The 2020-2021 NBA season was a weird one with COVDI-19. The empty basketball arenas of 2020 slashed NBA salaries by 20%. Luckily, endorsement deals kept the NBA’s biggest stars earning copious amounts of money outside their yearly salaries, which are already outright ridiculous.
Over the past three decades, NBA salaries have soared. Before the season, NBA salaries averaged out to about $9.5 million per player. When it comes to professional sports, the NBA has the highest average salary per player.
NBA players benefit from high popularity and low roster size. With enormous television deals in place, the NBA has reaped the benefits from a monetary value. That includes the individual superstars that make up the face of this league. As the season looks to close another chapter, the 2021-2022 season will feature another group of insanely high salaries. Here are the top-10 among those players.
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo - $39.3 Million
Giannis will begin his supermax five-year extension next season. The two-time MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year are ensured to be with the Milwaukee Bucks over the next five years assuming no trade is conducted.
Giannis’ deal will increase by about three million each season. By the end of his deal, Giannis will make $51.9 million during the 2025-2026 season.
9. Paul George - $39.3 Million
George will begin the first of a four-year extension he reached with the Los Angeles Clippers. George will increase his yearly salary by $3 million each of the next four seasons with a high cap hit of $48.7 million in 2024-2025.
With Kawhi Leonard set to be a free agent after next season (if he picks up his player option), the Clippers prioritize an extension with George, who they traded before the 2019-2020 season.
8. Kevin Durant - $40.9 Million
Durant could be a free agent after next season if he doesn’t pick up his player option worth $42.7 million. Durant has battled injuries this season but is currently in a championship hunt with the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
Both Durant and Harden could be free agents after next season, while Kyrie Irving is the only player locked with the team over the next two full seasons. With Durant likely to opt-out after next season, based on his history of decisions, the Nets will have a lot of pressure next season.
7. LeBron James - $41.2 Million
LeBron is guaranteed to remain with the Lakers for next season and the year after. That will take him through age 37 and 38. Before an ankle injury, LeBron was on pace to become the oldest MVP ever at the age of 36.
He now will look to add two more titles to match Michael Jordan’s six over the next few seasons. With Anthony Davis to remain with the Lakers for the next five seasons, basketball will remain lively in L.A.
6. Damian Lillard - $43.7 Million
Lillard will begin his four-year extension he signed earlier this year. Lillard will make over $43 million next season and will see an increase of about $3.5 million per season.
In 2024-2025, Lillard’s contract will cap out at a base salary of $54.2 million. Lillard, who led the league in clutch points this season, will likely leave as the greatest Trail Blazer ever.
5. James Harden - $43.8 Million
Harden owns a player’s option of $46.8 million after next season. He will likely do what Durant is doing this and next season, which is to see if the Nets can win a title the next two years and then reassess his options.
Harden failed to make the NBA Finals during his days in Houston. At the age of 31, Harden has one more large contract left in his career.
4. Chris Paul - $44.2 Million
Paul’s salary of $44.2 million all depends on if he exercises his player’s option. There is wide speculation that Paul will pick this option up. However, he could decline this option, rework a new deal, and give Phoenix extra room to bring another player to the team.
The Suns have a tough task against the Lakers and are seen as a first-round exit. If Paul doesn’t make the NBA Finals this season, could he leave money on the table for a chance for a championship?
3. Russell Westbrook - $44.2 Million
Westbrook was flipped to the Washington Wizards in exchange for unloading John Wall’s massive contract. Westbrook has a player’s option of $47.3 million after next season. Westbrook hasn’t made the NBA Finals since 2012 but has entertained the league with an MVP performance in 2017, as well as four seasons of averaging a triple-double.
Westbrook is also chasing his first NBA ring, but due to his salary, he is in danger of joining the likes of Charles Barkley as great players that haven’t won a championship.
2. John Wall - $44.3 Million
The Rockets are going to be rebuilding for a long time. Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 48 games. Wall hasn’t played at least 70 games in a season since 2016. His contract, which was awarded to him after that season, will go down as one of the worst contracts given to a player all-time.
Wall is due over $44 million next season and has a player’s option of $47.3 million in 2022-2023 the following season. It doesn’t look too good down in Houston.
1. Steph Curry - $45.7 Million
Even with insanely high salaries, Curry is the only player to back it up. Curry won the NBA scoring title by averaging 32.0 points per game. Curry’s shooting stretch in April was the greatest display of scoring we had seen since the early 2000s with Kobe Bryant.
If a player was going to lead the league in salary, it should be the two-time MVP in Curry.
Curry is set to become a free agent after next season and will be 34 years old after the conclusion of the 2021-2022 season. Golden State has said they want Curry to return, but at what cost?