The NBA has become a truly global brand, the last decade has seen exponential growth for the league. The league signed a TV deal with ESPN and Turner Sports, which was extended for 9 years in the 2016-17 season, worth a reported $24 billion. While the exact figures weren't released, it's reportedly bringing in roughly $2.7 billion annually for the NBA. The previous deal brought under $1 billion per year, meaning that following it, the salary cap and, consequently, player salaries soared.
That means players earn a lot more now than they did even in the early 2010s, even though barely a decade has passed. The league has always been driven by its stars, and although the stars of that time were making similar percentages in terms of the salary cap, the raw figures have gone up exponentially.
This is best showcased by comparing the highest paid player in the 2011-2012 season and the highest paid player last season, which was the 2021-22 campaign. Arguably the biggest superstar of that era was Kobe Bryant, who made $25 million for the season in 11-12. Only 3 other players came close to that figure, with Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Rashard Lewis the only ones earning over $20 million.
The contrast to last season is jarring. Stephen Curry was the highest-paid player in the 2021-22 season, earning over $45 million. That is nearly double what Kobe was making in 2012 and is almost more than the Top 2 earners from that season combined. What's more, 5 other players earned more than $40 million in salary last season, with no one in the Top 10 below $39 million.
The latest deal will run out at the end of the 2024-25 season when the figure is expected to go up to around $75 billion. That would be nearly triple the last deal, and it is staggering to think what salaries will be at that point. Damian Lillard has already agreed to a 2-year, $122 million extension with the Blazers, and it won't be surprising if star players are once again earning twice the amount they are now by the time the 2031-32 season rolls around.