Highest paid NBA players (1991-2022)

Posted on 01 November, 2021 by Dimitrije Curcic

We analyzed the salaries of NBA players over the past 32 seasons to find out who are the highest-earning players in NBA history.

For a complete analysis of salaries in the NBA, check out our NBA salary page. (link to salaries)

See also: Lowest-paid NBA players (link to lowest paid)

Highest paid NBA player by year

  • Steph Curry is NBA’s highest-paid player for the 2021-22 season, earning $45.78 million. He is followed by 4 point guards - John Wall, Russel Westbrook, James Harden, and Damian Lillard.
  • In the 2021-22 season, 7 players will earn over $40 million, and 32 will earn over $30 million.
  • Kevin Garnett has been the NBA’s highest-paid player for 7 seasons, most in the league history. Kobe Bryant earned the most 6 times, and Steph Curry topped the list 5 times.
  • Michael Jordan was the league’s highest-paid player only 2 times, while LeBron James was at the top only once, in the 2016-17 season.

Season

Player

Position

Team

Salary

2022

Stephen Curry

PG

GSW

$45,780,966

2021

Stephen Curry

PG

GSW

$43,006,362

2020

Stephen Curry

PG

GSW

$40,231,758

2019

Stephen Curry

PG

GSW

$37,457,154

2018

Stephen Curry

PG

GSW

$34,682,550

2017

LeBron James

SF

CLE

$30,963,450

2016

Kobe Bryant

SF

LAL

$25,000,000

2015

Kobe Bryant

SG

LAL

$23,500,000

2014

Kobe Bryant

SG

LAL

$30,453,805

2013

Kobe Bryant

SG

LAL

$27,849,149

2012

Kobe Bryant

SG

LAL

$25,244,493

2011

Kobe Bryant

SG

LAL

$24,806,250

2010

Tracy McGrady

SG

HOU

$23,239,562

2009

Kevin Garnett

PF

BOS

$24,751,934

2008

Kevin Garnett

PF

BOS

$23,750,000

2007

Kevin Garnett

PF

MIN

$21,000,000

2006

Shaquille O'Neal

C

MIA

$20,000,000

2005

Shaquille O'Neal

C

MIA

$27,696,430

2004

Kevin Garnett

PF

MIN

$28,000,000

2003

Kevin Garnett

PF

MIN

$25,200,000

2002

Kevin Garnett

PF

MIN

$22,400,000

2001

Kevin Garnett

PF

MIN

$19,610,000

2000

Shaquille O'Neal

C

LAL

$17,142,858

1999

Patrick Ewing

C

NYK

$18,500,000

1998

Michael Jordan

SG

CHI

$33,140,000

1997

Michael Jordan

SG

CHI

$30,140,000

1996

Patrick Ewing

C

NYK

$18,724,000

1995

David Robinson

C

SAS

$7,300,000

1994

David Robinson

C

SAS

$5,740,000

1993

David Robinson

C

SAS

$5,720,000

1992

Larry Bird

SF

BOS

$7,070,000

1991

Patrick Ewing

C

NYK

$4,250,000

NBA players with highest career earnings

  • LeBron James is an NBA player with the highest career earnings from basketball. Over his 19 seasons in the league, LeBron earned over $390 million.
  • LeBron James earned more money during his career than the 99 lowest-paid NBA players combined.
  • Kevin Garnett earned $335 million over his 21 seasons in the league, good for the second spot. Chris Paul is 3rd highest-earning player in NBA history with $331 million, followed by Kobe Bryant with $328 million.
  • 4 players in NBA history made over $300 million from their salary, 25 players earned over $200 million, and 140 players earned over $100 million in the league.
  • The average NBA player earned $22.7 million during his career from 1991 to 2022. 

PLAYER

Seasons

Total earnings

LeBron James

19

$390,511,590

Kevin Garnett

21

$335,872,398

Chris Paul

17

$331,307,923

Kobe Bryant

20

$328,238,062

Shaquille O'Neal

19

$292,198,327

Russell Westbrook

14

$291,976,692

James Harden

13

$271,543,662

Kevin Durant

14

$271,236,868

Stephen Curry

13

$257,859,052

Dirk Nowitzki

21

$255,371,801

 

  • James Harden is the NBA player with the highest average salary throughout the NBA career, averaging $20.89 million per season. Russel Westbrook is on the 2nd spot with $20.85 million over his 14 seasons.
  • Joel Embiid earns $20.85 million on average during his career, 3rd most in the NBA, while LeBron James’s average NBA salary stands at $20.55 million.
  • 4 NBA players have an average salary of over $20 million, while 110 players average over $10 million annually throughout their NBA career.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

