Mascots are very much a part of professional sports as the athletes but have you ever wondered how much do NBA mascots make on average? Is it worth putting on a hot and heavy costume for four hours or sometimes more?
Well, since professional sports leagues like the NBA generate so much money, you expect them to pay their people handsomely, and the furry entertainers are no exception. After learning how much do mascots get paid in the NBA, we won’t put the blame on you if you’re going to consider making a career change.
Every NBA team hires mascots in different ways, so there is no rule of thumb when it comes to how they hire mascots. Let’s talk more about the skills that you need to become one. NBA mascots go through training and courses to improve their skills. The league hands out awards for the best mascots and the money that comes with it is enough motivation for the mascots to be dedicated to their job. So, what are some of the necessary skills an NBA mascot should have?
- You have to be athletic and in shape. NBA mascots jump through hoops, spring on trampolines, run around the basketball court carrying huge team flags, and take a beating from Robin Lopez. Seriously, though, you can’t do all these things if you don’t have any athletic prowess.
- You have to be a people person. There are 20,000 fans or more at NBA games. If you don’t like interacting with kids or the occasional drunk fan, then this job is not for you.
- You have to be an adrenaline junkie. Mascots perform stunts, and the harder and more dangerous the stunt is, the better the chance of pumping up the crowd.
Do You Need to Get Training to Become a Mascot?
Yes, you need to. There are mascot camps where you can learn performance skills. This is harder than you think since mascots do a lot of things to entertain without making a sound. They need to convey emotion through the things that they do. The skills that you will be working on in professional mascot training are dance and acting lessons, character development, gymnastics moves, and other skills unique to the brand of an NBA team.
Ironically, learning how to communicate is very vital for mascots. In mascot training, for example, you will master such non-verbal communication skills as expressing fear, surprise, or disappointment.
Some of the common mascot gestures that you need to be proficient at are:
- Laughing. How do you convey a laugh as a mascot? Put your hands to the mascot’s mouth and rock your head back and forth rapidly to signal laughter.
- Saying “I Love You”. Point to yourself, draw a heart with your hands and point to the person receiving your compliment.
- Saying “I’m scared.” This can be done by running away, covering the eyes, and shaking the knees.
- Hugging. If you want to hug, do it very gently, especially if it involves kids. If you give a firm hug, it may hurt the children or can be viewed as confrontational by some adults.
Who are the Highest Paid NBA Mascots?
The pay of NBA mascots vary. Apparently, the more skilful and experienced you are, the more money you will command. The average NBA mascot salary is in the $60,000 range. However, the highest-paid mascot in the NBA, and quite possibly in all of professional sports, is Denver Nuggets’ Rocky the Mountain Lion. Rocky commands a yearly salary of $625,000.
So why does the Denver Nuggets mascot make so much money– ten times more than the salary of an average mascot? Well, Rocky can do a lot of things including behind-the-back half-court shots and other aerial feats. In fact, he is so good that he was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006, so that salary, we should say, is pretty fair.
Top NBA Team Mascots and their Average Salary
- Atlanta’s Harry the Hawk has an appearance rate of $500 an hour.
- Charlotte Hornets mascot Hugo the Hornet has a rate of $1,500 per appearance. According to an estimate, Hugo makes around $100,000 annually.
- Chicago Bulls’ Benny the Bull is second behind Rocky in terms of annual salary. Benny commands $200,000 yearly for his services. He has the distinction as the NBA’s first mascot, having performed for the Bulls since 1969.
- Cleveland Cavaliers’ Moondog has an appearance rate starting at $300 an hour.
- OKC Thunder’s Rumble the Bison also makes six figures a year thanks to an appearance fee of $650 an hour and $400 for 30-to-45 minute visits.
- The Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla (played by Bob Woolf) is estimated to have an annual salary in the vicinity of $200,000. Wolf has performed in at least 1,200 NBA games and owns a gymnastics school.
- Houston Rockets’ Clutch, one of the more popular NBA mascots, has an annual salary of more than $100,000.
Why Do NBA Mascots Make So Much Money?
The average salary of an American is at $45,000. As we now know, the most experienced mascots easily double that money and some like Benny the Bull and Rocky the Mountain Lion fetches six figures. Why would NBA teams pay mascots so much money? The answer is simple. It’s because it’s not an easy job.
A mascot has a lot of duties to do to please the crowd. Some of these are handing out memorabilia, posing for photos, and hyping people up. A good mascot lightens the mood and entertains the crowd with dances or skits. Sometimes, their duties also involve dangerous stunts such as doing backflips on a ladder and tumbling down the arena stairs.
In such cases, their job is precarious, and injuries have resulted after performing these acts. Raptor, the Toronto Raptors’ mascot, has ruptured his Achilles tendon while carrying out a stunt. Milwaukee’s Bango the Buck (Kevin Vanderkolk) has performed for 13 years and accumulated two ACL tears and one ankle injury which required surgery. One of the knee injuries happened when Vandervolk climbed on top of the basket, trying to slip through the rim. Since there were still two months of basketball left, he delayed having surgery and pressed on, wearing knee braces to protect the busted knee. Unfortunately, Vanderkolk has to retire in 2014 at age 36 because of the accumulation of injuries.
Needless to say, a mascot’s job may all look like fun and games, but it involves real hazards. Their lives are at stake for the sake of entertainment. That is precisely why NBA organizations pay a lot of money to mascots, and they probably earn every bit of it.
Wrapping Things Up: How Much Does NBA Mascots Make
Being a mascot is an unconventional career path, but it’s an enjoyable one. You entertain people, and you make lots of money off of it. The best of both worlds, right?
However, somehow we feel that a mascot is born and not created because you can’t fake your personality even if you’re wearing a giant suit. Kevin Vanderkolk, who was Bango the Buck for 13 years, said: “First and foremost, you have to be engaging, you have to be approachable. People have to like you. If you are not like that, it will come through in your character. That’s very important.”
Besides being a people person, it would come in handy if you have basketball and gymnastic skills, mainly when you perform adrenaline-pumping antics and trampoline dunks. These types of stunts are what electrifies the crowd and where mascots usually earn their money.
It was also interesting to know that there are mascot camps to attend if you want to work on your mascot skills. These include dancing, doing skits, and learning to communicate in a non-verbal way. In these camps, there are basic mascot gestures and safety lessons that you need to be proficient at.
If you indeed would want to make it as an NBA mascot, perhaps the salaries of these daredevils could motivate you. For starters, you may be paid at least $25,000 performing on home games and a per-hour rate when making appearances outside of the arena. As you gain experience, you will obviously get a raise, perhaps in the $60,000 range, which is the average NBA mascot salary. Now, if you do have something special, you can make six-figures annually like Rocky the Mountain Lion (estimated $625,000 annually) and Benny the Bull (around $200,000 a year), not including other public appearances.
A word of caution, though: An NBA mascot’s job is not easy and could be hazardous. There are many cases of injuries sustained by mascots after performing a dangerous stunt. Bango the Buck endured three surgeries to torn ACLs and a busted ankle in a 13-year mascot career. Similarly, Raptor (of the Toronto Raptors) ruptured an Achilles tendon while doing a backflip at Nova Scotia in 2013.
However, that should not discourage you from trying to go out and becoming a mascot if that’s what you truly want. Being a mascot brings tons of fun and is very rewarding. If you’re having serious doubts, just remind yourself of the answer to the question “How much do NBA mascots make on average?” Many of them receive six-figure salaries entertaining people, so how’s that for inspiration?
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