How Much Do NBA Players Make? Average, Highest & Lowest

NBA Players are some of the highest-paid professional athletes in the world.

This is one reason previous NBA superstar players reached the billionaire status after or even during their careers – they are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. NBA players are also usually seen living high throughout their careers, buying fast cars, fancy mansions, and lavishly spending on parties.

So their extravagant lifestyle would beg the question, how much do NBA players make?

According to Basketball-Reference, the average annual salary of NBA players is around 7.5 million dollars. However, the superstar players like Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Kevin Durant can earn more than 40 million dollars in a single season. The minimum salary is just a little over 1 million dollars.

There’s a lot that affects the salary of players, in here, we dive into the stats.

Average NBA player salary per season

For the 2021-22 Season, the average NBA player’s salary stands around $7.5 million, the highest average among major sports leagues in the US by a wide margin. However, there is also a wide separation between the highest-paid athletes and the lowest.

Considering the annual salary cap and dividing it into the 15 spots of each NBA Team, we will have the following figures.

SeasonAverage Salary

Highest paid NBA players in history by cumulative salary

PlayerCumulative SalaryPlaying Years
1. LeBron James$343,863,7702003 – Present
2. Kevin Garnett$334,304,2401995 – 2016
3. Kobe Bryant$323,312,3071996 – 2016
4. Chris Paul$299,909,4192005 – Present
5. Shaquille O’Neal$286,344,6681992 – 2011
6. Kevin Durant$264,153,8462007 – Present
7. Carmelo Anthony$259,881,4022003 – Present
8. Dirk Nowitzki$251,646,3621998 – 2019
9. Russell Westbrook$244,370,5242008 – Present
10. Dwight Howard$242,500,7922004 – Present

The NBA has produced some of the highest-paid athletes in the world. LeBron James has been a consistent superstar since he was drafted in 2003 and has been paid well in the past years as he leads the list of highest-paid NBA players in history.

The highest-paid players are past and present superstars who greatly impacted their respective teams. Out of the ten highest-paid players in history, only Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki played in a single team for the duration of their careers.

Highest paid NBA players per season in the last 15 years

2021–2022Stephen Curry$45,780,966
2020–2021Stephen Curry$43,006,362
2019–2020Stephen Curry$40,231,758
2018–2019Stephen Curry$37,457,154
2017–2018Stephen Curry$34,682,550
2016–2017LeBron James$30,963,450
2015–2016Kobe Bryant$25,000,000
2014–2015Kobe Bryant$23,500,000
2013–2014Kobe Bryant$30,453,805
2012–2013Kobe Bryant$30,453,805
2011–2012Kobe Bryant$25,244,493
2010–2011Kobe Bryant$24,806,250
2009–2010Kobe Bryant$23,034,375
2008–2009Kevin Garnett$24,751,934
2007–2008Kevin Garnett$23,751,934

In the past 15 NBA seasons, the highest-paid players in the league do not necessarily mean they are the best players for that season. Several factors affect their salaries, including their team’s market size, contribution, impact on the team, loyalty, or how their agents can push their salaries higher.

Kevin Garnett was NBA’s highest-paid athlete when he was traded to the Boston Celtics, which proved to be a crucial move leading to Boston’s championship.

In the last seven seasons leading to Kobe Bryant’s retirement, he was the league’s highest-paid player while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with injuries and diminishing production, his brand and loyalty to his team were still repaid by the owners.

Like Kobe, Stephen Curry also proved his worth for the Warriors, leading his team to multiple championships. He is also projected to be the league’s highest-paid athlete until the 2025-26 NBA season.

While it is evident that the best players should be paid more, there are instances when their agents made some strides to increase a player’s value. Like the case of how John Wall is getting paid more than $40 million, even if he is not contributing as much or even out due to an injury.

Lowest paid NBA players with at least five playing years in the league

PlayerCumulative SalaryNumber of Seasons in the NBA
1. Anthony Goldwire$911,2905
2. Steve Scheffler$1,035,0005
3. Randy Livingston$1,339,2005
4. Jim Les$1,379,0005
5. Anthony Miller$1,551,3687
6. Sean Higgins$1,672,2505
7. Jack Haley$1,697,2506
8. Rafael Addison$1,733,0005
9. Sam Mack$1,877,0986
10. Henry James$1,883,1005

Though the NBA is a high-paying league, there is a vast imbalance between players and their salaries. The table provided lists the ten players who earned below 2 million dollars while playing more than five seasons in the NBA. However, these players played before the minimum contracts were increased to close to $1 million per year.

While a $1 million salary may look tiny compared to Stephen Curry or LeBron James’ career earnings, earning a six-digit annual income is still higher than the average yearly salary in the US, which is around $53,000.

When do NBA players get paid?

There are some stories about players getting paid per game; however, that is not the case. NBA players are paid similar to salaried workers who receive their paycheck twice a month.

In the case of the NBA, the league standard is to pay the players every 1st and 15th month. They get 24 payments in a calendar year.

However, depending on a player’s contract, there may be variations on how much a player will receive. There are contracts where players’ salaries can be withheld or deducted in the case of violations or increased if they make it into the playoffs or win the championship.

What determines an NBA player’s salary?

An article in the Sports Journal published in 2015 analyzed 243 NBA players during the 2013-14 season. The study tried to identify which factors contribute to determining player salary.

They found that their high scoring averages and good shooting efficiency are the main determinants. Other statistically significant factors include rebounds, assists, and personal fouls.

