Highest-Paid Players in NBA History
Welcome to the era of getting paid.
As NBA television revenues and licensing deals skyrocketed in the 1980s and 1990s, so did the salaries of its players. By the 1998-99 season, for the first time, all of the top 10 salaries in the NBA were at least $10 million per year. By 2016-17, all of the top 10 highest-paid players were all at $20 million per year. By 2018-19, that number had hopped up to $30 million, and in 2023-24, an NBA player will make $50 million in a single season for the first time.
Money changed the game, and the biggest ballers in the NBA became able to tap into "generational wealth" with just the money from their playing contracts alone.
These are the highest-paid NBA players of all time, based on what they earned on the court.
Note: All stats are through Jan. 13, 2023, and all career earnings are through the start of the 2022-23 season.
25. Kyle Lowry, Point Guard
Years: 2006-present (17 seasons)
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies (2006-09), Houston Rockets (2009-12), Toronto Raptors (2012-21), Miami Heat (2021-present)
Career earnings: $190 million
Career statistics: 1,023 G, 14.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.3 APG, 42.5 FG%
Bottom line: Kyle Lowry's big-money contracts and promise finally paid off when he helped lead the Toronto Raptors to an improbable NBA championship in 2019. He cashed out in a big way with a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat that included a three-year, $85 million contract for Lowry, who was headed into his 16th season.
Lowry's return on investment with the Heat has been negligible so far. He's seen his scoring average drop almost five points and battled injuries and conditioning issues since arriving in South Beach.
24. Paul Pierce, Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Years: 1998-2017 (19 seasons)
Teams: Boston Celtics (1998-2013), Brooklyn Nets (2013-14), Washington Wizards (2014-15), Los Angeles Clippers (2015-17)
Career earnings: $195.1 million
Career statistics: 1,343 G, 19.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 44.5 FG%
Bottom line: Paul Pierce spent the first 15 seasons of his career with the same team — the Boston Celtics — before spending the last four years of his career with three different teams.
Pierce, the No. 10 overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, made a total of just $6.1 million in salary over his first four seasons, but saw that number leap up significantly starting in 2002-03, the first of 12 consecutive seasons he would make at least $10 million.
Pierce’s earning power was at its greatest when his career was peaking. He won his only NBA title in 2008, was NBA Finals MVP, and made $16.3 million that year. It was part of a three-year stretch in which Pierce banked $54 million in salary.
23. Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
Years: 2003-19 (16 seasons)
Teams: Miami Heat (2003-16, 2018-19), Chicago Bulls (2016-17), Cleveland Cavaliers (2017-18)
Career earnings: $196.4 million
Career statistics: 1,054 G, 22.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, 48.0 FG%
Bottom line: Few basketball players can match the career accomplishments of Dwyane Wade — or the stacks of the cash he accumulated throughout his 16-year career.
Wade won the first of three NBA titles with the Miami Heat in 2006. Two seasons later, he started a stretch of 11 years where he made an average of $18.4 million.
The 13-time All-Star was just as valuable in the pitchman game as he was on the court. At the peak of his career, he was making almost as much in endorsements as he was in salary thanks to lucrative deals with Jordan Brand, Gatorade and New Era, among others. Post-basketball, Wade now owns a share of the Utah Jazz.
22. Zach Randolph, Power Forward and Center
Years: 2001-19 (18 seasons)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (2001-07), New York Knicks (2007-08), Los Angeles Clippers (2008-09), Memphis Grizzlies (2009-17), Sacramento Kings (2017-19)
Career earnings: $196.6 million
Career statistics: 1,116 G, 16.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 47.1 FG%
Bottom line: Zach Randolph is a study in durability, and getting a lot of money without much postseason success or many individual honors. It should be noted that Randolph’s almost $200 million in career earnings include just $4.7 million in his first four seasons.
In 18 seasons, Randolph only made two All-Star teams and the All-NBA team once, on the third team in 2013. He posted respectable numbers in the playoffs (16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg), but only made the postseason in nine of his seasons (70 career playoff games) and made just three trips past the first round.
The most lucrative year of Randolph’s career was 2013-14, when he made $17.8 million while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, and then topped that off with $438,000 in performance bonuses.
