The Average Professional Basketball Salary

by David Thyberg; Updated September 26, 2017
Professional basketball players can earn huge sums.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) ranks as the world's premier stage for professional basketball players and coaches. The elite talent and sleek hype of the NBA bring in billions of dollars in revenue for the league and its franchises, not to mention the players and coaches on the court. The NBA established its first salary cap under the 1983 collective bargaining agreement. Cap figures have risen over the years, reaching $57.7 million per team in 2009, according to the Washington Post.

Top NBA Player Salaries

The salary range for players in the NBA is based around a system that measures years of service, offering the highest rates to veterans of 10 years or more. As of 2010, the active NBA player with the largest salary was Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a three-year contract worth $83.5 million overall and $24.8 million for the first year, according to Forbes.com. As for the rookies of the NBA, the top draft picks also make huge sums of money. The top 10 picks from 2009 as a group made $106 million in guaranteed money, according to the Huffington Post.

Average NBA Player Salaries

Of course, the NBA's best players are not always the highest-paid players, due in large part to the veteran salary scale. According to the Huffington Post, the average player salary was around $3.4 million in 2010. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post notes that the league's minimum salary is expected to get a bump up to $1.3 million for the 2011 season.

Top NBA Coaching Salaries

The NBA boasts some of the highest paid coaches in all of sports, according to Forbes.com. The league's best coaches earn in excess of $5 million per season, with Phil Jackson of the Lakers heading the list for 2009 with a $10.3 million salary. Other veteran coaches earning over $6 million for the 2009 season included Don Nelson, Larry Brown and Mike D'Antoni.

Average NBA Coaching Salaries

NBA coaches with relatively little experience and prestige still tend to make a generous salary. The average head coach in the NBA pulls in about $4 million annually, according to 2009 statistics from Forbes.com.

NBA Outlook and Trends

Player salaries are likely to continue rising with inflation, but there may be some bumps in the road. A 2010 article in Sports Illustrated reports that NBA Commissioner David Stern has plans to reduce player salary costs by about one-third in an effort to cut back on the projected league-wide losses of about $340 million to $350 million for the 2010 season. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in June 2011, and it is unlikely the the players association will accept such reductions without some form of expanded revenue sharing.

Domestic Developmental League Salaries

For skilled players who don't make it to the NBA, developmental leagues and minor leagues are the only remaining domestic options. However, the financial gulf between the NBA and developmental leagues is huge. Salaries in the top development league in the US averaged between $12,000 and $24,000 per season, according to an article published in 2007 by Tom Goldman of NPR.

Foreign Professional League Salaries

Professional basketball players in foreign leagues can earn huge sums or paltry salaries, depending on where they play and what their status is. Teams in Europe typically pay the most, with leagues in Spain, Italy, France, Russia and Greece leading the way. For example, J.R. Bremer earned over $1 million in net salary from Triumph Lyubersty in Russia in 2008 after being waived by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2005, according to the New York Times. Of course, lesser-known players stand to make much less money.

About the Author

David Thyberg began his writing career in 2007. He is a professional writer, editor and translator. Thyberg has been published in various newspapers, websites and magazines. He enjoys writing about social issues, travel, music and sports. Thyberg holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College with a certificate in Spanish and Latin American studies.

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