What is the biggest salary ever paid to a single NBA player?

For some good reasons, many of the National Basketball Association (NBA) players today are earning an astronomical amount of money in terms of the current total contract size.

Looking at these highest-paid players in NBA history, we can find that most players at or near the top rank of the list are active. If we go back in time, we can also check that the highest paid players are more likely to be coming from the players from the current times.

Interestingly, the league didn’t start tracking or checking salaries or rank until the 1984-1985 season.

After the said season, we can now find how the NBA league has grown in leaps and bounds as more players with amazing salary packages come in from the international basketball area.

Forget inflation, but the salaries of the players from nearly 40 years ago are indeed nothing compared to the modern era. What should be even more fascinating about this development is that the top salaries among NBA players may not come from those you would expect.

Perhaps you would start thinking that the best players in NBA revolved only around Michael Jordan and LeBron James. While these NBA personalities come to your mind, you will be again surprised that the NBA league doesn’t care if you are the best.

This is because when you trace the history of the NBA, you can find that the highest-paid player wasn’t always the MVP. More often than not, the highest-paid was also about the team and the markets. Think about the Los Angeles, New York, and now the Golden State Warriors.

With the increasing income from licensing, television, licensing, and sponsorships deals, agreements among NBA stakeholders and players are expected to be massive.

Owing to the perpetual growth of the sports industry and the NBA league, the biggest superstars in the court will surely earn the biggest slices of the pie, even raking over a quarter-billion dollars from guaranteed contracts or deals.

Currently, five of the highest earners in the NBA league’s history are active players. The rest have played during the recent decade.

For a start, basketball star Stephen Curry is not only famous for shots beyond the 3-point line, he is also known as Rank 1 on the list of the NBA’s highest-paid players.

Curry is expected to get almost $46 million in the final year of his current contract. Furthermore, this income just keeps on increasing.

He inked a deal for an extension this recent summer that will lead to the 2022-23 season. And the money is worth a whopping $215 million over four years.

John Wall and James Harden, former Rockets teammates, are trailing  Curry at $44.3 million.

Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant came out at the top five. Although he earned the No. 6 overall spot, LeBron James owns the title of highest earner in NBA history.

By the end of his current contract with Lakers, James is expected to eclipse the $400 million in total income or salary.

The highest-paid NBA players for the 2021-2022 season

While James may be a few notches behind a few players based on his NBA salary, he, nevertheless, got the biggest one when you factor in his off-court income.

According to Forbes, James, a four-time MVP, will bring in $111.2 million when you add all his earning for all of his financial interests.

James has been destined for another record in the basketball league’s history.

“James is worth far more to any organization. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat profited immensely from his presence, just as the Lakers are about to,” said David Kenyon of the Bleacher Report.

“Name the record, and he’s on the list. Name the accolade, and he’s accomplished it. Name the award, and he’s earned it,” added Kenyon.

Following this information, James puts himself ahead of Curry ($92.8 million), Durant ($87.9 million), Giannis Antetokounmpo ($80.3 million) and Westbrook ($74.2 million), according to Jordan Greer at The Sporting News.

Ranks of NBA players in terms of earnings in 2021-2022

1. Stephen Curry         

Team: Warriors

Salary: $45,780,966

2. James Harden    

Team: 76ers

Salary: $44,310,840

3. John Wall

Team: Rockets

Salary: $44,310,840

4. Russell Westbrook 

Team: Lakers

Salary: $44,211,146

5. Kevin Durant

Team: Nets

Salary: $42,018,900

6. LeBron James 

Team: Lakers

Salary: $41,180,544

7. Giannis Antetokounmpo 

Team: Bucks

Salary: $39,344,900

8. Paul George   

Team: Clippers

Salary: $39,344,900

9. Kawhi Leonard        

Team: Clippers

Salary: $39,344,900

10. Damian Lillard       

Team: Trail Blazers

Salary: $39,344,900

11. Klay Thompson     

Team: Warriors

Salary: $37,980,720

12. Jimmy Butler

Team: Heat

Salary: $36,016,200

13. Tobias Harris

Team: 76ers

Salary: $35,995,950

14. Khris Middleton    

Team: Bucks

Salary: $35,500,000

15. Anthony Davis       

Team: Lakers

Salary: $35,361,360

List of NBA’s highest-paid players of all time (through 2020)

The players included in the list of 15 highest-paid players in the NBA league’s history comprised of eight active basketball stars who continue to earn today. The list also includes Chris Paul, of Suns, who is seen to earn over $300 million in his professional basketball earnings this season, according to reports.

Rank Player and total earnings   

1. LeBron James

Total earnings: $346,203,575

2. Kevin Garnett

Total earnings: $334,304,240

3. Kobe Bryant   

Total earnings: $323,312,307

4. Chris Paul

Total earnings: $299,909,419

5. Shaquille O’Neal

Total earnings: $286,344,668

6. Kevin Durant

Total earnings: $264,153,846

7. Carmelo Anthony

Total earnings: $259,153,846

8. Dirk Nowitzki 

Total earnings: $251,646,362

9. Russell Westbrook 

Total earnings: $244,370,524

10. Dwight Howard    

Total earning: $242,500,792

11. Tim Duncan 

Total earnings: $242,024,800

12. Chris Bosh    

Total earnings: $239,063,622

13. James Harden       

Total earnings: $224,349,734

14. Blake Griffin

Total earnings: $223,359,012

15. Pau Gasol

Total earnings: $220,990,766

The salary cap for the 2021-2022 NBA season

For the 2021-2022 NBA season alone, the league said the salary cap has been set at $112.414 million.

This figure is about three percent higher than the past season.

The higher tax level is $136.606 million, while the minimum team salary is pegged at $101.173 million.

Cap, tax for 2022-23: $119, $145 — with cap level about $4 million higher than previous projections, said sports reporter Shams Charania on August 2, 2021.