21. Kevin Love, Power Forward
Years: 2008-present (15 seasons)
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves (2008-14), Cleveland Cavaliers (2014-present)
Career earnings: $204 million
Career statistics: 812 G, 17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 44.1 FG%
Bottom line: Kevin Love's career seemed dead in the water following LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, but somehow he weathered the storm after three injury-plagued seasons and is now looked at as a veteran leader with a young Cavs team that is an Eastern Conference contender.
That being said, Love's contract runs out after the 2022-23 season, and his $28.9 million salary for the year will likely be the final big payday in his NBA career. Keep in mind Love just turned 34 years old.
20. Mike Conley, Point Guard
Years: 2007-present (16 seasons)
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies (2007-19), Utah Jazz (2019-present)
Career earnings: $206 million
Career statistics: 958 G, 14.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.6 APG, 43.9 FG%
Bottom line: Few players on this list seem as out of place as Mike Conley, who passed the $200 million mark in career earnings in 2021-22 and will have made a total of $274.1 million when his current contract with the Utah Jazz runs out following the 2023-24 season.
Take this into account with Conley's fortune — the son of Olympic gold medal long jumper Mike Conley Sr. has never made an NBA All-Pro Team, one All-Star Team, one NBA All-Defensive Team, never played in the NBA Finals and played in the Western Conference Finals once, in 2013 with the Memphis Grizzlies.
19. Stephen Curry, Point Guard
Years: 2009-present (14 seasons)
Teams: Golden State Warriors (2009-present)
Career earnings: $208.9 million
Career statistics: 826 G, 24.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.5 APG, 47.3 FG%
Bottom line: Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry joined this list over the last three seasons and will continue to skyrocket over the next few years. His current contract will bring his career earnings to a staggering $470 million when his current contract runs out after the 2025-26 season.
To put it in perspective, Curry made $208.9 million over his first 13 seasons in the NBA. In a four-season stretch from 2022 through 2026, he will make $215.6 million, including $59.6 million in the final year.
18. LaMarcus Aldridge, Center/Power Forward
Years: 2006-22 (16 seasons)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (2006-15), San Antonio Spurs (2015-21), Brooklyn Nets (2021-22)
Career earnings: $210.7 million
Career statistics: 1,076 G, 12.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 49.3 FG%
Bottom line: LaMarcus Aldridge has capitalized on being one of the NBA’s elite big men in his 16 seasons in the league and saw his paychecks steadily rise as his game blossomed.
He scored big with a pair of back-to-back contract extensions with the Spurs — four years for $80 million in 2015, then three years for $72.3 million in 2017. A seven-time All-Star, Aldridge made $24 million in 2020-21, which was his sixth consecutive season making at least $20 million.
Give him credit for never just sitting on his laurels. He’s cashed out on almost $1.5 million in performance bonuses in his career.
17. Al Horford, Power Forward/Center
Years: 2007-present (16 seasons)
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (2007-16), Boston Celtics (2016-19, 2021-present), Philadelphia 76ers (2019-21)
Career earnings: $212.1 million
Career statistics: 950 G, 13.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 51.5 FG%
Bottom line: Al Horford is living proof that being steady but not spectacular in the NBA will get you super-duper paid.
After making approximately $75 million over the first decade of his career, Horford kicked his earning power into high gear heading into the 2016-17 season. That’s when he signed a four-year, $113 million contract with the Celtics, and he’s made at least $26.5 million every year since and will continue to do so through at least the 2022-23 season.
By comparison, Horford’s father, Tito, played three seasons in the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s and made approximately $500,000, total.
16. Joe Johnson, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Years: 2002-18, 2021-22 (18 seasons)
Teams: Boston Celtics (2001-02), Phoenix Suns (2002-05), Atlanta Hawks (2005-12), Brooklyn Nets (2012-16), Miami Heat (2016), Utah Jazz (2016-18), Houston Rockets (2018), Boston Celtics (2021-22)
Career earnings: $215 million
Career statistics: 1,277 G, 16.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 44.1 FG%
Bottom line: If there’s one name on this list that doesn’t seem like it belongs, it’s Joe Johnson, who played on seven teams in 16 seasons and banked just a sliver under $215 million. So how’d he do it?
The summer of 2010 was the defining moment for NBA free agency, with LeBron James up for grabs as an unrestricted free agent. This fact alone spun the league into a dizzying frenzy of money spending as teams tried to snatch up their own superstar, signature player.
