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When and How Do NBA Players Get Paid?

Publish Date: 05.03.2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Everyone knows that NBA players make a lot of money. The NBA has some of the highest-paid athletes in the world with an average player salary of $6 million per season.

Players like James Lebron and Kevin Durant are the highest-paid in the league due to their skills and value-added to their team. Steph Curry had a salary of $37 million in the 2018-2019 season, and by the end of the 2021-2022 season, it was $45 million.

Their lifestyles, big contracts, and even yearly salaries are all easily accessible by anyone with Google. However, as much as people know about what pro athletes get paid, few understand just how they get paid.

Below, I will look at the entire payment process for NBA athletes. That will reveal how all different players get their checks, the reasons the system exists in the way that it does, as well as why they get paid in the way they do.

How Do NBA Players Get Paid?

Every NBA player, from a max contract superstar to a modest bench player, starts with a salary. Once that occurs, they are guaranteed access to that money thanks to a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that says they get paid no matter what happens in the regular season.

They receive their money in the form of either checks or direct deposit (based on their preference) and it comes straight from the organization.

How Often Do NBA Players Get Paid?

While being an NBA player may not be a job in the most conventional sense, they do get their paychecks like most other jobs in America. That means twice a month, or every two weeks.

However, in some special cases, players can receive money in a slightly different way. Sometimes that’s due to external factors, but irregularities mostly occur when a player receives exceptional circumstances pay. That includes things like signing bonuses, loans, or advances.

If a player does get an advance for one reason or another, they can only receive it after July during the season they requested it. Minimum salary players have a cap on how much they can earn.

Related: What Exactly is the NBA Salary Cap?

Do NBA Players Only Get Paid During the Season?

As surprising as it might seem, NBA players do not stop getting paid once the season ends. While it might be intuitive to think they would only receive their money during their time on the court, that could not be further from the truth.

Rather, NBA players continue to get their bi-weekly checks throughout the entire year. It makes much more sense for the organization as a whole because they have more time to secure the money. It also gives the players a more set schedule and knowledge of what to expect.

What Do NBA Players Earn for Playoff Games?

Another factor to consider when it comes to NBA payments, is the playoffs. Obviously, not every team goes to the postseason. As such, playoff games are not added into initial salaries. Rather, the NBA designates a small pool of money that the teams can divvy up among their players.

While the amount is typically small, an extra bonus is always nice. Some players might also have a playoff incentive in their contract, which can cause them to earn a little bit more. In these cases, postseason players get a game-by-game paycheck rather than a standard one.

Do NBA Players Get Signing Bonuses?

Athletes, especially NBA players, have plenty of ways to raise their initial contract. While endorsement deals and extensions both do a good job at that, they are also able to earn more money through signing bonuses.

A signing bonus is a lump sum that an athlete can earn when they first sign their contract. Such a bonus can never be tied to a renegotiation, but it is a key part of many athletes’ deals. It can act as an incentive to join a team or help shore up other parts of the contract.

In the NBA, a signing bonus can be no more than 15 percent of a player’s total contract.

Typically, only big name players get signing bonuses. However, due to the salary cap or external situations, lower level players can collect them from time to time. Rookies with a lot of promise, such as high draft picks, can earn a big bonus too.

How Much Do NBA Players Get Taxed?

Due to the nature of their job, taxes for NBA players are not straightforward. First, they have to take into account where they live, then they have to take into account the so-called “jock tax” they get from being in the league.

Every player in the NBA pays a federal tax on their salary. If they make the league minimum, they pay in the second-highest tax bracket. If they make more than $1 million, they pay into the highest. They then pay their state taxes based on where they live (not where they play).

After that’s done, everyone in the league is subject to a 3 percent “jock tax” that exists to charge people who earn money in a state but do not live there. Once everything gets tallied up, athletes then get whatever’s left.

FAQs

This section looks at, and answers, some of the largest questions you might have about NBA contracts.

Do NBA Players Get Paid Every Two Weeks?

Yes. As with so many other jobs in the US, they get their paychecks bi-weekly on the 1st and the 15th of every month. That stays constant even when the regular season ends.

Do NBA Players Get Paid Hourly?

No. Every player in the league, from max contracts all the way down, gets their money in the exact same way. They earn their salary (and paycheck amount) based on their contract and bonuses.

Do NBA Players Get Paid While Injured?

As long as the injury occurred in a sports-related way, all NBA players get paid while injured. They have guaranteed contracts, which means they get their money no matter what. In fact, some players have made millions without seeing the court. They may lose some bonuses, however.

Do NBA Players Get Paid If They Don’t Play?

Yes. As mentioned, NBA players always get the guaranteed part of their contracts regardless if they play the games or not. They might not reach some incentives, but they still get their base pay.

Inside the NBA Paycheck Playbook

Figuring out the way NBA players get their money is not as simple or as straightforward as it might seem. Their payment schedules are tricky, the taxes can be tough to discern, and it can be hard to figure out how incentives, injuries, or bonuses play into everything.

The NBA has an organized system of issuing payments to players. Players are paid through paychecks and those who are willing to get an advance can negotiate that in their contracts. Signing bonuses are also offered to motivate players to join certain teams. On the 1st day and 15th day of each month, each player gets a certain amount of money according to the terms dictated on their contracts.

Still, once you understand the basics, it’s easy to see how all of the pieces work together. Everything in the NBA is calculated. The way the players receive their payments is yet another example of that.

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