James Harden

13

$20,887,974

Russell Westbrook

14

$20,855,478

Joel Embiid

6

$20,836,618

LeBron James

19

$20,553,242

Stephen Curry

13

$19,835,312

Damian Lillard

10

$19,748,361

Chris Paul

17

$19,488,701

Kevin Durant

14

$19,374,062

Anthony Davis

10

$18,972,091

Blake Griffin

12

$18,552,415

 

  • Relative to the NBA’s salary cap, Shaquille O’Neal tops the list of highest career earnings in the league’s history. Shaq earned 764% of the salary cap over his 19 years in the league.
  • 89 NBA players combined earned less money calculated in salary cap % than Shaquille O’Neal did for his career.
  • Kevin Garnett holds 2nd place with 719%, followed by Kobe Bryant (624%), LeBron James (504%), and Tim Duncan (476%).
  • The average NBA player will earn 43% of the salary cap for his career. Michael Jordan is the only player in top100 career earning who played less than 10 seasons in the league (from 1991 to 2022).

PLAYER

Seasons

Total earnings (% of cap)

Shaquille O'Neal

19

764%

Kevin Garnett

21

719%

Kobe Bryant

20

624%

LeBron James

19

504%

Tim Duncan

19

476%

Chris Webber

15

470%

Patrick Ewing

12

458%

David Robinson

13

455%

Dirk Nowitzki

21

448%

Dikembe Mutombo

18

441%

 

  • Michael Jordan’s average salary stands at 40.9% of the salary cap, the highest in NBA history. Shaquille O’Neal is the only other player averaging over 40% of the cap throughout the career (40.2%).
  • Patrick Ewing holds a no3 spot with 38.2% of the cap on average, followed by David Robinson with 35%.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary (% of cap)

Michael Jordan

9

40.9%

Shaquille O'Neal

19

40.2%

Patrick Ewing

12

38.2%

David Robinson

13

35.0%

Kevin Garnett

21

34.2%

Chris Webber

15

31.3%

Kobe Bryant

20

31.2%

Hakeem Olajuwon

12

30.3%

LeBron James

19

26.5%

Alonzo Mourning

15

26.2%

Highest paid NBA players by position

In the following sections, we analyze the highest-earning NBA players by position from 1990-91 to 2021-22 season.

Highest paid point guards in NBA history

  • With career earnings of $331 million, Chris Paul is the highest-earning point guard in the league. He’s the only point guard who earned over $300 million during his career.
  • Russell Westbrook earned $292 million during his 14 seasons, while Steph Curry stands at $258 million over 13 seasons.
  • The average NBA point guard makes $23 million for his career. 

  • Russel Westbrook’s average salary during his 14 years in the league has been $20.9 million, which is the most among NBA point guards. He’s the only point guard averaging over $20 million annually.
  • Steph Curry earns $19.8 million on average, followed by Damian Lillard and Chris Paul.
  • 25 point guards have an average NBA salary of over $20 million.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

Russell Westbrook

14

$20,855,478

Stephen Curry

13

$19,835,312

Damian Lillard

10

$19,748,361

Chris Paul

17

$19,488,701

Kyrie Irving

11

$17,711,160

John Wall

11

$17,673,220

Ben Simmons

5

$16,573,298

D'Angelo Russell

7

$15,566,533

Mike Conley

15

$15,320,802

Jrue Holiday

13

$13,890,525

Highest paid shooting guards in NBA history

  • Kobe Bryand earned over $328 million during his 20 seasons in the NBA, making him the highest-paid shooting guard in league history.
  • James Harden earned over $271 during his career, holding second stop on the all-time shooting guard list. Joe Johnson is 3rd with $220 million earned from basketball.
  • 20 NBA shooting guards earned over $100 million for their career, while the average NBA shooting guard makes $18 million during his time in the league.

  • James Harden is the only shooting guard in the NBA history with an average annual salary of over $20 million ($20.89 million). 
  • 26 shooting guards average over $10 million in annual salary throughout their NBA career.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

James Harden

13

$20,887,974

Bradley Beal

10

$18,032,596

Jimmy Butler

11

$16,448,770

CJ McCollum

9

$16,442,234

Kobe Bryant

20

$16,411,903

DeMar DeRozan

13

$15,668,454

Devin Booker

7

$14,049,709

Joe Johnson

17

$12,974,528

Klay Thompson

9

$12,973,943

Allen Crabbe

6

$12,660,039

Highest paid small forwards in NBA history

  • LeBron James leads NBA small forwards, and the entire league, in career salary earnings with over $390 million. 
  • Kevin Durant made over $271 million during his 14 seasons, while Carmelo Anthony earned $239 million.
  • The average NBA small forward earns $23.4 million during his career.

