Who are the top five highest paid NBA players in the league right now? If you are like us, then you can’t help but wonder just how much the best basketball players make. In case you didn’t know, sports contracts are lucrative but very complex. Some tie low base salaries with massive performance-based bonuses. Others pay very well but with no incentives or loyalty bonuses.
How do we judge who the highest paid NBA players are? One way we found to cut through all the contract talk is to look at each player’s base salary. The best NBA players will have the largest base salaries, which should help us avoid talking about cap hits. In the NBA, the league has strict budget rules surrounding a player’s wages. We will not dive into cap hits and all the technicalities, but essentially, each player will take home a different amount every year based on the team's expenditure.
Therefore, we think the best way to judge who is earning the most money in the NBA is to look at the base salaries. If you would like more insight into why we chose base salaries, look at our list of the worst NBA players of all time. They were often players signed to huge deals that did not work out. Anyway, enough about basketball rejects. Let’s focus on the five highest paid NBA players right now.
5. Kevin Durant
Fifth on our list of highest paid NBA players is Kevin Durant. Durant has been prolific in the NBA, scoring over 20 points per game on average for every season he has played. Since his debut season, Durant has never scored less than 25 points per game, helping him become a four-time NBA scoring champion. He won two consecutive NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors. Durant won the NBA Finals MVP on both occasions, meaning he is one of five players to win the award consecutively.
Durant ranks fifth on our list after he signed a $194.22 million contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets. He signed the extension after joining the Warriors in 2019 on a $164.26 million contract included in a sign-and-trade deal. That means Durant’s base salary is $42,969,845, with almost $190 million guaranteed when he first signed with the franchise.
If we are looking at the average salary, Durant is taking home $48.5 million. In his career to date, he has approximately made $306 million from the NBA alone. When his contract expires in 2026, he is looking at career earnings just shy of $500 million. Durant is on our list of the best NBA players of all time and he features in our list of the best NBA teams to play, so he has certainly earned this colossal paycheck.
- Position: Small Forward
- Age: 33
- Base Salary: $42,969,845
- Average Salary: $48,554,830
- Career Earnings to date: $306,172,746
4. Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal was the third pick from the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. Beal has stayed with the Wizards to this day, proving that loyalty pays off as he signed a humongous contract in July 2022. The five-year deal is worth $251 million, a figure he achieved after two consecutive 30+ point-scoring seasons in 2019 and 2020.
Looking at his NBA achievements, Beal is a three-time NBA All-Star, and he made the All-NBA Third Team in 2021. Before signing the new deal, Beal’s career earnings are around $177 million. Not anything to be sniffed at, but certainly not in the bracket of the highest paid NBA players. If he was to see out his current contract with no additional extensions, Beal would look at $428.8 million in career earnings. His base salary is $43,279,250, putting him fourth on our list. However, if we look at his average salary, he is earning $50.2 million.
Seeing as they guaranteed Beal $251 million from signing his new deal, it’s no surprise he is up there with the top earners. Beal is a phenomenal basketball player, but without a major achievement on his resume, have the Wizards overpaid their star man? Or is this the kind of money you need to pay to keep your best players?
- Position: Shooting Guard
- Age: 29
- Base Salary: $43,279,250
- Average Salary: $50,203,930
- Career Earnings to date: $177,854,712
3. LeBron James
One of the best NBA players of all time and the current third-highest paid NBA player is LeBron James. If you have been watching the NBA for the last 20 years, James is someone that you would hope would have a bad day against your team. Unfortunately, he rarely had an off day and is a four-time NBA champion and four-time NBA Finals MVP. James is also a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and has made 18 consecutive All-Star appearances.
James made the headlines in 2021 after becoming the first active player in NBA history to earn $1bn. However, if you look at his current career earnings, he has only made $387.3 million from his NBA salary. According to various sources, James has amassed more than $900 million from endorsements, business ventures, and other lucrative deals.
Given his nearly $400 million earned as an active player, how much more could he expect to see? James recently signed a veteran contract extension in August 2022, so if he retires at the end of his deal, he could finish his NBA career with $529.4 million. His basic salary is $44,474,988, but his current average salary is only $42.8 million. After his extension kicks in, his average will rise to $48.5 million.
James is someone that has lit up the court since he first played in the NBA. He is a part of multiple teams we consider to be the best in NBA history. What’s more impressive than his performance on the court is his business-savvy ability to become a billionaire.
