The average NBA player salary is $7.7 million per year. The median salary is $2.8 million, meaning half of the league earns less than that and half earn more. The top earner in the NBA is LeBron James, who makes $35.7 million per year.
The average salary of an NBA player is $5.15 million per year. The highest-paid NBA player is LeBron James, who earns $30.96 million per year. The lowest-paid NBA player is Austin Rivers, who earns $473,604 per year.
NBA Player Salaries
The average NBA player salary is $7.7 million per year, which is a lot of money. But it’s not just the players who are making the big bucks. The coaches, trainers, and other staff members are also paid very well. In fact, the average salary for an NBA head coach is $3 million per year. That’s a lot of money for a job that doesn’t involve playing the game!
The collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) sets a rookie scale for first-year players. The scale applies to first-round picks and gives them a set salary for each season of their first four years in the league. For example, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft will earn $8,839,560 during their first year in the league. The rookies who are drafted outside of the lottery (picks 15-30) will earn 20% less than the scale amounts.
The following season, players on their rookie contracts are eligible for a pay raise of up to 30% of their previous salary, or up to the maximum salary for that season—whichever is greater. For example, a player who earned $5 million in Year 1 would be eligible for a raise to $6.5 million in Year 2—but no higher, even if they outperformed expectations.
In Year 3 of their rookie contracts, players become eligible for Early Bird or Non-Bird free agency—provisions that were put in place to give teams a better chance of keeping their young players. If a player receives an Early Bird offer from their team, they can sign a contract worth up to 175% of their previous salary (up to the maximum). Non-Bird free agents can sign for 120% of their previous salary (up to the maximum).
Players on scale contracts are also eligible for restricted free agency once they complete four seasons in the league. In restricted free agency, teams can match any offer sheet that a player signs with another team—but they have only three days to do so. If they choose not to match an offer sheet, they will receive compensation based on the average salaries at that particular position.
The NBA’s maximum salary is determined by a collective bargaining agreement between the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association that was agreed to in 2017. The maximum salary for a player with 0-6 years of experience is $25,500,000; for a player with 7-9 years of experience, it is $30,000,000; and for a player with 10+ years of experience, it is $35,000,000. In each case, there is an additional “luxury tax” that applies to teams that exceed the salary cap, which is currently $102 million.
The minimum salary for an NBA player is determined by their years of experience in the league. For example, a rookie NBA player will have a minimum salary of $582,180 USD while a player with ten or more years of experience will have a minimum salary of $1,512,611 USD. Players can also earn extra money through endorsement deals and other sources of income.
How NBA Player Salaries Are Determined
Collective Bargaining Agreement
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) that determines the league’s salary cap, which is the maximum amount of money that teams are allowed to spend on player salaries. The CBA also includes a minimum salary, which is the minimum amount that teams must spend on player salaries.
The CBA negotiated by the NBA and NBPA in 2017 increased the salary cap from $94.1 million to $99.1 million for the 2017-18 season, and it is projected to increase to $102 million for the 2018-19 season. The minimum salary for players with two or fewer years of experience increased from $543,471 to $815,615 for the 2017-18 season, and it is projected to increase to $893,287 for the 2018-19 season. Players with three or more years of experience have a minimum salary of $1,471,382 for the 2017-18 season, which is projected to increase to $1,588,231 for the 2018-19 season.
The NBA also has a luxury tax that applies to teams that exceed the salary cap. The luxury tax threshold for the 2017-18 season is $119.3 million, and it is projected to increase to $125 million for the 2018-19 season. Teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold must pay a tax of $1 for every $1 they are over the threshold. For example, if a team has a payroll of $130 million in 2018-19, it would owe a luxury tax of $5 million ($130 million – $125 million).
An escalating contract is the most common type of NBA player contract. This is when a player’s salary starts at a lower number and “escalates” or goes up each year of the contract. The most common length of an escalating contract is four years, but they can be as long as five years.
The vast majority of first round draft picks sign four-year contracts with two years guaranteed and team options for the third and fourth years. For example, if the salary in year one is $1 million, the salary in year two is $1.1 million, and so on.
In order to make sure they don’t go over the salary cap, teams often structure these contracts so that the salaries go up less each season in the later years of the deal. For example, a player might make $5 million in year one, $5.5 million in year two, $6 million in year three, and $6.5 million in year four.
These deals often also include built-in “raises” for the players if they meet certain milestones, such as being named to an All-Star team or winning one of the NBA’s end-of-season awards.
The average salary of an NBA player is $5.15 million per year. However, salaries can vary greatly depending on a player’s experience, position, and performance. For example, the top-paid player in the NBA, LeBron James, earned $77.2 million in salary and endorsements in the 2017-2018 season. On the other end of the spectrum, rookies in the NBA earn a minimum salary of $562,493 per year.