In this article, we will look at the average NBA salary and how much money some of the highest-earning NBA players make. We will give our honest take on the value-for-money that they represent.
The worth that we place on people’s skills and talents is a curious and difficult thing to quantify.
Artists with unique ideas talents can find themselves destitute, while simpletons who do nothing more than act foolishly in front of TV cameras become household names.
SUCH IS THE NATURE OF OUR SOCIETY
Some people study for years to hone their craft. Others are naturally gifted and fall into wealth almost by accident.
So, the amount that we pay people is relative, but also impossible to compare.
Do rock stars deserve to be paid more than novelists? Magicians more than actors?
The answer is that they deserve to be paid according to how popular their product turns out to be.
AND THE SAME IS TRUE OF OUR SPORTS STARS
The guys at the top create exponentially more interest in the game than those at the bottom.
The fact that they are salaried is really more down to controlling the balance of the league than it is representing their actual value and power in the industry.
Along with the NBA Draft, a salary cap is in place to prevent a few of the richer franchises from simply scooping up all the best players and creating mini monopolies.
The salary cap, according to Basketball-Reference, is currently $109.1 million.
But in reality, NBA stars act more like freelance workers. Sure, they sign contracts and link themselves to playing basketball for one team or another. But most of the NBA’s highest-paid players are operating at such a high level of desirability that it is quite unlike any other industry where ’employees’ receive a salary.
THINK ABOUT THIS:
NBA teams are paying these astronomical amounts to retain the services of the best basketball players on Earth. Yet they are still raking in many times that am0unt and showing huge profits each season.
It is only right that they compensate their ‘bread-and-butter’ stars accordingly.
Are we saying that NBA players perform a more important role than brain surgeons?
OF COURSE NOT
The fact remains, however, that American sports are an incredibly powerful force both financially and emotionally.
There are fans who think of very little else from day to day. Their dedication to one franchise or another is as baffling to some outsiders as it is understandable to others.
We are all different. We all choose to get our kicks one way or another.
SOME PREFER THE EXCITEMENT AND TRIBALISM OF TEAM SPORTS
Others prefer to seek their suspense and tension in the form of a gripping police drama. The differences are, in some ways, obvious. But if you had to differentiate one from another to someone who had never experienced either, how would you go about it?
At their cores, they are both about one thing…
Let’s face it – this is the entertainment industry. The cast and crew look different and have a particular set of skills but, make no mistake, the aim of the game is just like the movies.
To provide entertainment that people will pay to watch
You can make the next Mission Impossible without Tom Cruise if you like, but how many people are going to be interested?
Bring in the crowds and the dollar signs can’t pop up fast enough. If people stop watching, the value drops – it’s as simple as that.
Market forces are always going to play their part in a sport where billions of dollars are sloshing around. Without the players, there is no NBA.
Are the amounts that they get paid more than any normal human being could need in a hundred lifetimes? Sure.
But remember how unlikely it is that any young man will find himself leaving college to play in the NBA. Check out our article entitled ‘What are the odds of making it to the NBA?’ to see just how unlikely it is…
YOU MIGHT GET A SHOCK…
The amounts that NBA players receive are also based upon their experience and are guaranteed to rise every year. Wages for veteran players will also increase depending on how long they are in the tournament.
That doesn’t take into account any endorsement deals they might be offered and those do not form part of this analysis today.
The average salary for the NBA in the 2021/22 season is $7.5 million. The average is skewed somewhat by the inclusion of so many top-tier earners. The 39 lowest-paid players earn a combined amount that is less than the highest-paid NBA player Stephen Curry earns alone.
NBA average: $7.5 million = $91,463 per game
The highest-paid NBA players are as follows:
Stephen Curry: $45.78 million = $558,304 per game
Russel Westbrook: $44.21 million = $539,160 per game
James Harden: $43.85 million = $534,731 per game
LeBron James: $41.18 million = $502,201 per game
Kevin Durant: $40.92 million = $499,010 per game
Giannis Antetokounmpo: $39.34 million = $479,816 per game
Kawhi Leonard: $39,35 million = $479,815 per game
Kyrie Irving: $34.92 million = $425,807 per game
Devin Booker: $31.61 million = $385,487 per game
Ben Simmons: $31.59 million = $385,243 per game
THE TOP TEN EARNERS IN THE NBA ARE PAID A STAGGERING $340 MILLION PER YEAR
Not all NBA players make such astronomical amounts. Although, none of them is poor. Even the players on two-way contracts who can be cut at any time make half the minimum. Still a great take-home amount.
THE NBA’S MINIMUM SALARY IS JUST UNDER A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR
That’s the minimum
NBA players get paid an average salary of around $7.5 million. The median salary, known as “middle salary”, is around $3.8 million.
The NBA’s minimum salary is $925,000
As an objective comparison:
The NFL pays its players a base salary of $450,000
Players’ salaries in the NHL and MLB start at $500,000
If NBA rookies are selected in the top NBA Draft list, their wages are often much higher.
LARGEST SALARIES IN THE NBA HISTORY
All 10 of the largest salaries in NBA history come from the most recent 2 seasons.
ALL OF THEM WERE AWARDED TO POINT GUARDS
There have been 15 occasions on which the salary of an NBA player surpassed $40 million in one season. and 84 times it went over $30 million.
Steph Curry is the highest-paid player in NBA history, earning $45.78 million in the 2021-22 season.
As the average salary seems set to continue to climb, it is safe to say that each successive season will see the highest-paid NBA player to that particular point in time. Can every NBA team continue to compete with having the highest-paid players in the USA? Time will tell.
BUT ALL BUBBLES BURST EVENTUALLY…
Whether you feel NBA players are overpaid or not, it is impossible to argue that they don’t deserve it. As the sole reason that people pay to watch NBA games, surely nobody deserves a bigger share than they do?
Does this raise a question about the obscene amounts of money in the game? Perhaps. Although…
THE AVERAGE TICKET TO AN NBA GAME ONLY COSTS $51
That doesn’t seem unduly expensive for 2.5 hours of entertainment.
FAR FROM IT IN FACT
As long as the die-hard fans that put their hands in their pockets every week aren’t being gouged, we’re happy.
TV companies and commercial concerns can throw as much money at NBA stars as they like and that’s fine.
But the game must remain accessible on the ground level or it will have lost sight of its roots and any connection to the real world that most of us exist in.
Clearly, the highest-paid NBA player on this list makes an extraordinary amount of money.
BUT WHAT HARM DOES THAT ACTUALLY DO TO THE REST OF US?
If we want to point our accusatory fingers at people who make obscene amounts of money but actually do cause untold hardship and misery then how about all those nameless bankers that crashed the economy? Or those health insurance CEOs who write off our coverage with one stroke of a pen? Do we begrudge them their ‘hard-earned’ money? Money acquired through who-knows-what shady, underhand tactics and immoral behaviours?
They escape without scrutiny and go about the business of ruining other people’s lives for their own monetary gain.
The fact that such a bright spotlight falls on our entertainment stars is understandable in a way.
They are, after all, being paid to be looked at
Most players make an average NBA salary that is more money than we can reasonably justify. But in many ways, what they do is invaluable.
Without them, we are bereft of the joyous moments that they have given us over the years.