The Atlanta Hawks thought they had one in Johnson after he led them to back-to-back second-round playoff appearances and briefly made him the league’s highest-paid player with a six-year, $123 million contract. Which is where he got the bulk of his money.
Johnson actually retired in 2018 then returned after three seasons away for a brief stint with the Boston Celtics in 2021-22.
15. Pau Gasol, Center
Years: 2001-19 (19 seasons)
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies (2001-08), Los Angeles Lakers (2008-14), Chicago Bulls (2014-16), San Antonio Spurs (2016-19), Milwaukee Bucks (2019)
Career earnings: $220.9 million
Career statistics: 1,226 G, 17.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 50.7 FG%
Bottom line: Pau Gasol is one of just two European-born players on this list, and was worth every penny of the $117.1 million he made playing for the Lakers from 2008 to 2014, when he helped them win two NBA titles.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft has continued to cash checks even with his career on the downswing, picking up a one-year deal for $2.5 million from the Portland Trail Blazers for the 2019-2020 season.
The combined career earnings of Pau Gasol and Toronto center Marc Gasol, his younger brother, will pass $400 million in the 2020-21 season.
14. Blake Griffin, Power Forward
Years: 2009-present (14 seasons)
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers (2009-18), Detroit Pistons (2018-21), Brooklyn Nets (2021-22), Boston Celtics (2022-present)
Career earnings: $223.3 million
Career statistics: 724 G, 19.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 49.3 FG%
Bottom line: Blake Griffin has played the least amount of games of any player on this list after missing all of what should have been his rookie season with a knee injury and at least half of two other seasons with injuries.
Griffin’s astronomical per-game total comes out to approximately $308,000 for his career. Griffin has also paid over $1 million in fines during his 11-year career, with the bulk of that coming from when he punched an equipment manager for the Clippers and broke his hand, costing him almost $900,000.
For all the money paid to Griffin over the years, the return on investment for the teams he's been on has been hardly worth it. He's never played in the NBA Finals and has been on teams that were knocked out in the first round five times.
13. James Harden, Shooting Guard
Years: 2009-present (14 seasons)
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-2012), Houston Rockets (2012-21), Brooklyn Nets (2021-22), Philadelphia 76ers (2022-present)
Career earnings: $224.3 million
Career statistics: 942 G, 24.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 44.2 FG%
Bottom line: The Oklahoma City Thunder were faced with a tough decision in 2012. They had three young stars on the roster — Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden — but not enough money to keep them all.
Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets as the odd man out and it’s led to him becoming rich beyond his wildest dreams. The 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player made a staggering $132.8 million over the next three seasons, including a whopping $47.3 million in 2022-23 that will bring his career earnings to $318.4 million. He's also on his third team in three seasons after he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2022.
What's really crazy about Harden's career is he's played in the NBA Finals just once, in 2012 with the Thunder, where they lost to the Miami Heat.
12. Chris Bosh, Power Forward
Years: 2004-16 (12 seasons)
Teams: Toronto Raptors (2004-10), Miami Heat (2010-16)
Career earnings: $239.1 million
Career statistics: 893 games, 19.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 49.4 FG%
Bottom line: Chris Bosh would be much higher on this list if not for a career-ending illness that forced him to retire when he was just 30 years old.
Bosh helped lead the Miami Heat to back-to-back NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 and re-signed with the team after the 2014 season for six years and approximately $118 million. Because NBA contracts are guaranteed, the Heat will end up paying Bosh for playing just 97 games over the course of the contract, which comes out to a stunning $1.2 million per game.
Bosh attempted several comebacks and pursued treatment for blood clots in his lungs, but finally announced in February 2019 that he would not try to play basketball again.
11. Tim Duncan, Power Forward
Years: 1997-2016 (19 seasons)
Teams: San Antonio Spurs (1997-2016)
Career earnings: $242 million
Career statistics: 1,392 G, 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 50.6 FG%
Bottom line: Perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history, Tim Duncan played all 19 seasons of his career with the San Antonio Spurs and won five NBA titles, with the first in 1999 and last in 2014.
Duncan’s earning power was at its peak in the 2009-10 season, when he earned $22.1 million. The former Wake Forest star and No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft made just $1.8 million per season over the final three years of his career, turning down more lucrative offers from other teams in order to stay with San Antonio.