  • LeBron James leads all NBA small forwards in average annual salary with $20.55 million. 
  • Kevin Durant holds second place, averaging $19.37 million, followed by Paul George and Gordon Hayward.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

LeBron James

19

$20,553,242

Kevin Durant

14

$19,374,062

Paul George

12

$18,310,970

Gordon Hayward

12

$17,443,565

Andrew Wiggins

8

$17,367,940

Kawhi Leonard

11

$17,360,230

Khris Middleton

10

$15,863,289

Harrison Barnes

10

$14,862,902

Otto Porter

9

$14,246,671

Chandler Parsons

9

$14,129,419

Highest paid power forwards in NBA history

  • During his 21 seasons in the league, Kevin Garnett earned over $335 million on the NBA court. He leads NBA power forwards in this category.
  • Dirk Nowitzki earned $255 million over 21 years, followed by Tim Duncan who made close to $240 million during his 19 years.
  • The average NBA power forward makes $24.2 million for his career.

  • Anthony Davis is NBA’s power forward with the largest annual salary for his career, making $18.97 million per year.
  • Blake Griffin comes close 2nd with $18.55 million, followed by Kevin Love with $16.99 million.
  • Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo close the top5.
  • 21 power forwards average over $10 million per year.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

Anthony Davis

10

$18,972,091

Blake Griffin

12

$18,552,415

Kevin Love

14

$16,987,325

Kristaps Porziņģis

6

$16,892,740

Giannis Antetokounmpo

9

$16,440,012

Kevin Garnett

21

$15,993,924

Tobias Harris

11

$15,815,448

LaMarcus Aldridge

16

$13,459,852

Draymond Green

10

$13,095,354

Tim Duncan

19

$12,616,271

Highest paid centers in NBA history

  • The average NBA center earns $25 million throughout his career.
  • Shaquille O’Neal leads all NBA centers in career earnings with $292 million.
  • 5 out of the top10 highest-earning centers are still in the NBA.
  • 4 NBA centers earned over $200 for their career, and 31 of them earned over $100 million.

  • Joel Embiid’s average annual salary stands at $20.83 million, leading all NBA centers from 1991 to 2022.
  • Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford, and Shaq close the top5.
  • O’Neal is the only NBA center in top10 who doesn’t play in the league anymore.

PLAYER

Seasons

Average salary

Joel Embiid

6

$20,836,618

Nikola Jokić

7

$16,480,156

Karl-Anthony Towns

7

$16,297,548

Al Horford

15

$16,215,215

Shaquille O'Neal

19

$15,378,859

Rudy Gobert

9

$15,316,466

Steven Adams

9

$14,314,797

Marc Gasol

13

$14,084,969

Andre Drummond

10

$13,943,748

Dwight Howard

18

$13,358,710

Highest paid NBA players by points scored

The following is the analysis of NBA players who earn the most for every point scored in the NBA.

  • In the 2020-21 season, the average NBA player earned $15,388 for each point scored.
  • Steven Adams made $67,563 each time he scored 1 point in 2021, most in the league.
  • Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green made over $50,000 for each point scored in 2021.
  • Andris Biedriņš holds an all-time record in earnings per point scored when he received $375,000 per point in the 2012-13 season.
  • 8 other players in NBA history earned over $100,000 per point scored in a season.
  • Adonal Foyle earned $65,110 per point in the 2007-08 season while playing all 82 games. This is the largest amount earned by a player who played all games in a season.
  • During his 8 seasons in the NBA, Michael Stewart earned $40,516 for each point scored in the league, an all-time record.

Highest paid NBA players by minute played

Below is a breakdown of NBA players who earn the most for every minute spent on the court in a season.

  • In the 2020-21 season, the average NBA player received $7,227 for every minute spent on the floor.
  • For the fourth straight year, NBA players receive over $5,000 per minute played on average.
  • LeBron James earned $26,077 for every minute on the floor during the 2020-21 season, leading the league.
  • 8 other players made over $20,000 per minute played in 2021.
  • Paul Millsap holds the all-time record in $ earned per minute when he received $27,907 per minute played in the 2019-20 season.
  • Adonal Foyle holds the all-time record for players who played all 82 games, earning $13,123 per minute in 2008.
  • LeBron James ($11,000 per minute) in 2018 and Michael Jordan ($10,418 per minute) in 1998 rank in top5 as well.
  • Joel Embiid earned $12,031 for every minute on the court during his 5 seasons in the league, an all-time record.
  • Boban Marjanovic, Tony Bradley, and Otto Porter close the list of players with over $10,000 earned per minute for their career.

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Author
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic

Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.