Salaries in Professional Basketball

Commonly known as one of the biggest sports leagues in the US, the NBA is the most prominent professional basketball organization in the world. After initially being founded in 1946, the NBA has consistently grown its audience from hundred’s in its first game to over 31 million viewers in the previous finals game. The surging popularity and tremendous growth of the league has led to many players and coaches’ salaries skyrocketing in recent years. This article will cover the salaries for three of the significant people that make professional basketball so successful and detail what their roles are in the organization.

As with any professional sports league, much of the NBA’s success is solely due to the performance of its players. Before talking about how much money players make, it is important to note that much of the money players make is guaranteed regardless of injury. This policy is in stark contrast to other sports leagues like the NFL where an injury can significantly limit the amount of money a player can earn during his career.

Active Players

Typically, a player’s salary is determined by how much value he adds to the team. Look at the exposure generated for Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and you’ll see why these star players have such an impact. For instance, a rookie or a veteran player will likely to sign a minimum deal for around $1 million per a year based on the 2011 CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NBA and the player’s union. This minimum figure pales in comparison to how much star players can make. Every NBA team is assigned a salary cap at the start of the season which they are required to use for player’s contracts.

Since the demand for star players is high, teams can offer lucrative contracts for over five years to ensure that the player remains on the team. Prime examples of using cap space to keep great players include the Memphis Grizzlies signing of Mike Conley till 2021 with a $140 million deal ($26+ million per year) and the Cleveland Cavs retaining reigning NBA champion and Finals MVP Lebron James for three years in a $64 million deal. Ask yourself just what you would do with $100 million dollars, and it’ll probably take awhile to come up with ideas for all $100 million worth. Overall, the salary of a player in the NBA can vary a lot depending on the player’s importance to the team. For added reference, the average salary of an NBA player in the 2017-18 season is expected to be $8.5 million.


Although they do not make nearly as much as some of the best players, being a coach in the NBA is a very lucrative job. Just like players, Coaches salaries largely depend on experience. Some highly-esteemed coaches like Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers have large deals due to previous success. Ranging from over $10 million per year for Rivers and $11 million per year for Popovich, elite coaches with a proven record receive big deals. New coaches with less experience tend to average around $5 million per year, which while much less than players, is still stellar. Some job responsibilities for coaches include directing the team’s offense, helping develop player’s skills, and finding out strategies and information about opponents to win games.

General Managers

Unlike NBA players and coaches who are present on the court gameday, a General Manager’s job is much more diverse. Responsible for finding talent in the draft, overseeing all financial operations of the team and determining the best players to fit on the roster, being a GM is not as simple as it sounds. Day to day work can involve solving anything from cap issues to dealing with player-team relations. General Managers meet a lot of different problems throughout their day and are compensated accordingly. Once again, the experience of a GM is essential when determining salary. Well known and celebrated GM’s like Pat Riley are paid over $10 million per year whereas less well known GM’s can make anything from $1-3 million.

Additional Income

Many of these players earn additional income by playing and sponsoring events. For example, Mohegan Sun Pocono will often feature many players for meet and greets and other apparel giveaway. It’s good business for Mohegan as it draws in a crowd and helps develop hype, and it’s great exposure and community relations for the players. All in all, it’s a win win for both parties involved.

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