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How Much Do G League Players Get Paid

Publish Date: 11.01.2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

The NBA’s developmental league – the ‘G League’ as it has been called since 2017 – has been around since 2001. It has risen in popularity over the past few years, as it has become a legitimate option for high schoolers who want to skip college. Since the NBA’s One Year Rule prohibits players jumping straight from high school into to the NBA, the G League is a great way to get paid to play basketball, instead of remaining an amateur, as would be the case in college.

But how much do G Leaguers get paid? Well, on average, a G League player makes around $35,000 per season. Granted, some make a lot more (say hello Jalen Green), but the median is there or thereabouts. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the G League, find out why players go there, and how the G League alum have fared in terms of making it to the NBA.

The NBA G League: A brief history

In 2001, the NBA launched the National Basketball Developmental League – or NBDL – which consisted of eight teams. Those teams were housed in the Southeast, with franchises in places like Asheville, NC, Huntsville, AL, and Charleston, SC. The league didn’t exactly move the needle though, and was revamped in 2005 as a part of the NBA’s collective bargaining. At that point it was rebranded as the D-League and more effort was made to show the direct connection between the D-League and the NBA.

  • From 2006 to 2009, the trend of partnering the D-League teams with an NBA ‘parent’ team gained traction, with the league looked at it more like Triple-A baseball. In turn, that built more of a connection to the teams’ fans and by 2015, every D-League team was affiliated with an NBA franchise.
  • Ahead of the 2017-18 season, the D-League entered into an agreement with Gatorade, and was renamed the NBA Gatorade League (later shortened to just the NBA G League). G League games also became accessible to view through streaming services like ESPN+ and Twitch.
  • The 2019-20 season started the trend of G League teams offering contracts to high school players not yet eligible for the NBA Draft, and from there, the G League’s appeal really took off. The prospect-specific team is called the G League Ignite, which offers contracts in the low six-figure bracket to NBA probables.

Breaking down G League salaries

You may look at the $35,000 figure and think that is low, especially considering the rising rate of inflation in the US, but also with the knowledge that are overseas leagues are actively seeking US players and paying them seven figure salaries.

You’d think that most business-minded players would jump at the opportunity to make more in a different country. So why is the G League still a viable option? Well, there are actually a few factors that go into the decision to make $35k to play basketball in the US rather than overseas.

Opportunity

Did you know that the minimum NBA league salary for a rookie is $925,000? So, you could look at the G League as a kind of internship that only makes $35,000, but represents a stepping stone to much brighter pastures. Most professional athletes are highly confident in their own abilities, and see the G League as the first genuine step towards stardom (or at least a higher-paying gig).

Accessibility

Because every G League team is affiliated with a parent NBA team, these players are easily accessed by the league. NBA team coaches and scouts converse regularly with their G League affiliates, so if a player is progressing in the G League, the first people to know about are inside the organization.

In addition, G League players are effectively ‘on-call’ to play for their NBA parent team when needed. For example, during the Covid epeidemic, numerous G Leaguers were called up and given 10-day contracts. Of course it doesn’t need to be anything quite so major for G League players to get the nod, then all it takes is an impressive three-game performance by a G League player and the team will sign them up for the rest of the year.

NBA Draft: Big win for the G League

The NBA G League’s plan of offering a contract to pro hopefuls straight out of high school was a risk. But it seems to be paying off, as players are being picked from the G League during the NBA Drafts. There are plenty of success stories, but perhaps the most notable are these two players, who were both drafted from the G League Ignite squad and are already making big waves in the NBA.

Jalen Green – Houston Rockets: 2nd Overall Pick

This 5-star high school recruit had offers from big-time college programs – Arizona, and USC to name a couple – before entering his sophomore season. He was selected as a McDonald’s All-American in his senior year averaging 31 PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG. Green decided to pass on college and sign a $600,000 contract with the Ignite instead.

After averaging almost 18 points, Green was chosen by the Houston Rockets second overall. Many doubters were silenced before the season even began, after watching Green’s NBA Summer League performance. Green scored 23 points in his first contest and went on to make the Summer League second-team.

It only took Green three games to post a 30 point game once the regular season began. The Rockets are in a heavy rebuilding period, giving Jalen the “green light” (no pun intended) to be aggressive on the court. With only about 20 games under his NBA belt, Green is averaging 15 PPG and has shown that his G League move was the right call for him.

Jonathan Kuminga – Golden State Warriors: 7th Overall Pick

Kuminga was seen as a project, but has already shown signs of promise in his rookie season. Like Jalen Green, Kuminga came out of high school as a 5-star recruit, with offers to places like Duke and the University of Kentucky. Like Green, Kuminga signed with the Ignite and shone in the G League, instead of on a college campus.

Video: 'Bright Future' Jonathan Kuminga 26 PTS in FIRST Career Start 🔥

‘Bright Future’ Jonathan Kuminga 26 PTS in FIRST Career Start 🔥

After averaging 15 points for the Ignite, Kuminga was taken by the Golden State Warriors. Kuminga started out slow due to injury, but has come back strong. He is an athletic freak who can guard anyone on the opposing side of the ball. With the veteran leadership of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steph Curry, together with the tutelage of Steve Kerr, Kuminga is in a great spot right now.

Will the new NCAA NIL Rule affect the G League?

When a bombshell ruling by the NCAA, allowing college athletes to “profit from their name, image, or likeness” was put into place, it essentially gave amateur athletes a chance to make money while still in college. With this ruling, the idea of a basketball player skipping a year of college in order to make money playing ball could easily be scrapped.

Once you become a professional in anything, the thing you loved – basketball, in this case – becomes a job. So, why wouldn’t an 18-year old decide to attend college, and enjoy all of the parties and fun that comes with it, rather than move to Fort Wayne, Indiana and play in front of an empty gym?

One of the biggest appeals of the G League was the money. Now a player can attend a place like Kentucky or North Carolina and be treated like a God on campus. They can play in front of a packed house every night and make money doing it because of the NIL ruling from the NCAA. Only time will tell if the future of the G League will suffer because of that.

Why it pays to play in the G League

While a G League salary isn’t quite the same thing as a NBA contract, it’s still a foot in the door to bigger and better things. Especially so for talented player, who can use the G League as a pit stop on their way to the big leagues.

So, is the G League a worthy option for you? Well, you won’t be making LeBron-level money, but you will get a paycheck for doing something you love, which is priceless.

Do you follow the G League at all? Let us know about a player to watch out for below in the comments!

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