How do NBA Players Get Paid?

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Are you curious about the salary that the average basketball player makes?  Do you have dreams of becoming a basketball player and want to know what you could potentially be making? Regardless of the reason, you have come to the right place. 

The salaries of NBA players are always changing.  Your skill is not the only determining factor in being paid well as a basketball player.  You can rest assured that Lebron James and Dwayne Bacon are not making the same salary per game.  In this article, we will explore just that. 

We are sure you have heard about the mind-boggling contracts that NBA players get.  Even the lowest-paid player brings home almost a million dollars each year.  If you are looking for information on how NBA players get paid and how often, all you need to do is keep reading.

How Much Do NBA Players Earn on AverageHow Much Do NBA Players Earn on Average?

It is no secret that NBA players are paid very well.  Though some may feel that it is unwarranted, that doesn’t stop the NBA from shelling millions of dollars a year to players of varying levels.  In the 2019 season, the average player earns almost eight million dollars.  This is nearly one million dollars more than what players made last season.  

Each year NBA players experience an increase in salary.  Shockingly, NBA player’s wages generally cost more than the NFL and the MLB.  The average salary for an NFL player is almost three and a half million dollars, whereas the salary for an MLB player is only four and a half million dollars.  Ironically, the NFL is generally the most dangerous sport that an athlete can play. 

Though the salary average is highest for the NBA, this number can vary on a team by team basis.  For example, it is not expected that a championship team will be averaging the same salary as a team lacking in titles.  This can easily be said for teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.

Do NBA Players Get Paid Per GameDo NBA Players Get Paid Per Game?

Though there isn’t much disclosure surrounding payments to players, there is some leeway in how players can choose to negotiate their payments.   However, we do know that NBA players do not get paid on a per-game basis.  Instead, they are paid two times a month.   Much like all aspects of the NBA, payment is highly complex.  

The National Basketball Association has created several rules surrounding payments and payouts to ensure that players are not carelessly spending their enormous salaries.  Players in the past have negotiated exceptions for their pay.  For example, players like Anthony and Kobe have received over 30 million dollars at once due to their large payments.  

Players are paid their salaries based on 82 games in the regular season.  Though players are typically not paid per game, their contracts encompass the number of games that the regular season includes.  If they play any games outside of this, pay will need to be negotiated and paid accordingly.

How Often Do NBA Players Get PaidHow Often Do NBA Players Get Paid?

Within the NBA’s Collective bargaining agreement, details on player payment schedules can be found.  Much like an individual working a regular job, NBA players are paid twice a month.  This occurs on the first and the fifteenth of every month.  NBA players will receive 24 paychecks within a calendar year.  This is the default option used when accepting payments.  However, this can be changed and renegotiated. 

Several circumstances may result in players receiving payment at times other than their allotted payday.  These circumstances generally happen when players receive exceptional circumstances pay.  This can be anything, including bonuses for signing, advances, deferred payments, and even loans. 

A portion of a player’s contract is available to them once they have been signed. Signing bonuses can be up to fifteen percent of a player’s contract amount.   These bonuses can be paid on a non-standard date; however, the compensation must not exceed the NBA’s salary gap; other rules will apply. 

Players who are scheduled to receive advances must do so after July of the same season, which it was earned.  However, they can obtain it before the first payday, which takes place on November 15.  Players who are currently set to receive the minimum salary are capped at how much they can be advanced.  Outside of signing bonuses and advances, players who do not receive the minimum pay may request a loan on their salary.  Loans and deferred payments can also be negotiated for a payout at a later date. However, deferred payments must be paid after May 1.  

If a player’s salary is high enough, they will be able to request advances and loans on how much they are owed. If your salary is under an absolute cap, players are not allowed to request advances.  This rule was put in place to avoid players being irresponsible with large sums of money.  

Although we know that players have options concerning how they are paid, several contractual exceptions can change the way that players are paid.  For example, if a player has become injured either via illness or a season-ending injury, renegotiations will need to be made concerning their salary.  Teams also then have the ability to sign a new player but only for 50% of the injured player’s salary.  

Outside of wondering how often players get paid, you may also be wondering about another question.  How do NBA players receive their checks?  Much like the rest of us, many players have eluded to having direct deposit.  I don’t think anyone could imagine getting a million dollars on a pay card.

How Do NBA Players Get Paid for Playoff GamesHow Do NBA Players Get Paid for Playoff Games?

Since all players are not guaranteed to make the playoffs, the amount they would make in the playoffs is not added to their salaries.  Pay for this period of time is handled much differently than regular-season pay.  Though for some, the per-game payment is a welcome bonus, for other players, they are merely taking a pay cut.  This is because the more games which players play, the less money they end up making. 

