The average NBA player rakes in $5.15 million per year, making pro basketball players the highest salary earners on average of any North American sport. The NBA offers up guaranteed contracts, meaning even an injury-prone bench warmer like Derrick Rose is still able to collect an eight-figure contract. Even young draft picks seem to have the best go of all the major North American leagues as NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed (meaning poor performance or nagging injuries can quickly see you out of work), the NHL’s rookie scale hovers right around $925,000 and MLB picks more often than not will spend the first few pro years playing in the minor league. That’s why basketball’s youngest are also the wealthiest of their age group across all pro sports.
Take Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, for example. The Super Bowl XLVIII champion quarterback made just $526,217 this season; he’s 25-years-old. By comparison, no. 25 on this list, Robin Lopez, brings home $5.9 million at age 25. In fact, only a few players could even make this list if it included those from the NFL, NHL and MLB, such as Eric Berry, the 25-year-old Kansas City Chiefs safety, who made $7 million this season. To sweeten the pot further, some of these NBA rising stars pocket off-the-court deals from million-dollar endorsements. Let’s take a look at the top 25 highest salaries of NBA players under 25.
25. Robin Lopez – 25 – $5.9 million in 2013-14
Robin (twin brother of Brook) will take in $15.3 million over three years while playing center for the Portland Trail Blazers. Although admittedly lacking the talent of his All-Star brother, Robin has seen improvements in tracking down rebounds while playing a highly competent center role for the Trail Blazers. Having recently signed a deal with Adidas, Lopez’ continued improvement (and on one of the West’s best teams to boot) should help him reach his true potential both on and off the court.
24. – Derrick Favors – 22 – $6 million in 2013-14
At just 22, Favors is one of the youngest rising stars on this list. Favors has been wearing Adidas since he was a teen. He said, “they gave me shoes and helped sponsor my high school team; we didn’t have shoes.” The Utah Jazz player wanted to remain “loyal” to the brand, so he signed an endorsement deal with them.
Favors is having one of his best years thus far with improved stats in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and minutes per game.
23. Landry Fields – 25 – $6.25 million in 2013-14
Fields started his career with the New York Knicks during the shortly lived Lindsanity Era. Since then, he’s joined the Raptors with a three-year, $18.75 million deal and noticeably less fanfare. Although a versatile two-way player, Fields has struggled with injuries during his time in Toronto. As a Stanford grad, it’s no surprise that Fields has his head on straight when it comes to endorsement cash saying to ESPN, “I try to really go out there and give them their money’s worth.”
22. Evan Turner – 25 – $6.6 million in 2013-14
With Philadelphia in rebuilding mode, don’t be surprised to see some interest in Evan Turner at the trade deadline. With free agency approaching for the young talent after the season, the 76ers may look to stock additional draft picks from the right suitor less they be forced to re-sign Turner or lose him in free agency. He’s had career highs of 31 and 34 points this year and will surely draw some attention from teams in need of additional scoring.
He’s done well for himself since coming into the league – earning $21.5 million over four years with the Philadelphia 76ers and endorsement deals such as with the Chinese apparel brand Li Ning Company Ltd.
21. John Wall – 23 – $7.4 million in 2013-14
Wall can add two more accomplishments to his resume: the first-year All-Star also was named the 2014 NBA Dunk Contest Champion. Wall was the first Washington Wizards player to take home the Slam Dunk honors. We’re sure Washington’s pretty happy with their point guard this season, too. He recorded his second triple-double of his career, plus his points per game are at an all-time high. This year, Wall also inked a new endorsement deal with Adidas, and wore their All-Star Crazy 1 kicks on the court for the Slam Dunk Contest. The exposure from that and his continued improved play on the court should lead to even more endorsement opportunities in the near future for him.
20. Brandon Jennings – 24 – $7.6 million in 2013-14
Jennings, who went straight from high school to play in Europe back in 2008, signed a multi-million dollar deal with Under Armour in the same year. Seems like that worked out pretty well for him as he helped create apparel and promoted the young brand that’s since grown exponentially. (The “Curator of Cool” even got to be an intern with perks like a fully furnished waterfront condo and access to company cars.)
Jennings previously played for the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to the Detroit Pistons. He’ll make $24 million guaranteed over three years with Detroit.
19. Jeff Teague – 25 – $8 million in 2013-14
Despite battling nagging injuries, Jeff Teague has been an integral part of Atlanta’s success this season. Known for his defence and his playmaking abilities, the young Teague only needs to improve his shooting to become the true multi-threat guard that the Hawks have envisioned him to be.
