to 15 before the start of the season.

In the 2017-18 NBA Season, the two-way contract was introduced. This contract allows NBA teams to sign at least two players on top of the 15 official roster players. Players under two-way contracts can play in the NBA and the NBA G-League.

The two-way contracts push the maximum number of NBA players per team to a maximum of 17, increasing the total signed players by 60, pushing the maximum number of players up to 510.

The NBA has also been more international in the past few decades, with more players coming from countries and territories outside the US.

The total number of NBA players in the last 10 years:

SeasonTotal Number of Players

The total number of players indicated in the table is only the cumulative number of players who played at least one game during the NBA season.

So even if the maximum number of 450 active players (510 if we include the two-way contracts), there is no easy way to identify the total number of NBA players who remained on their teams during the whole season.

It is also noticeable that more than 50 players jumped during the 2017-18 season compared to the previous year.

The increase occurred due to implementing the two-way contract between the NBA and their respective G-League affiliates.

Why isn’t the total number of players the same every year?

Basketball team poses

The number of NBA players changes each season because of several factors, including the following:


Like any other athletes, NBA players also reach the end of their career, usually around their mid-to-late-30s.

Every year, tens of players retire, opening slots and opportunities for other players.

NBA Draft

After the NBA Finals, the NBA drafts sixty new players into the league. However, not everyone drafted will ever see playing time in the NBA.

Some may not even enter the NBA, even if they got drafted.

Undrafted Free Agents

Since only sixty players are drafted yearly, more players will go undrafted. However, going undrafted does not necessarily mean they will never get to play in the NBA.

Many undrafted players enter the NBA and play well, like Fred Vanvleet and Christian Wood.

Shorter contracts

NBA Players are now playing with a shorter contract from the previous seven years for re-signing players and six years if not to the current five (re-signing)/four scheme.

This leads to more players eventually entering free agency.

Free agency

Free agents are players with no guaranteed contracts, so if players with expired or expiring contracts don’t get offers, they will be out of the NBA until signed by a team.

After not getting offers, some free agents usually play in other leagues, like in China or Europe.


Basketball is a physically demanding game that causes many injuries to players.

While the severity of the injury varies from player to player, there are many cases of players losing contracts due to injuries.

How many rookies are drafted every year?

Every year, NBA teams can get the chance to draft eligible young players (22 years old or younger) from colleges and international teams.

Each NBA Draft comprises two rounds with 30 picks, leading to a maximum of 60 draft picks.

Though hundreds of prospective players hope to get drafted, only 60 get drafted yearly, leaving more undrafted.

However, undrafted players can still get the chance to enter the NBA.

With 60 rookies and undrafted players coming in each year to get included in the 15 official players, the competition for each slot is tough.

How many International players played in the NBA in the last ten years?

Basketballs with different countries

The NBA has been an international league in the past few years, with more and more players coming from different continents and territories to try their luck in the NBA.

Here’s the list of international NBA players on a team roster in the last ten years before opening night.

SeasonNumber of International PlayersNumber of Countries/TerritoriesCountry with Most NBA Players
2021-2210939Canada (18)
2020-2110741Canada (17)
2019-2010838Canada (16)
2018-1910842Canada (11)
2017-1810842Canada (11)
2016-1711341Canada (11)
2015-1610037Canada (12)
2014-1510137Canada (12)
2013-149239France (10)
2012-138438France (10)

The NBA is currently on an 8-year streak of 100+ international players on the roster before the tip-off.

Canada is currently the most represented team in the NBA for the past eight years, taking the throne from France in the 2014-15 NBA Season.

Total number of players that have played in the NBA

The NBA was founded in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America, which merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form what we now call the National Basketball Association.

It also merged in 1976 with the American Basketball Association to add more teams.

The league has steadily grown in the succeeding years and peaked at its current 30-team setup.

This meant that through the decades, thousands of players had entered the NBA since 1946. At the end of the 2021-22 NBA Season, the all-time number of NBA Players stands at 4,626, counting every player who played at least one (1) NBA game in their career.

How many players play on the court?

Basketball is a team sport, but like other team sports, there is a limit on how many players can play simultaneously.

In basketball, the total number of players on the court at the start of the game is five. If a team fields more than five players, they will receive a violation.

However, fewer than five players can end the game, depending on the league. If a team loses most players due to fouling out, they can still play with four players.

In the NBA, the number of players should always be five. If a team does not have replacements for players who fouled out, the last player will remain in the game but will be charged with personal and a team foul.

The team will also be charged with technical fouls for succeeding fouls.

What is the active roster?

Basketball team with coaches

The active roster in the NBA is the total number of players eligible to play in the game.

The current NBA number of players on the active roster is 15, which was previously 13.

This increase was the league’s countermeasure for unexpected absences of players if they enter the health and safety protocols due to Covid-19.

Number of players on the roster for NBA vs. other Major sports

Sports LeagueNumber of Players in the RosterNumber of Fielded Players
1. NBA (Basketball)155
2. NFL (American Football)5311
3. MLB (Baseball)269
4. NHL (Ice Hockey)236
5. MLS (Soccer/Football)3011

Among the major Northern American professional sports, the NBA has the fewest active players.

Basketball, as a sport, has the fewest number of players fielded at any time, with five.

Comparing basketball to teams with more fielded players, the number of players on the roster increases. NFL allows 53 players on the roster, with 11 players on the field.

MLB has 26 players on the roster, with 9 on the field.


NBA is a very exclusive sport that allows only the best players to play since only a maximum of 450 players are on active duty during the season.

So, while it may look that some NBA players are not that good, their NBA contracts will prove otherwise that they are some of the best basketball players in the world.

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