- Position: Small Forward
- Age: 37
- Base Salary: $44,474,988
- Average Salary: $42,827,766
- Career Earnings to date: $387,384,119
2. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is the second highest paid NBA player this season with a base salary of $47,063,478. The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Westbrook in 2008, the same year the franchise moved to Oklahoma City. Westbrook established himself as a triple-double machine, achieving the NBA record of 42 in a season. He and Oscar Robinson are the only two NBA players to average a triple-double for a season. Westbrook achieved four season-long triple-double averages, a truly unbelievable feat.
In 2019, Westbrook moved from Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets for one season. He then made another season-long stint with the Washington Wizards before they traded him to the Lakers. His average salary is $41.3 million, significantly less than his base salary. In 2017, he signed a $206.8 million 5-year contract with Oklahoma, which means his career earnings are around $288.5 million. After his contract's end, Westbrook is looking at $335,645,148 from his time in the NBA, assuming he retires in 2023.
Does Westbrook deserve to make bank? While it’s hard to justify anyone’s salary, he has certainly had an impressive career. Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champ, and three-time assist champion. He was also the NBA MVP in 2017 and was included in the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. It’s safe to say he has earned the big bucks.
- Position: Point Guard
- Age: 33
- Base Salary: $47,063,478
- Average Salary: $41,358,814
- Career Earnings to date: $288,581,670
1. Stephen Curry
Steph Curry is the highest paid player in the NBA, with a base salary of $48,070,014. In August 2021, Curry signed a contract extension with the Golden State Warriors. It was a four-year deal worth $215.35 million. His estimated career earnings so far are around $250m, but once his contract ends, he can expect to see $470 million; unless he signs a new deal.
As far as deserving a huge salary goes, Curry is certainly a candidate for it. He is one of the best NBA players to play the game and played a crucial part in some of the best NBA teams in history. Looking at his personal stats, Curry is a four-time NBA champion, and he won the 2022 NBA Finals MVP award. He was the league’s most valuable player in two consecutive seasons and is an eight-time NBA All-Star. Curry made it on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team and made it to the illustrious 50-40-90 club.
Curry’s average salary is $53,838,416 and his current deal runs until 2026. He has proven multiple times throughout his career that he is a force to be reckoned with and is almost unbeatable, as he can land three-pointers from anywhere on the court. There are few athletes in world sports that deserve all the praise they get, but Steph Curry is certainly one of them.
- Position: Point Guard
- Age: 34
- Base Salary: $48,070,014
- Average Salary: $53,838,416
- Career Earnings to date: $254,736,348
Average NBA Salary
The average NBA player’s salary fluctuates every year. That’s because the highest paid NBA players help drag up the league average. There are ten players this year with base salaries of over $40 million, whereas there are 152 players on less than $2 million for the year. To calculate the average, we simply took every player’s base salary, added them together, then divided the total by the number of players in the league.
That means the average NBA player earns $8,355,755 a year playing in the NBA. Obviously, you need to remember that the league’s minimum salary has risen since last season. At $8.35m, the league average raised around $700,000 from the 2021-22 season. Considering the tight rules surrounding NBA player salary caps, you can expect this average to fluctuate a lot over the coming years. Especially because Stephen Curry’s base salary is $48 million this year and it could rise to $59m by the 2025/26 season.
NBA Minimum Salary
So the average NBA player earns less than ten million dollars a year, but what is the lowest amount an NBA player can earn? As we mentioned above, the league is strict with salary caps, which certainly helps the bottom earners in the NBA. There are multiple salary caps in the league, with the absolute lowest applying to rookies. Players that have two or more years of experience qualify for a veteran’s contract and have a higher minimum salary.
The absolute minimum an NBA player can earn is just over one million dollars. This season, the bottom players earn around $1,017,781 a year in the NBA. This minimum only applies to rookies with no experience in the NBA. Players with two years of experience have a minimum salary of $1,836,090. Unfortunately, the contract situation with the NBA only gets more complex from here. As the league defines a basic salary per the years of NBA experience a player has.
However, seeing as that would incentivize clubs to sign rookie players and not veterans, the NBA will cover the difference. Meaning, a franchise can sign a player with ten or more years of NBA experience on a deal worth $1.8 million and the league will cover the difference. Just like the league average salary, the minimum salary can increase year on year at the discretion of the NBA. NBA salaries and contracts are really quite complex, so we will leave it there.