The study further provided evidence of the importance of effective scoring instead of volume shooting and rebounding to increase the number of possession or stop opponents from earning another scoring opportunity. Sharing the basketball through assists is also essential to create high percentage scoring opportunities.

Aside from the three main statistical categories, the team’s salary cap is also an important consideration. The NBA salary cap limits a team on how much money they can spend on their players as agreed in the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between NBA (the NBA Commissioner and the Team Owners) and NBA Players. The salary cap for the 2021-22 Season is $112.4 million. If a team goes over the salary cap, they will have to pay luxury taxes.

How much do NBA players make in a 10-day contract?

10-day contracts are standard in the NBA. Teams who sign players for these short-term contracts are allowed to play in ten days or three games – whichever is longer. However, these contracts have no-strings-attached after the end of the ten days.

According to the NBA’s Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA), a player under a 10-day contract cannot be lower than his applicable minimum player salary, but it is pro-rated.

The average 10-day contract is over $50,000 for rookies, which can increase to more than $100,000 if they are in their 4th year in the NBA to a maximum of $152,000 in their 10th NBA Season.

Do NBA players pay taxes?


Like the rest of the working-class citizens, NBA players are also obliged to pay their taxes as required by law.

First, they pay the federal income tax, depending on whether they play in the US or Canada (for Toronto Raptors players). The income tax rate for US players is 37%, while 33% for NBA Players in Canada.

The next fee they’ll need to pay depends on which US state they play. State taxes will differ per state and can significantly affect a player’s take-home income. For example, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers are both playing in California, which has the highest income tax rate among the fifty states with 13.30%.

Besides California, the states of Oregon (Portland Trailblazers), Minnesota (Timberwolves), and New York (Knicks and Brooklyn Nets) also have high-income tax rates of 9.90%, 9.85%, and 8.82%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the teams in Florida (Miami Heat), Tennesee (Memphis Grizzlies), and Texas (San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks) have no state income taxes, which means they can have a higher net income pay, even if their gross salary is lower.

5 NBA Players who became poor

Though NBA players are some of the highest-paid athletes in the world, a statistic reveals that 60% go bankrupt or are under financial stress five years after retiring. It just shows that no salary they earn will be enough to sustain their lavish lifestyles when they are still playing.

1. Latrell Sprewell

Sprewell is a 4x NBA All-Star and has earned close to $100 million throughout his NBA career. However, his choking incident with his then-coach P.J. Carlesimo has been a significant downturn in his career and resulted in a 68-game suspension.

He also turned down a $21 million three-year contract from the Timberwolves, thinking he could have a higher offer. Now, he only has $150 thousand to his name.

2. Allen Iverson

“The Answer” is recently included in the 75 Greatest NBA Players of All-Time. However, though he attained superstardom during his career and earned almost $200 million, he is now experiencing financial woes due to unsustainable spending habits.

The good thing is that his endorsement contract with Reebok is paying him $800 thousand per year, with a $32 million trust fund by the time he turns 55.

3. Dennis Rodman

Rodman is another NBA all-time great, winning five NBA Championships, two with the Pistons and three with the Bulls. He earned at least $27 million in his career but still squandered most of it. His recent basketball-related activity is his involvement in a North Korean team.

4. Shawn Kemp

Shawn Kemp is another notable all-star who earned millions but still wasted most of it. He made at least $90 million during his career.

However, personal issues, especially regarding child support for his seven children from six different women and drug addiction, caused his money problems.

5. Antoine Walker

Another previous all-star in this list is Antoine Walker, who earned more than $100 million over his 16-year career but has spent most of it.

He is now reported to have a net worth of only $250,000. His money issues are connected to his gambling habits and real estate losses.

Average NBA salary versus other leagues/levels

Sports Association/LeagueSportsAverage Annual Salary (in dollars)
1. National Basketball Association (NBA)Basketball8.32 million
2. Indian Premier League (IPL)Cricket5.30 million
3. Major League Baseball (MLB)Baseball4.03 million
4. English Premier League (EPL)Football/Soccer3.97 million
5. National Football League (NFL)American Football3.26 million
6. National Hockey League (NHL)Ice Hockey2.69 million
7. La LigaFootball/Soccer2.55 million

In all professional leagues worldwide, basketball players in the NBA earn the highest average salary. The successive highest-paying league in the world is the IPL which are cricket players.

Of the four major sports leagues in the US, MLB ranks second, which is less than half the average salaries of NBA players. NFL and NHL are also earning significantly less than NBA players.

How to be an NBA player?

Many basketball players around the world dream of becoming NBA players. However, only 450 players can be in the NBA at a time. So, how can someone qualify for a hypercompetitive league?

1. Make it into an NCAA Division I (D-I) College

Players from NCAA Division I Colleges have higher chances of getting scouted for the pro leagues since they play from the most competitive basketball schools in the country. The schools with the most NBA players are Kentucky (27), Duke (22), Kansas (13), Texas (13), North Carolina (12), and UCLA (12).

2. Play in an international league

Aside from NCAA D-1 Colleges, prospective NBA players are also scouted from international leagues, particularly the Euro League. Some names include Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and more.

3. Tryout in the NBA G-League

Aside from NCAA D-I and International Leagues, prospective players can also come from the NBA’s official minor league. However, the G-League is also a competitive league with hundreds of players trying to be called to the NBA.


Playing in the NBA is one of the most lucrative careers today which is why millions of players aspire to get there.

But we have to remember that the average time that they’ll be playing are around 10-15 years only. This is why it’s important to have a sound financial plan if you want to be an NBA player.

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