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How Much Does the Average Basketball Player Make?

Publish Date: 27.06.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

There are several perks of making it all the way to the NBA, but one of the biggest is the contracts. Being a professional basketball player comes with a high income, regardless if someone is on a rookie deal or if they’re a seasoned veteran nailing down a supermax.

However, there is a wide discrepancy between the highest and lowest paid players in the league. Some make millions upon millions, while others make a few hundred grand. It all depends on skill, endorsements, and how long they’ve been in the league.

There are many factors that impact how much the average basketball player earns. Even so, despite that spread, the average athlete takes home a good amount of pay regardless of their situation.

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Historical Evolution of NBA Salaries

Everyone knows that professional athletes earn a lot of money, but the incredible contracts and blockbuster deals of today are a more recent trend than fans might think. For most of NBA history, players did not earn anywhere close to what they do in the modern era.

Early on, players made relatively normal salaries. While those numbers grew with time, they largely stayed on a flat curve until the early 1990’s. At that time, due to the rise in basketball’s popularity, things began to change.

During the early 90’s the average NBA player made somewhere around $1 million, which put them into a category of their own among the average American. From that point on, that median income only rose with each passing season.

There have been some dips and plateaus over the last 30 years, but looking at the overall trend shows that NBA players have made more on average than they did the year prior since basketball captured the public eye in 1991.

While the sport was popular beforehand, the 90’s is when everything went to the next level. Media rapidly expanded, TV deals only got larger and more lucrative, all while basketball quickly expanded at a rate no one had ever seen.

With the rise of Michael Jordan, the league hit its stride during that decade. That then furthered what it could be, allowing players to become household names and bringing in more money than ever before.

The salary cap rose, franchises became much more profitable, and media deals expanded in numerous ways. That influx only grew on itself until it hit what it is today. There is now so much money coming in from so many sources, it’s no wonder some of it transfers to the players.

Current Salary Statistics

NBA players are currently earning the most money on average in league history. That’s true for those on rookie or minimum contracts, and it’s also true for those on supermax deals. No matter where someone plays, they are doing better than athletes from past decades.

Looking at how much the average basketball player makes, the current NBA salary sits right at $8 million. That’s up $7 million from 1991, which shows how much more sway modern players have in today’s world. They aren’t just big in-sport names, they are a part of the greater media.

The lowest-earning NBA players on minimum contracts take home $1.1 million a season, which is a staggering amount considering what the average pay used to be across the league just a few decades ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, players on supermax contracts that total over $100 million can bring home $40 million or more every year. While the average is quite high, there is a big gap between the bottom and the top of the league.

Something else to note is that not all positions earn the same. Point guards currently rule the NBA, and that’s reflected in their pay. They take in an average of $11 million per year, which puts them roughly $4 million ahead of all other positions.

It’s also worth noting that, while centers and forwards earn around $7 million a season, shooting guards are now the lowest earners on average in the league with a median salary of $6.5 millions. That reflects recent shifts and an emphasis on both point guards and big men.

Top Earners in the NBA

When looking at NBA salaries, it’s easy to get caught up in the highest earners. There are many supermax deals currently in place, and most of them pay out $40 million or more per season.

For instance, Stephen Curry brings in $48.07 million, LeBron James earns $47.61 million, and Kevin Durant takes home $42.97 million. Most top earners or superstars sit around those marks due to what team salary caps currently allow.

Getting to that point as an NBA player is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Only the best players or team leaders earn such contracts, and they have to keep up that high level of play in order to keep that contract when the next signing takes place.

Teams will pay handsomely for talent, as long as that talent wins games or fills seats. Only truly special players who create a lot of buzz or are extremely well known can get the top contracts in the league because they’re the ones who are worth it.

Players don’t always have to win, but centerpieces to championship teams will almost always get a supermax. The same goes for the face of a franchise or a top player who puts up great stats and exciting games each and every night.

Future Projections

If the past is any indicator, NBA players are likely to earn more and more money as time goes on. TV and streaming contracts both continue to grow, as do league-wide endorsement deals. Add on the globalization of basketball and it’s easy to see where the future is headed.

Players take home more money now than they ever have before, and in ten years time those already high averages will likely go up even more. The ceiling and floor both keep rising, especially as the NBA finds more and more ways to bring in ad revenue.

Another critical factor is that the NBA now has more foreign players than ever. That has expanded global markets and garnered more fans around the world. The more people watching, the more money coming in and the more athletes are set to earn.

Conclusion

When it comes to yearly income, it’s hard to beat the NBA. The organization offers great salaries for all players at all skill levels, and franchises are not afraid to shell out the big bucks for those who win games or get people into seats.

Not everyone is going to earn a maximum contract. In fact, most rarely do. Still, the league average is way up from where it was just ten or twenty years ago, and that trend of increased pay seems to only grow with time.

NBA players are some of the best paid athletes on Earth. That drives players to work hard, edge out the competition and fight for their spot on the team. Though most will only see a fraction of the superstars, getting a new deal is still a huge achievement at any level.

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