How Do NBA Players Get Paid? Explained

NBA players are the highest paid professional athletes globally, earning ridiculously high contracts that other sports leagues can only dream of. Salaries can reach almost $50 million annually.

At the same time, nearly everyone with a standard NBA contract within the league earns at least a million dollars annually.

With this kind of money, how do NBA players actually get paid?

According to the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a player’s base compensation (without any bonuses) must be paid in equal semi-monthly installments. Payments shall begin from the 15th of November and are paid continuously every 1st and 15th day of the month through checks or direct deposits.

Now let us take a closer look at how these players receive their salaries.

How do NBA Players Get Paid?

While media and other organizations report NBA players’ salaries per game to make it more interesting, they are paid in a less exciting way – through checks and direct deposits. It is important to remember that NBA players are also employees earning salaries.

NBA Players are the best athletes in the world, but they can also be similar to you and me, not in the sense of making millions of dollars, but because they are also earning salaries on a semi-monthly basis.

According to the latest approved NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NBA and the NBA Player’s Union, players must be paid every 1st and 15th day of the month, beginning from the 15th of November.

NBA Players receive payments through either checks or direct deposits from their respective organizations.

How Often do NBA Players Get Paid?

Starting from the first day of payment on the 15th of November, they will receive their salary twice every month, or simply 24 paychecks in a single calendar year.

So let us look at the league’s highest-paid athlete for the 2022-23 NBA Season, Stephen Curry. He is poised to receive a base salary of $48,070,014 this upcoming season. Translating that into a semi-monthly salary will amount to an extraordinary $2 million every two weeks.

How Much do NBA Players Get Paid (Average Salary in the NBA)?

As mentioned earlier, NBA players are earning salaries that were first thought to be only possible for individual sports players like golfers and tennis players. However, recent developments in the game and its compensation changed how contracts are negotiated in the NBA.

According to Basketball-Reference, NBA players earn an average of $7.5 million annually. While this figure is already outstanding at 150x the average annual salary of an American of $51,000, it still pales compared to the league’s highest money-makers.

In the 2022-23 NBA Season, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook earn more than $47 million per year, which is 6x the league average. There are also nine other players earning more than $40 million. On the other hand, the league minimum salary is around $1.8 million per year.

Considering these numbers, Stephen Curry needs only two weeks to match the league’s minimum wage earners’ annual salary.

Do NBA Players Get Paid Every Game?

Contrary to popular belief that NBA players are paid per game for the 82 regular season games, they are actually paid semi-monthly, which is very similar to common corporate practice.

But if we consider the average NBA salary of $7.5 million, they will receive $91,000 per game or almost $2,000 per minute.

The idea of paying the players year-round ensures that the NBA players always have the money, even during the off-season. If NBA players are paid every game, they will start earning as early as October, but their paychecks will stop by mid-April.

Can NBA Players ask for Advances?

Yes. NBA Players can ask for their salaries in advance. But not so fast. Not every NBA player can be considered with this exemption. The common denominator for players with the power to request or negotiate salary advances or other payment schemes is their greatness.

In 2013, Kobe Bryant negotiated a part of his contract that allowed him to receive 80% of his salary on the first payday of the season. During that season, Kobe was the highest-paid athlete in the league – earning $30.5 million. The negotiation allowed him to receive a lump-sum payment of more than $24 million.

Recently, some players negotiated their salaries to be paid in 12 paychecks instead of the standard 24 checks. This allows them to receive their salaries from the 15th of November to the 1st of May.

Another instance of players getting salaries in advance happened during the early onset of the pandemic in 2020. Six of the ten top earners during that season, Stephen Curry, Paul George, LeBron James, John Wall, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin, all received their full salary during the off-season.

Do NBA Players Get Bonuses?

Dollar bills on an envelope

Aside from the base compensation for NBA Players, there are also various types of bonuses they can get on top of the semi-monthly paychecks they receive. The NBA’s recent collective bargaining agreement also stipulated these incentives and rewards.

These bonuses and compensations will also add to the Team’s salary cap, which is crucial when deciding on players’ salaries for the upcoming season.

1. Performance Bonus

Performance bonuses are based on a player’s achievements throughout the season. They can either perform better this year than they did prior or take home a league-wide award.

An example of prior year improvements is when a player shoots better field goals, 3-pts, or free throws than the previous years. These bonuses motivate players to perform better than they did the prior year.

The other way to get performance bonuses is by winning a league-wide award or NBA Season Awards, such as:

  • NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP)
  • Finals Most Valuable Player (FMVP)
  • Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
  • Sixth Man of the Year (6MOY)
  • Most Improved Player (MIP)
  • All-NBA Team Selection (1st Team, 2nd Team, 3rd Team)
  • All-Defensive Team Selection (1st Team, 2nd Team)
  • All-Star Selection

2. Physical Condition Benchmark

A player’s physical conditioning and longevity are crucial in a game where your body is your greatest asset. So, as a way for players to maintain or attain peak conditions for the season, the league is awarding players who meet specific physical criteria.

For example, players who maintain specific weight criteria will likely earn more money on top of their base salary.

3. Academic Achievement Benchmark

While it may seem that they only care about players playing a great game, the NBA also wants to see their players be ready once they retire and leave the league and their high-paying salaries per year.

So a player who earns a college or master’s degree will also earn another bonus.

4. Extra-Promotional Appearance

NBA Players are more exposed to the public scene today than before because of the recent inclusion of the Team’s commercial sponsors and other media appearances. Here is the current rate according to the NBA CBA

  • $3,500 per appearance
  • $4,500 in the succeeding appearances after the eighth

5. Signing Bonus

Players can also earn signing bonuses if they sign a new team or contract extension. This type of bonus is commonly paid as a lump sum.

Weirdest NBA Contract Clauses

Aside from the CBA-approved bonuses, NBA players can also earn added rewards specified in their contracts. Here are some of the weirdest and even most ridiculous contract clauses.

1. Michael Jordan earns basketball money while playing baseball

During his first retirement, which shocked the world in 1993, Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Red Sox affiliate team, conveniently owned by the Chicago Bulls owner, Jerry Reinsdorf.

During that year, Reinsdorf continued to pay Jordan a salary of $4 million while completely away from competing in basketball.

2. Glen Davis Weight Loss Challenge

If you’re watching the NBA during the 2008 season, which the Boston Celtics won through their Big 3, you’ll also notice that there is a player that look’s like an NFL Offensive Linemen than a basketball player – Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

This prompted the Celtics to include a $500,000 weight loss clause in his contract in 2009. However, it was never disclosed if he made it.

3. A Bench Player for the MVP?

It is easy to forget who Adonal Foyle is because he was primarily an unknown personality during his playing years. But he once had a contract clause that promised him $500,000 if he won the NBA MVP and another $500,000 for a Finals MVP.

Nick Collison, the first jersey number retired by the Oklahoma City Thunder, once had a contract clause that would earn him an additional $100,000 if he won the NBA MVP.


NBA Players are some of the highest-paid salaried workers in the world. They earn more than a hundred million dollars in one or two decades. However, this high salary is not always guaranteed, especially since their bodies are limiting factors.

Aside from earning more than any other athletes in the world, their primary role is to inspire and be role models for the next generation of athletes.

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