Duncan unwillingly parted ways with a good chunk of his cash at one point. He sued a former financial adviser for embezzling $20 million in 2015 and went through an expensive divorce with his first wife in 2016.
10. Dwight Howard, Center
Years: 2005-22 (17 seasons)
Teams: Orlando Magic (2004-12), Los Angeles Lakers (2012-13, 2019-present), Houston Rockets (2013-16), Atlanta Hawks (2016-17), Charlotte Hornets (2017-18), Washington Wizards (2018-19), Los Angeles Lakers (2020-21, 2021-22), Philadelphia 76ers (2020-21)
Career earnings: $242.5 million
Career statistics: 1,242 G, 15.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 58.7 FG%
Bottom line: The mystery of what happened to Dwight Howard’s career may never be solved. At one point, he was thought of as the dominant big man of his generation.
The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA draft spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Orlando Magic, even leading the team to the NBA Finals in 2009 and winning three consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. After leaving the Magic after the 2012 season, Howard played for five teams over the next seven seasons as his production plummeted.
Howard signed a one-year deal with the Lakers for $2.5 million in 2019 after starting center DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL in the preseason, helped the Lakers win an NBA championship in 2020 and had two more journeyman seasons before playing professional basketball in Taiwan in 2022-23 for an estimated $1 million.
9. Russell Westbrook, Point Guard
Years: 2008-present (15 seasons)
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-19), Houston Rockets (2019-20), Washington Wizards (2021), Los Angeles Lakers (2021-present)
Career earnings: $244.3 million
Career statistics: 1,021 G, 22.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.4 APG, 43.8 FG%
Bottom line: In September 2017, Russell Westbrook signed the biggest guaranteed contract in NBA history, just months after winning his first NBA Most Valuable Player. His deal, in total, was worth $233 million over six seasons, and the Houston Rockets happily took that on when they traded for him after the 2018-19 season.
Westbrook will make a staggering $47 million in the final year of his contract, 2022-23, which will bring his career earnings to approximately $338 million, although his struggles the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers has all but guaranteed it will be his last big payday.
8. Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward
Years: 1998-2019 (21 seasons)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1999-2019)
Career earnings: $251.6 milion
Career statistics: 1,522 G, 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 47.1 FG%
Bottom line: Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-paid European player of all time, and did it all playing with one team for 20 seasons.
Nowitzki led the Mavericks to their only NBA title in 2011, and made over $10 million for 13 seasons, peaking in 2016-17 with a $25 million payday. It’s impossible to argue Nowitzki didn’t give the Mavericks everything he could in his time there.
His 1,522 career games are No. 3 on the NBA’s career list, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish, who made a total of $19.5 million over his 21 NBA seasons, which translates to $35.8 million with inflation.
7. Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward
Years: 2003-22 (18 seasons)
Teams: Denver Nuggets (2003-11), New York Knicks (2011-17), Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18), Houston Rockets (2018-19), Portland Trail Blazers (2019-21), Los Angeles Lakers (2021-22)
Career earnings: $259.8 million
Career statistics: 1,260 G, 22.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 44.7 FG%
Bottom line: An argument can be made that no player got paid more and delivered less in his career than Carmelo Anthony, who never made the NBA Finals in 18 seasons. Where did teams go wrong with handing over Brink's trucks full of cash to Melo?
His ability to score and marketability were always just too much to pass up, with the New York Knicks paying the highest price. It was there that Anthony banked approximately $125 million over six mostly miserable seasons.
The Oklahoma City Thunder rolled the dice on Anthony in 2017-18, agreeing to pick up the final year of his contract for $26.2 million. They got a first-round playoff exit in return. Anthony banked another $22 million over his final three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers — far from his big-money days but not chump change.
6. Kevin Durant, Small Forward/Power Forward
Years: 2007-present (16 seasons)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder (2007-16), Golden State Warriors (2016-19), Brooklyn Nets (2019-present)
Career earnings: $264.1 million
Career statistics: 939 G, 27.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 49.6 FG%
Bottom line: After tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant signed a four-year, $164.2 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets. What’s most amazing about that deal is the Nets signed Durant knowing he wouldn’t play in the 2019-20 season as he recovered from his injury, meaning he was paid around $38 million to sit out.