The Hawks point guard will collect a total of $32 million over the next four years thanks to a contract extension this past summer.
18. Ryan Anderson – 25 – $8.3 million
His last year in Orlando was his best in terms of shooting accuracy, points and minute played – until now. Although Anderson suffered from a slow start after his move to the Pelicans, he still enjoyed career highs in points per game and free throw percentage. Unfortunately, Anderson’s been out since the start of January with a recurrent back issue. The Pelicans don’t look to be making a playoff appearance as it stands, so it’ll be less of a blow if their star forward sits out the rest of the season.
17. Jeremy Lin – 25 – $8.37 million in 2013-14
Lin‘s swapping one big endorsement deal with the next. The Houston Rockets point guard signed with Adidas for an undisclosed amount now that his Nike deal is over. At just 25, he’ll be following in the steps of Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, to name a few, who also represent Adidas. Sponsorship deals only add to his million-dollar payday with the Houston Rockets. The 6’3″ Lin has had an up and down year on the court, but did have his first triple-double recently.
16. Thaddeus Young – 25 – $8.85 million in 2013-14
It’s a career-year for big man Young. He’s averaging 17.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and he’s definitely one of the best (and maybe only) things Philly has going for them right now. As a result, this makes him the subject of a lot of trade rumors, with the rebuilding Philadelphia is trying to do. Young could be a valuable asset – the glue of the team – offering other players guidance on and off the court. Thad has another year left after this in his $43 million contract.
15. DeMar DeRozan – 24 – $9.5 million in 2013-14
DeRozan has sure quieted critics who called out the Toronto Raptors for offering him a huge contract extension. The 24-year-old just played in his first NBA All-Star game and has improved his playmaking skills with Rudy Gay gone. His points per game have increased the past two seasons, and he has the second best defensive rating of any of Toronto’s starters. While there’s still room for improvement, he sure looks to be worthy of his All-Star payday.
14. Jrue Holiday – 23 – $9.7 million in 2013-14
Holiday’s name didn’t come up a lot as one of the top point guards in the league while he played for the Sixers. However Chris Paul believed Holiday was “overlooked”, expressing that he appreciated “his poise [and] his athleticism”. Once he joined the New Orleans Pelicans this year, he began to post solid numbers and has worked effectively in combination with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. Unfortunately, he’s out indefinitely with a stress fracture and seeing as New Orleans gave up a first round pick in the trade for him, his injury is definitely stings. Sitting on the sidelines for too long will also hurt any potential endorsement deals that would make him a bigger household name.
13. Stephen Curry – 25 – $9.8 million in 2013-14
“It’s surreal, man,” expressed Curry about starting as an All-Star for the first time this year. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for the Golden State guard, who had his fourth game with 40 or more points and is already on track to best his own points per game stat. At just 25 years old, he’s posting career highs in several categories, making him one of the Warriors’ most valuable players. So it’s no surprised that he’s got deals with Under Armour, Muscle Milk and Degree, allowing him to bring in an extra $3.5 million.
12. Danilo Gallinari – 25 – $10.1 million in 2013-14
Gallo had been slowly but surely improving, going up three percent in his player efficiency rating from his rookie year until last season. However, due to injuries, he’s been keeping the bench warm for the Denver Nuggets since April, 2013. Denver’s still footing the bill though, and they’ll pay him $11.5 million next year even if he’s not able to play at the start.
When his career began playing basketball in Italy, he inked an endorsement deal with Reebok that even saw him help design his own sneaker. Gallinari will need a strong showing the rest of this season and next if he has any hope of cashing in on any future endorsements.
11. Deandre Jordan – 25 – $10.9 million in 2013-14
The LA Clippers have been doing great this season, no doubt at least in part due to how well they play as a team – and Jordan definitely contributes his fair share. Several of his stats have improved, and in fact he’s more than doubled his points per game from his rookie year. He’s playing the second most minutes this season on the team behind Blake Griffin. He also leads the league in dunks, which is why he was asked to take part in the Dunk Contest. Unfortunately for fans, Jordan turned it down as he made his acceptance conditional on becoming an All-Star – a pretty tough feat in the extremely talented Western Conference. He’s good, but he’s not quite there just yet.
10. Nicolas Batum – 25 – $11.3 million in 2013-14
The French basketball player started his career in France for their national team before being drafted by Portland in 2008. Batum has improved each season and has become an impact player for the Trail Blazers these days; last year he had career-highs in almost every category and recorded his first triple double. Not only did he add 14.3 ppg (his highest in his career so far), but he also is seen as one of the most skilled defensive players in the NBA. He’ll earn $11.8 million next season.
