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How Much Do NBA GM’s Make?

Publish Date:18.03.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

Being a general manager is an incredibly difficult job. Not only do you have to navigate the inner workings of a complex sports organization, but you also need to make sure your team is improving or staying strong at all times. That burden is why they earn the salaries they do.

The NBA general manager salary shifts quite a bit across the board, ranging from around $1 million on the low end to $10 million plus on the high. Such earnings are based on a range of factors like experience, market size, and their organization.

 

Understanding the Role of an NBA General Manager

When looking at how much NBA GMs make, it’s first important to analyze their role.General managers are some of the most important people within an organization. Though they may not be as well known as players, coaches, or owners, they are pivotal to a team’s success.

That’s because they handle a lot of aspects that can make or break a team, including hiring coaches, negotiating contracts, as well as bringing in or releasing players. Almost any large move a team makes goes through the GM.

Such examples are why being a GM is so tough, and why experience is valued so much throughout the league. The position is well paid due to how much GMs have to do. A good GM might help a team for a season or two, but a great one helps win championships.

Those factors directly impact how much an NBA GM makes, and show why some might earn considerably less than others. It’s all about what they do with what they have.

Top Earning NBA General Managers

In the current ever-expanding NBA, general managers make an average of somewhere between $1 million and $3 million a year. That’s a lot of money, but some NBA GMs make a lot more and some make less. It all depends on the factors outlined in the above sections.

For example, extremely successful and long-tenured GMs like Pat Riley ($11 million), RC Buford ($10 million), and Bob Myers ($8 million) bring insubstantially more than new GMs or ones on teams that can’t quite get over the hump.

How much each exact NBA GM makes is something that’s extremely hard to determine due to the fact that such salaries are hidden. There are also bonuses and incentives that can’t be traced unless someone actually can read the contract.

Even so, there are specific incentives that can influence how much NBA GMs make. Experience, as mentioned, is a big factor. Success is as well. Typically, GMs make more money the longer they are with an organization or the larger task they have to face.

Someone putting together a strong rebuild will get more than someone coasting with an average team.

Team Performance and GM Compensation

Though it might not always be fair, the number one factor in GM compensation is team performance. They get a lot of credit for wins, but they take the blame for losses. That’s true even if the losses aren’t necessarily their fault.

If a GM does a poor job, they likely won’t be around for long. That extra level impacts their earnings because if they can’t stay with the same team for a long time, they won’t get any of the contract incentives or additional bonuses built into their salary.

In addition, if a GM has a reputation of building team’s that can’t handle pressure or push through the playoffs, they won’t get the same salary as a well known GM with a history of championships.

As with the players, the more they win, the longer they stick around. The longer they are able to stay with one team, the more bonuses they earn, and the better they get paid.

GM Salaries in Other Sports

To get a full picture of knowing how much NBA GMs make, it’s critical to also look at how they compare to other leagues. Though there are some minor differences, managers typically have the same responsibilities across every sport and every organization.

GMs are constantly trying to improve their organization and doing all they can to field the next great team. However, that doesn’t mean they earn the same. They might be paid well, but certain sports have more cash to throw around than others.

Managers in the NHL make somewhere around $1 million annually, while most MLB GMs make much less than that mark. On the other hand, general managers in the NFL bring in much, much more with most low end positions paying around $1 million per year and going up from there.

The reason for those differences largely comes down to how big the league is, how much revenue an organization brings in, as well as what a specific GM is being tasked to do. A mid-level GM in hockey is never going to make what a successful football GM brings in.

Looking at that, NBA GMs make some of the most money out of all sports at the top end, and down around other sports at the bottom. There’s a wide spread and it’s hard to know for certain where exactly NBA GM’s fall as a whole.

Even so, basketball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and the NBA continues to bring in revenue. Such things considered, the GM salary floor rises each year and will continue to rise far into the future.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that general managers are some of the best paid people in the world of sports when things are going well, but they can lose a lot of bonuses when things are less than ideal. The NBA is all about winning, and that’s what brings in the big contracts.

Regardless of that, NBA GM’s do well for themselves at all levels. Though it’s impossible to know what each GM makes, especially considering incentives, the league revenue and popularity guarantee that they are doing, and will continue to do, quite well.

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