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 at $20 million per year. And by 2018-19, that number had hopped up to $30 million.
Money changed the game, and the biggest ballers in the NBA became able to tap into "generational wealth" with just their playing contracts. The rest is basketball history.
These are the highest-paid NBA players of all time, based on what they earned on the court.
Note: All stats are through Nov. 5, 2019.
25. Paul Millsap , Power Forward
Years: 2007-present (13 seasons)
Teams: Utah Jazz (2006-13), Atlanta Hawks (2013-17), Denver Nuggets (2017-present)
Career earnings: $181.2 million
Career statistics: 952 G, 14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 49.1 FG%
Player Efficiency Rating (PER): 19.0
Bottom line: Just a second-round pick by the Utah Jazz out of Louisiana Tech in 2006, Paul Millsap has cashed in big at every step along the way.
He made just over $2 million in his first three seasons with the Jazz, then hit paydirt with a four-year, $33 million deal in 2009. He played that out, then struck it rich again with a three-year, $59 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks in 2015. After making four consecutive All-Star teams, Millsap really hit paydirt when the Denver Nuggets signed him to a three-year, $90 million deal in 2017.
While he’s yet to play in the NBA Finals, Millsap is no slouch in the playoffs. His teams have advanced past the first round six times.
24. Jason Kidd, Point Guard
Years: 1994-2013 (19 seasons)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1994-96, 2008-12), Phoenix Suns (1996-2001), New Jersey Nets (2001-08), New York Knicks (2012-13)
Career earnings: $182 million
Career statistics: 1,391 G, 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 8.7 APG, 40.0 FG%
Bottom line: One of the greatest point guards of all time, Jason Kidd struck it rich early because his career began way before the NBA’s pay scale for rookie contracts kicked in.
Kidd’s earnings took a giant leap forward in 2003 when he signed a six-year, $99 million contract with the New Jersey Nets. It was fortuitous timing for Kidd, who had to undergo microfracture knee surgery in 2004.
The Mavericks took on Kidd for the last two years of that contract, paying him a career-high $21.3 million in the 2008-09 season. He re-signed with Dallas for two years at a reduced rate of $8.25 million per year and won his lone NBA title in 2011.
23. Ray Allen, Shooting Guard
Years: 1996-2014 (18 seasons)
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1996-2003), Seattle SuperSonics (2003-07), Boston Celtics (2007-12), Miami Heat (2012-14)
Career earnings: $182.4 million
Career statistics: 1,300 G, 18.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 45.2 FG%
Bottom line: Ray Allen had perhaps the sweetest shooting stroke ever. He played 18 seasons in the NBA and appeared to still have something left in the tank when he decided to retire in 2014.
Allen’s riches can be tied to the decade stretch between 2001 and 2011, when he made at least $10 million per year each season while playing for three different teams — the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle Supersonics and Boston Celtics.
Allen made a career-high $18.7 million playing for the Celtics in 2009-10, which was also the second consecutive year he made over $18 million.
He famously turned down $100,000 per year from Fila early in his career to sign with Nike’s newly formed Jordan Brand. Smart move.
22. James Harden, Shooting Guard
Years: 2009-present (11 seasons)
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-2012), Houston Rockets (2012-present)
Career earnings: $185.5 million
Career statistics: 772 G, 24.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.2 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 will make 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.
What’s even wilder is that Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once. With the Thunder in 2012, where they lost to the Miami Heat.
21. Al Horford, Power Forward
Years: 2007-present (13 seasons)
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (2007-16), Boston Celtics (2016-19), Philadelphia 76ers (2019-present)
Career earnings: $186.4 million
Career statistics: 792 G, 14.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 52.5 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.
20. Tyson Chandler, Center
Years: 2001-present (19 seasons)
Teams: Chicago Bulls (2001-06), New Orleans Hornets (2006-09), Charlotte Bobcats (2009-10), Dallas Mavericks (2010-11, 2014-15), New York Knicks (2011-14), Phoenix Suns (2015-18), Los Angeles Lakers (2018-19), Houston Rockets (2019-present)
Career earnings: $187.7 million
Career statistics: 1,141, 8.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 59.6 FG%
Bottom line: Yes, Tyson Chandler is still playing in the NBA. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Dominguez High School in Compton, California, Chandler has crafted a career as a defense-first center.
The 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year helped the Mavericks win their lone NBA title in 2011, and despite not ever cashing in with a mega-payday, his bottom line keeps growing because of his ability to block shots and rebound.
Chandler made at least $10 million per season from 2007 to 2019, peaking with $14.5 million from the Mavericks in 2014-15. Chandler signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Houston Rockets for 2019-20.
19. Blake Griffin, Power Forward
Years: 2009-present (11 seasons)
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers (2009-18), Detroit Pistons (2018-present)
Career earnings: $192.3 million
Career statistics: 604 G, 21.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 50.2 FG%
Bottom line: Blake Griffin has played the least amount of games of any player in the top 25, 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 $318,377 for his career. Griffin has 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.