If a team has made it to the playoffs, they can end up playing at most 28 more games than the regular season.  Though it may seem like a player will make more if more games are played, that is not the case.  Though a few hundred thousand may seem like a decent amount of money to you, for players that are already making millions, that is only small change.  For them, playoff money is simply a bonus. 

It may seem weird that players are not compensated as much for the playoffs.  This is not something that is handled by their team.  This is mainly due to the cap which the NBA places on player’s salaries.   The NBA’s salary cap limits the amount of money in which basketball teams are allowed to pay their players.  

This cap is controlled by the CBA, also known as the collective bargaining agreement.  The CBA houses a specific set of rules to determine how money is handled by the players and teams.  The cap varies from season to season and can easily change each year.  The CBA was recently ratified in 2017.  

Unlike several other sports leagues, the NBA does not have a hard salary cap but instead a soft one.  This means that teams may go above the cap; however, there will be consequences for doing so. Outside of this, the CBA includes several other rules.  This includes things surrounding free agency and the rookie pay scale. 

The NBA often sets aside a pool of money, which is used to pay the players for their time in the playoffs and any other exceptional achievements. This pool can be anywhere from fifteen to twenty million dollars.  In previous years the pool was fourteen million but has since increased.  In 2018 the pool was said to be 20 million dollars.  

This pool is often referred to as a kitty.  The funds in this kitty are not all allocated for the playoff game.  Some are used for other accolades that players may need outside of their regular salaries.  The basketball league will aid in determining how this kitty is split among players.  Outside of paying players for their payoff play, the pool’s money must also be used to pay the season’s champions.  

The champions will get a cut of the money, which can be more than three million dollars. This amount must then be subtracted from the pool and divided among the players’ roster, generally equaling out to fifteen.  In 2018 players received $221,000 each. 

Although players may not see much money from their playoff performances, players who have been to the playoffs and those who have won championships are far more valuable on teams than players who have not.  If a player is looking to have a long career with a team or looking to avoid any abrupt changes, making the playoffs and playing at their fullest potential is essential.

Do NBA Players Get Paid During Suspended or Lockout SeasonsDo NBA Players Get Paid During Suspended or Lockout Seasons?

The National Basketball League has the last say on whether players receive payment for suspended seasons or periods of a lockout.  It is all dependent on the circumstances surrounding the reason for the lockout. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, players were able to receive their full salaries until May 1.    After their second payment, on the fifteenth of May, the league began to withhold 25 percent of each player’s salary and continue to do so until gameplay resumes.  This amount will be held in escrow.   This money will be held in the league’s escrow account until a more permanent decision has been made. 

For all other disasters or events, the NBA adds a Force Majeure clause to the player’s contracts.  This means that the basketball league can withhold a percentage of a player’s annual salary.  

In terms of suspensions, if a player is suspended, they are not to be paid.  This is a punishment, and therefore losing their pay is a part of this punishment. Jodie Meeks is an excellent example of what happens when a person is suspended within the NBA.  Players can also be fined during this time.  However, a portion of all fines goes to charity and the NBA foundation.  

In 2018 Jodie tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.  Though he maintained innocence, he was sentenced to a 25-game suspension.  During this time, he was fined for every game that he had to miss.  This amounted to thirty-one thousand per regular-season game.  He was also fined almost thirty thousand dollars for the missed playoff games.  Though Meeks had a lengthy suspension, that is not the case for al players.  Some suspensions may only be one game, whereas others may be far more.  This variation is seen in the amount of the fines as well.  Players may owe no penalties, or they may be hit with a hefty punishment.

Wrapping Things Up: How Do NBA Players Get Paid?

NBA player salaries are some of the most significant salaries in sports, and they continue to climb.  Contrary to popular belief, NBA players have a pay schedule like most working Americans that occurs on the first and the fifteenth of every month.  They are paid for their regular seasons at a large salary. 

So that means that for the playoffs, they get a massive bonus check, right?  Massive to us may mean something completely different than it would an athlete.  Therefore, these checks are nothing more than small bonuses for at most 28 extra games.  Though it may not seem like much, the notoriety that comes with winning a championship and playing in the playoffs is unmatched. 

The NBA has to remember that things may happen that we are not prepared for like with any other job.  That happened in 2020 when the world stopped for the coronavirus. During this time, uncertain about the immediate future of basketball, players were forced to take a break. This break ultimately came with a cut to salary and no particular end in sight.  

Clauses like this are built into the CBA to ensure that players and owners are taken care of and ultimately paid. 

Did you find this interesting? If so, check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

> How to Do the NBA Playoffs Work?

> What Does Waiving a Player Mean in the NBA?

> What are the Basic Rules of Basketball?

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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