Basketball NBA Player Salary

Welcome to an overview of player salaries in the NBA. In this write-up, you’ll be introduced to all the basics regarding player salaries, including who is responsible for paying players and how teams decide on the amount to pay each athlete. Let’s get started…

Who Pays Player Salaries?

Generally speaking, team owners are responsible for paying player salaries. Funds are allocated towards several organizational needs prior to each season, including arena renovations and promotions in addition to the team’s overall payroll. The money needed to cover team expenses is rarely provided exclusively by one person. Instead, there are usually a group of business executives that each have ownership stake.

Determining a Player’s Worth

Players are compensated differently depending on their overall worth to a team. While a player’s ‘worth’ is often judged by their on-court performance, some players offer stability to their respective teams in other ways. The two most common methods used to decide how much a player should be paid are outlined below...

Performance-Based Value

Players that consistently perform at a high level and post impressive stats are more likely to be offered larger sums of money. The very best players in the NBA are capable of helping the team in multiple ways (scoring, rebounding, passing, good defense). This select group of players, often labeled ‘superstars,’ are usually offered long-term contracts worth tens of millions of dollars per year.

Organizational Value

Teams also tend to offer decent contracts to players that provide value outside of their statistical performances each game. For example, a veteran player that does not necessarily offer solid statistical outputs but provides leadership and guidance for the younger players on a team will likely be offered a decent yearly salary to help teammates handle challenges throughout the season.


Players receive their money through contracts. Teams offer players a yearly salary to be paid over a set number of years. When players agree to the terms spelled out in the contract, each side signs the offer sheet. Once the contract has been signed, the player is officially a member of the team and gets paid accordingly following each season. For example, if the Boston Celtics and a star player agree to a four year, $100 million dollar contract, the player must play for the Celtics for the next four seasons in exchange for $25 million per year.

G-League Salaries

The NBA has a feeder league called the G-League. The G-League is designed to give inexperienced players a chance to develop the skills necessary to play in the NBA. Since athletes participating in the G-League have yet to reach the highest level, they are paid much lower salaries. The average salary for a G-League player is approximately $35,000 per season.

Highest Paid Players

The NBA’s top-five highest paid players are listed below. Rankings are based on how much each player is scheduled to make for the 2020-2021 season.

  1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors ($43 million)
  2. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns ($41.358 million)
  3. Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards ($41.358 million)
  4. John Wall, Houston Rockets ($41.254 million)
  5. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets ($41.254 million)