The return on investment for Griffin is a tough sell if you’re trying to make an argument he’s remotely worth what he’s been paid. Griffin’s teams have made the postseason seven times. Four of those have ended with a first-round exit and he’s never played in the NBA Finals.
18. LaMarcus Aldridge, Center/Power Forward
Years: 2006-present (14 seasons)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (2006-15), San Antonio Spurs (2015-present)
Career earnings: $194.7 million
Career statistics: 957 G, 19.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 49.1 FG%
Bottom line: LaMarcus Aldridge has capitalized on being one of the NBA’s elite big men in his 14 seasons in the league and seen 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 is scheduled to make $24 million in 2020-21, which will be 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. 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.
16. 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.
15. 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.
14. Russell Westbrook, Point Guard
Years: 2008-present (12 seasons)
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-19), Houston Rockets (2019-present)
Career earnings: $205.4 million
Career statistics: 827 G, 23.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 8.4 APG, 43.5 FG%
Bottom line: If you think Russell Westbrook’s pockets are full now, check back in five years to see where he stands.
In September 2017, 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 and should see him in line for another mega-contract at just 34 years old.
13. Joe Johnson, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Years: 2002-18 (16 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)
Career earnings: $214.8 million
Career statistics: 1,276 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. 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.
12. Pau Gasol, Center
Years: 2001-present (19 seasons)
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies (2001-08), Los Angeles Lakers (2008-14), Chicago Bulls (2014-16), San Antonio Spurs (2016-19), Milwaukee Bucks (2019), Portland Trail Blazers (2019-present)
Career earnings: $220.5 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.
11. Kevin Durant, Small Forward/Power Forward
Years: 2007-present (13 seasons)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder (2007-16), Golden State Warriors (2016-19), Brooklyn Nets (2019-present)
Career earnings: $225.4 million
Career statistics: 849 G, 27.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 49.3 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 recovers from his injury and will still pay him $38.1 million for the season.
Durant, the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player, will be just 34 years old when his current deal expires and will have banked $351.4 million in career earnings.
Durant, one of the most recognizable basketball players in the world, added a reported $35 million in endorsement deals during the 2018-19 season.
10. 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.
9. Dwight Howard, Center
Years: 2005-present (15 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)
Career earnings: $240.1 million
Career statistics: 1,051 G, 17.3 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 58.3 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.
8. 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.
7. Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward
Years: 2003-19 (16 seasons)
Teams: Denver Nuggets (2003-11), New York Knicks (2011-17), Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18), Houston Rockets (2018-19)
Career earnings: $246.8 million
Career statistics: 1,064 G, 24.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 44.9 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 16 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.
6. 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.
5. Chris Paul, Point Guard
Years: 2006-present (14 seasons)
Teams: New Orleans Hornets (2006-11), Los Angeles Clippers (2011-17), Houston Rockets (2017-19), Oklahoma City Thunder (2019-present)
Career earnings: $260.9 million
Career statistics: 957 G, 18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.6 APG, 46.9 FG%
Bottom line: Chris Paul is the highest-ranked player on this list without an NBA title, and he’s never even made the NBA Finals.
Paul was run out of Houston because he couldn’t figure out a way to co-exist with star guard James Harden. Shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will pay him $38.5 million in 2019-20, Paul is owed a staggering $85.5 million in salary over the final two years of his current contract, which runs out after the 2021-22 season, when he’ll be 36 years old and unlikely to ink another big-money contract.
Unless he’s traded to a contender, Paul has little shot at winning an NBA title.
4. 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.
3. LeBron James
Years: 2003-present (17 seasons)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10, 2014-18), Miami Heat (2010-14), Los Angeles Lakers (2018-present)
Career earnings: $306.9 million
Career statistics: 1,205 G, 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.3 APG, 50.4 FG%
Bottom line: LeBron James is on track to become the NBA’s first billionaire during his playing days, with about half of that projected to come from contracts.
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 are over, though, and he’ll have made over $30 million per year for six consecutive seasons when his current contract with the Lakers runs out after the 2021-22 season.
Speaking of $1 billion, LeBron has what’s essentially a lifetime contract with Nike, the shoe giant, that will pay him $1 billion by the time he’s in his early 60s.
2. Kobe Bryant, SG
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 — Forbes estimated his net worth at $770 million.
Bryant could eventually pass $1 billion in net worth as he continues to expand his business empire. After Bryant created Kobe Inc. in 2014, his initial investment was a 10 percent share in BodyArmour Sports Drink for $6 million.
In August 2018, following the purchase of BodyArmour by the Coca-Cola Company, Bryant’s stake was worth $200 million.
1. 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.
Garnett’s bottom line could take a big hit soon. He’s in the middle of a nasty divorce, and his wife is seeking to throw out the couple’s prenuptial agreement as Garnett pays a whopping $100,000 per month in child support during the interim.
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