Who Has the Highest Paid Contracts in NBA History?

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NBA salaries continue to rise as the revenue from NBA TV contracts keep increasing.

All the NBA’s top ten highest-paid players in the 1998-99 season were getting at least US$10 million per year. During the 2016-17 season, all of the top 10 highest-paid earners were at US$20 million per year, and by 2018-19, the earnings reached US$30 million.

Here are the highest paid contracts of all time.

1- Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett, 44 years old, is a former NBA player, who has more accumulated salary in his 21-year long NBA career than any other player in NBA history, with a total of US$343.4 million. He won both the Most Valuable Player in 2004 and the Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2008.

In his last rookie year, the 1997-98 season, the Wolves gave a six-year extension to his contract by making the payment of US$126 million. However, a disagreement between the association and club owners led to a lockdown during the 1998-99 season.

2- Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion, who had signed some of the most lucrative NBA league contracts.

For the 2013-14 NBA season, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Lakers at an estimated value of US$48.5 million and remained the league’s highest-paid player.

He had total career earnings of US$770 million when he retired from basketball in 2016. He doubled the money he made on the court with endorsements and deft business decisions.

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3- Mike Conley

In 2016 Conley inked a five-year, $153 million deal, at the time the richest contract in NBA history. Forbes listed him as the 51st highest-paid athlete of 2019 in the world, with earnings of US$ 31.6 million.

Memphis Grizzlies picked him fourth in the 2007 NBA draft. He has won the NBA Sportsmanship award three times.

4- Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is one of the highest-paid players in the NBA this year. Lillard still has two seasons on a five-year, US$139.9 million extension with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, recently the Trail Blazers has again signed point guard Lillard for a five-year, US$196 million extension that starts in 2021.

This year, he is ranked 30th on the list of highest-paid athletes, with $37 million earnings in 2020.
In his rookie year in the NBA, Lillard received US$3 million, and when he became eligible for an extension, he received more than US$24 million in 2015. It further increased to US$26 million in the next year.

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5- Lebron James

A list of the world’s highest-paid athletes 2020, released by Forbes recently, shows that James is the highest-paid NBA player. He ranked at number seven with an income of US$88.2 million.

Lebron James’ NBA salary is US$28.2 million, but his endorsements bring in US$60 million. In the 2019-2020 season, his salary is US$37.4 million.

In 2013, James was the highest-paid basketball player, with earrings of US$56.5 million. He is the recipient of three NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals.

6- Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is a former professional NFA player, who is one of the greatest players in NBA history.

In 1996, O’Neal signed the seven-year, US$120 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, which was the highest contract in NBA history at that time.

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7- Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry landed in the top-10 list of highest-paid athletes in the world released by Forbes in 2020. His earnings totaled US$74.4 million, with US$30.4 million coming from his salary and the rest of the US$44 million from endorsements. Many players consider Curry as the greatest shooter in NBA history.

In 2012, Curry signed a five-year contract with the Warriors for just US$44 million. In 2017, he renewed his contract and signed a five-year, US$201 million extension. He earned US$34 million for the 2017-2018 season and became the highest-paid NBA player.

The boost in salary shifted Curry from the 74th spot on the list of highest-paid players to the first.

8- Chris Paul

In 2017, Chris Paul signed a four-year, US$159 million contract with the Rockets before the 2017-18 season. However, in 2018 he signed a US$160 million extension.

His 2019-20 NBA salary is US$38.5 million, which is the second-highest in the league. Paul is a ten-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA first-teamer, and a two-time Olympic gold medal winner.

chris paul










9- Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki is a retired professional basketball player, who is a 14-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA team member, the first European player to receive the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, and the first European player to play in an All-Star Game.

Before the 2001–02 NBA season, Nowitzki signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension, which made him the second-highest-paid German athlete.

10- DeMar DeRozan

DeMar is a professional NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs. He is a four-time NBA All-Star and a two-time All-NBA team member.

In 2016, DeRozan signed a five-year, US$139 million contract with the Toronto Raptors, at the time it was the second-largest contract in NBA history.

Final Thoughts

The NBA salary cap, the maximum dollar amount that the NBA team can spend on its players for the season, began in 1984-85. However, the NBA uses a soft salary cap, which is a salary exception that allows NBA teams to exceed their allotted amount to sign players.

Thus, the salaries or earnings of the NBA players continue to rise year to year. This year, the Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s remains at the top position.