It is unbelievable how much money players are getting paid in today’s game, although that is due to the amount of revenue NBA teams and the league as a whole brings in every year. Players are getting paid the correct proportion of what they bring as value to the NBA because the amount of money circulating in modern sports is unprecedented.
It is time to rank the top-10 players in the NBA right now in terms of salary, except we are adding one superstar from the past: Michael Jordan. The majority of fans and pundits who watched Jordan from the late 80’ and ’90s believe he was worth more than $100 M a year, because of his incredible talent and rock star-like fame. By comparing Jordan’s salary to today’s standards, here are the top-10 highest earners today.
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo - $39.3 M
The Milwaukee Bucks rewarded Giannis Antetokounmpo with a max contract offer to make him a Buck for life. Giannis has been spectacular for Milwaukee, kick-starting a title contender in 2018 and the team has done a terrific job building around him. Regarded as the best two-way player in the game today, Giannis has rewarded the Bucks greatly this year.
The Greek Freak has 2 MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year Award to his name, but his greatest achievement was bringing a title to the Bucks for the first time in 50 years. Giannis holds career averages of 20.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 4.5 APG with the Bucks and we might be looking at one of the all-time greats if he continues his career trajectory.
9. Paul George - $39.3 M
Paul George had a poor season last year which generated a ton of criticism, but he played like a superstar in this year’s playoffs. Without Kawhi Leonard for the majority of the postseason, George averaged 26.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 5.4 APG while almost guiding the Los Angeles Clippers to the NBA Finals.
George is one of the best two-way stars in the NBA and deserves max money, but fans want to see him perform like he did this season to accept what he brings to the table every night. As things stand, Kawhi Leonard is re-signing with the Clippers and that means we get to see the duo of George and Leonard over the long term. If George can bring a championship to the Clippers, he will be well worth the money.
8. Kevin Durant - $40.9 M
Kevin Durant signed a massive $197.7 M extension to stay with the Brooklyn Nets for 4 years. Durant is the best player in the world right now, although Giannis Antetokounmpo won the NBA title this year. Durant averaged 26.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 5.6 APG for the Nets and turned it up to 34.3 PPG in the postseason.
There is no doubt that Durant deserves his money especially after seeing what he did for Team USA in the Olympics. No player can score like Durant and he will single-handedly make Brooklyn title contenders. With James Harden and Kyrie Irving by his side, expect Durant to win his 3rd championship in due time.
7. LeBron James - $41.2 M
LeBron James should be the highest-paid superstar in the game today because he is the most recognized active player in the world. Not to mention, he is a global star in terms of his off-court activities and brand. As pristine as one gets off the floor, we have never heard about any personal behavioral problems that affected his brand in any way. Of course, he has been the best basketball player in the world for over a decade.
LeBron is already a billionaire by earning over $1B in revenue, so taking a pay cut to allow the Lakers to build a squad around him made a ton of sense. James will be 37 next year but as long as he is in the NBA, he is worth over $39 M because of his value to a franchise on and off the basketball court.
6. Damian Lillard - $43.8 M
Damian Lillard is currently the franchise superstar for the Portland Trail Blazers, and he was rewarded with a salary that pays him over $43 M as a result. Hardly anyone will deny Lillard deserves this type of compensation because his loyalty to his city and the hard work he put in have been extraordinary.
In 682 games with the Trail Blazers, Lillard holds averages of 24.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 6.6 APG. The 6-time All-Star and 6-time All-NBA superstar has done everything in his power to make Portland a title contender, even reaching as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2018. If Portland fail to build a contender around Lillard soon, they might be at risk of losing their only hope of being a relevant team in the West.
5. Russell Westbrook - $44.2 M
The 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook was a max-money player and has been since he became an All-Star in 2011. The greatest triple-double talent ever has played the game at a high level every night, never cheating the fans or his organization with his effort. Even if he can be a bit erratic at times, Westbrook wants to win more than almost anyone else.
Westbrook has his best shot at a ring for the first time since 2012 by joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, and winning a championship would be the icing on the cake for his Hall of Fame career. At only 32 years of age, Westbrook has a lot left in the tank and can prove he can be one of the best players in the world by winning with the Lakers.
4. John Wall - $44.3 M
John Wall had one of the worst contract extensions in NBA history when the Wizards decided to back up the brinks truck for their No. 1 overall pick selection. When Wall was healthy and in his prime, nobody had a problem with that contract offer. But countless injuries have forced Wall to play under 50 games for 4 straight seasons, including missing the entire 2020 season.
John Wall had bright spots this season by averaging 20.6 PPG and 6.9 APG following his Achilles injury, but he only appeared in 40 games for the Rockets as he missed the remainder by having surgery again. Wall might never be healthy again, but he is still making max money and will try to be a veteran leader for the young Rockets as much as he can.
3. James Harden - $44.3 M
James Harden has been the franchise superstar for the Houston Rockets over the past 8 seasons, and his play as one of the top-5 players in the world has earned him his massive contract. The 2018 MVP is the best isolation scorer in the game today, and probably of all-time, and he single-handedly turned the Houston Rockets into playoff contenders since his arrival.
As soon as Harden left, the Rockets were in the lottery. Harden is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets and has a great chance to win his first NBA championship as part of a superteam. The Beard may receive criticism for his playing style and the way he left the Rockets after receiving such big money, but there is no doubt he is one of the best players in the world.
2. Stephen Curry - $45.8 M
Since Shaquille O’Neal, no player has changed the game like Stephen Curry. O’Neal brought attention to post players and the league began to minimize the dominance of big players, but Curry has actually convinced the entire NBA to switch their style of play to favor three-point shots. Every team in the NBA employs a three-point heavy offense all because Curry (and Klay Thompson) had that strategy during 3 championship runs.
Stephen Curry holds career averages of 24.2 PPG and 6.5 APG with the Warriors, and his impact on the franchise allowed him to earn almost $46 M a year. The greatest shooter of all time is also one of the most popular players in the game, so the revenue he brings to the NBA can't even be measured.
1. Michael Jordan - $55.2 M
In today's world, Michael Jordan's salary would equate to over $55 M per year. Based on his success as a player, who could argue that this is too little? Jordan was the best player in the NBA by his rookie season, and by the time he retired, he was a 6-time NBA champion and 5-time MVP.
Jordan was the most iconic player in NBA history and until now his name is known globally. Jordan could not walk on the street when he was playing and is still limited today because his skills were so beyond everyone else. Jordan single-handedly brought in millions and perhaps billions of dollars in revenue to the NBA, so he will forever be the highest-paid player.
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