When one thinks of the salaries of basketball players, their first thought goes to the multi-million-dollar contracts signed by America’s greats in the NBA. But in reality, most professional basketball players, in America and overseas alike, never reach salaries that high in their career. How much money, then, would one get from playing basketball in the many countries of the world?
The smallest salaries of major basketball leagues internationally are around $12,000 USD. If you’re good enough, playing in the right place, and have a name like Steph Curry, you could sign contracts for upwards of $40 million USD. Overseas, the highest-paying basketball players get $4 million USD.
In this article, we’ll explore the highest salaries and best players in the best basketball leagues on Earth. This includes leagues from Spain, France, Russia, China, Oceania, and more.
Salaries in the NBA (USA)
Take a second and guess how much money the best basketball player in America’s contract was worth in the 2021-22 season. Don’t look it up, just guess. Here’s a hint: players in the NBA (National Basketball Association) are paid substantially more than any other basketball league across the globe. And another hint: if you weren’t sure who the best basketball player in the NBA is, according to the paychecks, it’s Steph Curry.
Without further ado, here are the players with the top salaries in 2021-22, according to ESPN.
- Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors. $45,780,966.
- James Harden- Brooklyn Nets. $44,310,840.
- John Wall- Houston Rockets. $44,310,840.
- Russell Westbrook- Los Angeles Lakers. $44,211,146.
- Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets. $42,018,900.
- LeBron James- Los Angeles Lakers. $41,180,544.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks. $39,344,970
- Damian Lillard- Portland Trail Blazers. $39,344,900.
- Kawhi Leonard- LA Clippers. $39,344,900.
- Paul George- LA Clippers. $39,344,900.
Fun fact: in America, NBA and WNBA teams are required to publish player salaries, team budgets, and more. In Europe, Oceania, and Asia, this isn’t the case.
For those that are numerically challenged, those numbers say anywhere from thirty-nine to forty-five million dollars. Don’t we wish that we could be paid that much for what we do on a daily basis? I thought so.
Now, since none of the above players listed are centers, I was curious to see where the highest-paid center was on ESPN’s roster. A center is a player with a specific position responsible for blocking and rebounding. 16th on the salaries list from above, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, is the highest-paid center in the NBA, with a salary of $35,344,828.
Of course, these salaries are before taxes, but still, the numbers are eye-popping, heart-stopping, and buzzer-beating.
Salaries in the WNBA (USA)
The WNBA is the women’s version of the NBA in the United States. Sadly, it doesn’t get a lot of traffic, which is probably the reason for the monumental deficit when you look at the players’ salaries in comparison to the men of the NBA. There are several reasons that people use for preferring to watch the NBA over the WNBA. Still, compared to the salaries of our everyday teachers, CEOs, and doctors, it’s a pretty large sum.
Here are the highest earners of the WNBA in 2021-22, according to Insider.
- Elena Delle Donne- Washington Mystics. $221,450.
- Sue Bird- Seattle Storm. $221,450.
- Diana Taurasi- Phoenix Mercury. $221,450.
- Brittney Griner- Phoenix Mercury. $221,450.
- DeWanna Bonner- Connecticut Sun. $221,450.
- Liz Cambage- Las Vegas Aces. $221,450.
- Skylar Diggins-Smith- Phoenix Mercury. $221,450.
- Natasha Howard- New York Liberty. $215,000.
- Courtney Vandersloot- Chicago Sky. $200,000.
- Courtney Williams- Atlanta Dream. $190,550.
Kayla McBride (Minnesota Lynx), Aerial Powers (Minnesota Lynx), Kristi Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks), and Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) also have contracts for $190,550 for the 2021-22 season. These salaries are before taxes, so these numbers aren’t what these women get to take home at the end of the day.
Some other notable players are Moriah Jefferson (Dallas Wings) and Jantel Lavender (Indiana Fever), who are paid $175,1000 and $175,000 respectively.
Salaries in the NBL (Oceania)
When I was a kid, I always wondered why the USA’s national basketball association wasn’t a league. All of the other sports, I noted, had national leagues: the NFL, MLB, NHL, and more. But it makes more sense when in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands), they have a national basketball league.
In the NBL, there are only 10 players allowed in a roster, whereas in America’s NBA, there are 15. The NBL’s 10-player team has specific restrictions for the number of each type of player that can be on the team. Yes, that’s right, there are different types of players in the NBL: 6 different types, to be exact. The different types are restricted players, marquee players, special restricted players, national players, development players, and NBL next stars. Before we explain these types more in detail, here are the players with the 5 highest salaries in the NBL.
- Bryce Cotton- Perth Wildcats. $650,000 USD per year.
- Andrew Bogut- Sydney Kings. $500,000 USD per year.
- LaMelo Ball- Ilawarra Hawks. $500,000 USD per year.
- Roderick “RJ” Hampton- New Zealand Breakers. $500,000 USD per year.
- Jerome Randle- Sydney Kings. $400,000 USD per year.
This may not seem like a lot compared to what NBA players make, and I’d be lying if I told you that it was, but after a couple of years of playing at these rates, players have collected millions of dollars. Now, let’s get into the six types of NBL players: restricted, marquee, national, special restricted, development, and NBL Next Stars.
Restricted players are the imports and foreigners on the team. Teams are allowed to have 2 restricted players. These are the highest-paid players on NBL teams, with players at the average skill level expecting to be paid $120k-$250k USD per year. One of the highest-paid players in the NBL currently is Bryce Cotton, an American who plays for the Perth Wildcats. In 2020, he signed a $1.5 million USD contract.
