The NBA is rightfully considered one of the most successful sports leagues in terms of revenue. The association consistently secures lucrative sponsorship deals, which, in turn, reflect on the players’ earnings. Before the start of a new season, we decided to take a look at the payrolls of NBA teams and identify the top ten players who will earn more than others. It will be very interesting to see who among them will truly oyna at such high salaries.
Places 10 to 7
The first interesting point is that four players in the top ten have absolutely identical contracts and will receive the same amounts for the upcoming season.
Kawhi Leonard, $45.6 million
Four NBA players are receiving identical salaries of $45,640,084 for this season and $48,787,676 for the next (and they were the same in the previous two seasons as well). These are maximum veteran contracts (35% of the salary cap) that took effect in 2021. What’s amusing is that these four players are now split into pairs in two different clubs.
Paul George, $45.6 million
Kawhi and George have identical sums, terms, and contract conditions. Both can opt to terminate their contracts next summer and become free agents. Or they can choose to extend with the Clippers. For now, this duo is signing symmetrical contracts and taking turns being sidelined.
Damian Lillard, $45.6 million
Lillard doesn’t face the “break-or-extend” dilemma as the Portland Trail Blazers were aware of his preference for super-max extensions. Therefore, they offered him a second super-max extension within his super-max extension. In 2025, Lillard will already be earning $57 million (now with the Bucks, after his contract moved there with all the conditions he fulfilled in his previous team), and in 2026, he will likely become the highest-paid player in NBA history with $62 million, at the age of 36.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, $45.6 million
Milwaukee traded for Lillard, not thinking about his old extension but about the new extension for another person, Giannis. The Greek player has the right to sign a new contract effective from 2025 now, but financially, it’s more advantageous for him to do it next summer or even wait until the end of his current contract in two seasons.
6. Bradley Beal, $46.7 million
The amount isn’t the most crucial factor, although it’s important. The term is another four years with a $3.5 million annual increase, which is also not the most crucial aspect. What truly matters is that even after moving from Washington to Phoenix, Beal retains the right to veto any trade involving him, the only such right in the entire NBA.
Places 5 to 3
In this part of the list, we also have three players with identical salaries.
Nikola Jokic, $47.6 million
In the NBA, there is not only a team salary cap but also an individual salary cap. Jokic, despite all his talents, simply cannot earn more, even if a club were willing to pay him $100 million a year. Rules are rules, and they’ve been this way since 1999.
Joel Embiid, $47.6 million
Embiid may trail Jokic in terms of MVP awards and championship rings, but he doesn’t fall behind in salary. In terms of passports, he has catapulted to the top ranks of the NBA.
LeBron James, $47.6 million
LeBron was the highest-paid NBA employee only once. Initially, Kobe surpassed him, then LeBron changed teams and lowered his maximum salary, and Stephen Curry of the Warriors took the lead. Nevertheless, LeBron climbed to the first place in career earnings three years ago and significantly distanced himself from his pursuers. However, with the new salaries, even this achievement of the King will only last until the end of the 2020s.
2. Kevin Durant, $47.6 million
Durant earns slightly more than the previous trio, by $42,000. However, next year he will fall behind them, dropping to the fifth spot. These are the intricacies of extensions, raises, and percentage of the salary cap.
1. Stephen Curry, $51.9 million
He is the first person to break the $50 million mark for a season. He was also the first to earn over $40 million and has been leading this ranking since 2017, for the seventh consecutive year, matching Kobe’s record (2009/10-2015/16). He will continue to be the leader at least until 2026.