How Do NBA Players Get Paid?

Which is one of the most profitable and richest leagues in the whole world? The right answer is the NBA. All major sports leagues have lucrative and alluring minimum contracts but the NBA has eye-popping minimum contracts.

With the highest minimum contracts in US sports, the NBA plays each player on average a whopping amount of $1 million/year. If we compare other sports associations such as MLB & NHL, they have minimum contracts on average of $500,000 while the NFL has an average of $450,000.

Apart from the minimum deals, there is no limit to the money the players make every year. The NBA pays their players every month on the 1st & 15th. With an astounding salary of $43 million/year, Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors – is currently the player with the highest income.

The second-highest-paid players are Russell Westbrook – Washington Wizards – and  Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns with an annual income of $41.3 million. To round off the top three is James Harden – Brooklyn Nets – with a whopping $41.2 million per year.

In terms of payment, the NBA is one of the most rewarding professional sports. With the NBA players collecting large paychecks, we are left wondering how do NBA players get paid?

Let’s take a look at the inner workings of how the NBA players are actually paid.

Salary Process of the NBA Players

Since 2017, as per the NBA’s CBA – Collective Bargaining Agreement – the players get their paychecks on the 1st & 15th of each month. However, the CBA doesn’t clarify whether the salaries are in the form of direct bank deposits or physical checks.

Moreover, the process of escrow, advances, bonuses, etc. are also listed in the CBA but details on their distribution are not specified. According to the podcast of Jalen Rose – a former NBA player – some players receive direct deposits from their teams while some get checks which can be cashed later.

Variations in Salary Payment Methods

Given the large number of salaries, one might expect that the players would get a direct deposit. However, the payment process doesn’t work like that and is not so simple. From a legal perspective, the players in states such as California & New York have to agree for receiving their salaries via direct bank deposit.

Apart from New York & California, there are 21 states that legally require the players to receive their salaries in the form of direct bank deposits. Since the players get to make millions of dollars each year, we may think it financially irresponsible on their part to prefer checks to bank deposits, but it is a legal right to do so.

Apart from this, the CBA also states that the players can get advanced checks. According to the CBA, the players are allowed to receive an amount up to 80% of their whole salaries before Nov 1st. This, according to the typical schedule of game season, would be right after the start of the regular game season.

A very popular example of this is of the famous NBA player Kobe Bryant, who received a cheque of $24.3 million – 80% of his salary – in 2013. Moreover, few players have chosen to get their salaries and bonuses in the form of Bitcoin.

Sacramento Kings were the first NBA team that accepted Bitcoin for promo items along with match tickets. Recently, they have decided to give the players the option of getting their salaries in Bitcoin.

Dallas Mavericks is another NBA team that accepts Bitcoin as payment for merchandise as well for payment of tickets. Spencer Dinwiddie got his contract tokenized. According to his deal, after the tokenization of his contract, bond-backed tokens will be sold for the amount of his contract of 3 years.

The investors will get returns over a period of 3 years – principal amount as well as interest. The idea behind this kind of contract is that the player will reinvest the money that he gets. When the money from the investors needs to be paid in the future, the investments made will have already increased multifold, benefiting both the player and the investors.

However, this type of payment is fairly new and isn’t mainstream as of yet.

Frequency of Payments

The next question that arises in our minds is: how often do the NBA players get paid? Well, there is no simple answer to that since the frequency of the payments varies from player to player and from situation to situation.

Generally, during a regular season, the NBA players are paid after 2 weeks. However, this is not binding on all the players and the players can negotiate a payment structure that suits them and their needs.

Players & their agents can negotiate monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly payments that suit their financial objectives and lifestyle. As we have mentioned earlier, Kobe Bryant agreed to receive 80% of his salary all at once which supports the statement that players can negotiate their own payment structures as well.

Bonuses & Other Payments

Like the yearly salaries of the players, bonuses and their payment methods, as well as time, can vary. However, the bonuses are given usually according to the time when the players sign specific agreements.

For instance, if an NBA player is going to get a bonus because he was selected for the NBA All-Star team, then the bonus is usually given to the player during the All-Star break. Similarly, if a player joins an All-NBA team, the bonus will be given once the regular season is over.

Moreover, if an NBA player joins a franchise and is going to get a sign-on bonus, the bonus will be paid to the player as per his choice. Similar to the salary, the players can negotiate when and how they want to get the bonuses.

Occasionally, the players can get bonuses other than money such as plane tickets, gifts, etc.

Also Read:

How Do NBA Players Get Paid – FAQs

Q. What is the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program?

A while ago, NBA players weren’t equipped with financial knowledge and didn’t have any guidance on how to make financial decisions. However, with the advancement in technology and access to knowledge, the players have gained enough knowledge to help them maximize their earnings.

Research before making any financial decision is becoming the norm these days for NBA players. Even though rookie players sign contracts worth more than what many people make in a lifetime, they don’t have sufficient experience in handling money which leads to bad decisions.

With the introduction of the NBA’s “Rookie Transition Program”, new players learn how and where to spend their money wisely.

Q. Do the NBA players get paid even if they can’t play because of an injury?

Yes, usually, basketball contracts are completely guaranteed against injury. However, this is only applicable if the injury was sports-related. Moreover, there are a few activities that are barred in the contract and if the player violated the terms stated, the scenario might change.

However, as long as they are injured without violating any terms in their contract, they will still be paid. Some of the contracts are not completely guaranteed at the time of signing. However, players with non-guaranteed contracts who are still on the team’s roster on Jan 10 every league year, will get a guaranteed contract for the rest of the season.

Q. Are the NBA players paid for overtime like regular people?

Wondering whether the NBA players get paid an additional sum of money for overtime? Well, the answer is yes, they do get paid but not in the way most of us are thinking. Usually, when we are working we get paid by the hour and therefore if we spend more hours on the job, we get paid hourly overtime.

However, he can’t compare the salaries of NBA players to hourly wages since the players get paid per game, not per hour of play. If the player is playing more minutes in a game, it will not increase their salaries.

However, if they play more games than the number of games they are obligated to play as per their contract, they will get compensated for that apart from their yearly salaries and bonuses. The NBA has a “playoff pool” that contains a certain amount of money.

The playoff teams get money from this playoff pool according to the rounds they play in the playoffs and whether they win the championship or not. The money that each team gets is then distributed to the players according to the role they played in winning the game for the team.

Even though this amount isn’t a lot as compared to the players’ annual salaries, it is still additional money that gets for playing more than the number of games stipulated in their contracts.

Q. Can NBA teams get around the salary caps?

Technically, yes, they can. Salary caps are the amount of an association revenue that they are allowed to spend while paying their players. This will ensure that a single, rich team can’t buy all the best players available.

However, there are ways to skirt around the rules established. The salary cap of a team for the years consists of the base salaries of the players. On the other hand, the bonuses are spread across the life of the player’s contract which gives more wiggle room for paying the NBA players more.

The teams can reduce the players’ base salaries and increase their bonuses which allows teams to spend more money on the salaries of their players.

Q. Did the NBA players get paid during the pandemic?

Yes, the NBA did pay the players their salaries during the pandemic. However, the amount of the salaries paid was reduced. The players’ were given partially reduced salaries by 25% on their bi-monthly payments.

Final Words

We all love watching basketball games and are fascinated by the lavish lifestyle that most of these players have. Most of us are curious about how the NBA players get paid. The short answer is that the players get paid bi-weekly during the playing season.

However, the final word is that NBA players get paid in varying ways and at varying times, according to the terms dictated in their contracts. Even though there is a set way for payments, the players can negotiate their own payment structures!

Here’s to a successful basketball season, folks!

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