Marquee players are the best Australians and New Zealanders. Similar to restricted players, marquee players are usually paid anywhere from $128k-$256k USD per year. Teams are allowed to have 1 marquee player unless they trade an import player for another marquee player.
If a team wants to have 2 marquee players, they must only have 1 restricted player. Fun fact: nobody actually knows specifically who a marquee player is, because it isn’t explicitly stated. Marquee players and national players are practically the same things, they’re just a bit different.
National players are the regular pro basketball players. On average, national players in the NBL can expect $109,000 USD per year, with a minimum wage set at $43,000 USD. Usually, marquee players are known as national players and aren’t specifically designated as marquee players. However, there are many speculations about which national players are, in fact, marquee players. These players tend to make much more than the average national player.
Special restricted players are the players signed from Asian countries that play as locals. This makes their salary exempt from cap calculations. Teams are only allowed to have 1 (if any) special restricted player. Though this restriction is in place for special situations, many teams very rarely sign special restricted players onto their team.
Development players are exactly like they sound: they’re developing. They’re the young players that will eventually become the next national and marquee players. Yes, they’re talented, but they’re not quite at pro status yet. They have a small salary to prove it: around $12,000 USD per year. To become a development player, applicants must be younger than 25, and the contract they sign to become a development player must be their first professional contract in NBL.
NBL Next Stars are the last type of player in the NBL. They sign contracts for around $75,000 USD, but their total paychecks include several bonuses. These players are the ones that are looking to get drafted to the NBA. Teams are allowed 1 of these players.
Salaries in the EuroLeague (Europe)
The European basketball league, the EuroLeague, includes teams from several different countries. There are 4 teams from Spain, 3 teams from Turkey, 2 from Russia and Greece, and 1 team from Italy, Israel, Germany, Lithuania, and Montenegro. In the EuroLeague, salaries are some of the highest in the world, following those of America.
Here are the highest-paid players in the EuroLeague in 2021-22 according to Eurohoops.
- Nikola Mirotic- Barcelona. $4.5 million USD.
- Shane Larkin- Anadolu Efes. $3.7 million USD.
- Vailije Micic- Anadolu Efes. $3 million USD.
- Nikola Milutinov- CSKA Moscow. $2.5 million USD.
- Jan Vesely- Fenerbahce. $2.3 million USD.
- Walter “Edy” Tavares- Real Madrid. $2 million USD.
- Nando De Colo- Fenerbahce. $1.9 million USD.
- Toko Shengelia- CSKA Moscow. $1.8 million USD.
- Kostas Sloukas- Olympiacos. $1.8 million USD.
- Nick Calathes- Barcelona. $1.8 million USD.
- Cory Higgins- Barcelona. $1.8 million USD.
In the EuroLeague, and in several of the other basketball leagues and associations around the world, all salaries have taken substantial cuts during the past couple of years.
Salaries in the Liga ACB (Spain) and the LNB Pro A League (France)
Another interesting fact about basketball leagues in countries other than America: they aren’t required to post the salaries of players, their team budgets, or anything else to that effect. As such, there is minimal information about the money earned by players in these other leagues.
The Liga ACB of Spain, or their first division basketball league, has a maximum salary for their players of $4 million USD per year. The salaries that are most often reported, though, range from $200k-$500k USD per year (Source). The Liga ACB is made up of 18 teams, named as follows: Real Madrid, Barça, BAXI Manresa, Valencia Basket, Joventut, Lenovo Tenerife, UCAM Murcia, Bitci Baskonia, Surne BB, Río Breogán, Gran Canaria, Casademont Zgz, Unicaja, MoraBanc And, Urbas Fuenla, Monbus Obra, Coosur Betis, and Hereda SPB.
The LNB Pro A League of France, or their first division basketball league, has a maximum salary for their players of $300k USD per year. Most often, salaries are reported to be between $80k-$170k USD per year, which is actually much closer to their maximum salary than Spain’s average is to their highest (Source).
Salaries in the VTB United League (Russia)
The VTB United League of Russia has 12 teams, named as follows: Avtodor, Astana, Enisey, Enea Zastal BC, Zenit, Kalev, Lokomotiv-Kuban, Nizhny Novgorod, PARMA-PARIMATCH, UNICS, Tsmoki-Minsk, and CSKA Moscow.
The VTB United League of Russia has a maximum salary for their players of $4 million USD per year. On average, though, players are normally paid $200k-$450k USD per year.
In Eastern Europe, the Russian league isn’t the only basketball league. Eastern Europe also houses leagues in Armenia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. In Armenia’s basketball league, the maximum salary for players is $4k USD per month, but most players only see $400-$1k USD at the end of each month.
While Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine haven’t published their salary information, Turkey has. Turkey’s BSL league’s salary information is very similar to the Russian league, with a maximum salary of $4 million USD per year, and an average salary of $250k-$475k USD per year.
Salaries in the CBA (China)
In the Chinese Basketball Association, the salary cap has been reduced significantly. The total salary for domestic players is kept between $2.5 million USD and $6.9 million USD, with a benchmark of $3.75 million USD. Now, this salary isn’t per player. This is for all the players on a specific team. This means that domestic players can’t earn more than $937,800 USD. Salaries for foreign players, however, are capped at $5 million USD.
Other Asian countries, like Japan, Thailand, Mongolia, Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan also have basketball leagues and associations. In Japan, the max salary for their players is about $1 million USD per year. In Mongolia, players are paid monthly, with a maximum salary of $9k USD per month.
The Thailand Basketball League pays monthly as well, but their players’ maximum salary is $18k USD per month. In South Korea, the most a player can be paid is $500k USD per year. In the Philippines, the maximum salary for their players is $40k USD per month. Several other Asian countries haven’t published their players’ salaries.