Garnett, who makes an estimated $30 million-$40 million in yearly endorsements, will make $53.2 million in the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets in 2025-26, which will bring his career earnings to $498.6 million.
5. Shaquille O’Neal, Center
Years: 1992-2011 (19 seasons)
Teams: Orlando Magic (1992-96), Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004), Miami Heat (2004-08), Phoenix Suns (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11)
Career earnings: $280.3 million
Career statistics: 1,207 G, 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 58.3 FG%
Bottom line: Shaquille O’Neal isn’t just one of the highest-paid NBA players on the court. He’s also made a mint in endorsements off the court, raking in another reported $200 million over the course of his playing career.
O’Neal’s contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for six years and $100 million in 1996 was an earth-shaking deal and resulted in three NBA titles. The Lakers paid O’Neal a career-high $27.6 million for the 2004-05 season, his last with the team, and he banked another $20 million per year over the next five seasons with the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.
O’Neal reportedly has earned between $25 million-$30 million per year since he retired in 2011.
4. Chris Paul, Point Guard
Years: 2006-present (17 seasons)
Teams: New Orleans Hornets (2006-11), Los Angeles Clippers (2011-17), Houston Rockets (2017-19), Oklahoma City Thunder (2019-20), Phoenix Suns (2020-present)
Career earnings: $299.9 million
Career statistics: 1,155 G, 18.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.5 APG, 47.3 FG%
Bottom line: Chris Paul is the highest-ranked player on this list without an NBA title, although he finally made the NBA Finals for the first time in 2021 with the Phoenix Suns, where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Paul's late-career resurgence has truly been something to behold. Since being run out of Houston in 2019 because he couldn't co-exist with James Harden, Paul guided the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs in 2020 before signing a four-year, $120 million contract with the Suns in 2020 that will run out right before he turns 40 years old in 2025.
3. Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard
Years: 1996-2016 (20 seasons)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016)
Career earnings: $323.3 million
Career statistics: 1,346 G, 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 44.7 FG%
Bottom line: Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles in his 20 seasons and staked his claim as one of the greatest players of all time. Bryant more than doubled the money he made on the court with endorsements and deft business decisions.
Bryant was on track to pass $1 billion in net worth thanks to a bevy of savvy investments before his tragic death in a helicopter crash in Jan. 2020 that killed all nine people on board, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Bryant was reportedly worth almost $800 million at the time of his death.
2. Kevin Garnett, Power Forward
Years: 1995-2016 (21 seasons)
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves (1995-2007, 2015-16), Boston Celtics (2007-13), Brooklyn Nets (2013-15)
Career earnings: $334.3 million
Career statistics: 1,462 G, 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 49.7 FG%
Bottom line: Kevin Garnett was the first player to go straight from high school to the NBA in 20 years when he made the leap from Chicago’s Farragut Academy to the No. 5 overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Just over two decades later, he cashed the final check in a career that made him the highest-paid NBA player of all time. "The Big Ticket" won just one NBA title in his career, in 2008 with the Boston Celtics, when he made a cool $22 million.
While Garnett is still No. 2 on the NBA career earnings list seven years since he last played in an NBA game, his net worth has taken a huge hit in recent years after he settled his divorce with his wife of 18 years, Brandi Padilla, in June 2022 ... around the same time news broke that Garnett was the father of a two-year old daughter with celebrity stylist Necat Akman and was sued for child support by the child's mother.
1. LeBron James
Years: 2003-present (19 seasons)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10, 2014-18), Miami Heat (2010-14), Los Angeles Lakers (2018-present)
Career earnings: $346.2 million
Career statistics: 1,366 G, 22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.8 APG, 56.5 FG%
Bottom line: LeBron James became the NBA's first active player to make $1 billion in the last few years with his combined income from playing contracts and endorsements. If James plays for another three seasons he'll cross the $500 million threshold in career earnings alone, which seems like almost a guarantee as he's publicly stated his desire to play with his oldest son, Bronny James, who is a high school senior in 2022-23.
James gave the Miami Heat a considerable break when it came to payroll for his four seasons in South Beach, taking less than he could have in order for the team to sign a better group of players around him. Those days were over when he left Miami to return to Cleveland and then to join the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 — he's made over $30 million each season since 2016-17.