9. Tyreke Evans -24 – $11.8 million in 2013-14
Despite having an All-Star worthy rookie season back in 2010 with the Sacramento Kings, Evans’ performance has declined over the years. However, the New Orleans Pelicans thought they saw something in the guard when they signed him last summer in hopes that, with better coaching, he could become heir latest offensive threat. Unfortunately, things aren’t necessarily looking up with Evans averaging only 12.6 ppg, down from 15.2 last year and 20.1 in his rookie year; his lingering health issues certainly don’t help his case. The once promising young player even had big endorsement deals coming his way (such as from Queen Latifah’s water company) but that’s seemed to have dwindled off, much like his output.
8. Kevin Love – 25 – $13.67 million in 2013-14
Things are looking up for Love this season. The three-time All Star returned to action after battling injuries for most of last season. Once again as an All-Star selection, he participated in the three-point shooting contest. What’s more, this season he’s performing better than ever: seven times he’s had 30 points and 15 rebounds in a single game, boasting a player efficiency rating of nearly 30. His continued development and success might be just what the Minnesota Timberwolves need to finally get to the playoffs. From his shoe endorsement deal to partnering up with a tequila brand, Love seems to be doing well off the court as well.
7. James Harden – 24 – $13.7 million in 2013-14
This shooting guard has a lot to be proud of (besides his very manly beard). Now playing with the Houston Rockets, Harden’s a two-time NBA All-Star and the NBA Sixth Man of the Year (2012 for the Thunder). Though he was an integral part of the OKC trio (including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), the Rockets are happy to have a playmaker like him on board. He had career-highs in free throw attempts, rebounds per game and assists per game. He’s also elite among his peers in the league, coming in second in free throws made. With an Olympic gold medal for Men’s basketball also under his belt, it’s no wonder the bearded warrior has sponsorship deals with Foot Locker and Skull Candy.
6. Eric Gordon – 25 – $14.2 million in 2013-14
Potential – that’s the key word that comes to mind when you look at Gordon. The shooting guard had a breakout rookie season, followed by even better numbers in his final season with the LA Clippers and his first year with New Orleans. The new-look Pelicans may be disappointed with his performance of late, considering his weak FG% and his lingering knee issues. But with Anthony Davis by his side, and some added support on defense, he could be the one to take this team to new heights. He’s on track for what could be a career year from beyond the arc. Let’s hope he stays healthy, because like we said, the potential is there.
5. Russell Westbrook – 25 – $14.6 million in 2013-14
A three-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA Second team member, Westbrook helped carried the Oklahoma City Thunder all the way to the playoffs last year. Despite some knee issues, he remains as competitive as ever. So it’s hardly surprising that this elite guard’s success has translated into dollars coming in from on and off-the-court paydays. His endorsements with companies like Jordan Brand see him raking in over $3 million on top of his base salary. His unique (to say the least) flare for fashion certainly helps bring in deals too. He called his latest endorsement with Kings and Jaxs Boxer Briefs a “natural fit” for him.
4. . Brook Lopez – 25 – $14.6 million in 2013-14
For Lopez, things may look bleak this season, but he’s remaining positive. The Brooklyn Nets player broke his right foot on December 20 – an injury that means the end of his season. However he says there’s “no question” that he’ll come back strong. Lopez is coming off a pretty good year, being asked to join the NBA All-Star team for the first time in 2013. He also scored a career-high of 2.1 blocks this past season. He was on his way to having a career-high in points too before breaking his foot.
When it comes to money off the court, Lopez has admitted he doesn’t care about endorsements and is rumoured to have no deals going for him.
3. Blake Griffin – 24 – $16.5 million in 2013-14
This power forward will be playing with the LA Clippers for a few more seasons thanks to his $95 million, five-year deal. That’s old news though. What is exciting is Griffin’s prolific return to the court since separating his shoulder in January. He’s definitely returned to form and acting like a leader again for his team. We’d say that earns him the big payday.
What Griffin hasn’t done this season, though, is smack Justin Bieber in a Starbucks. That recent Twitter story wasn’t true – a disappointment to those in the Twittersphere who backed Griffin’s actions.
2. Derrick Rose – 25 – $17.6 million
Back for a little over five weeks and then out again. That’s how short Rose’s time on the court has been this season after his year-long absence due to a torn ACL in his left knee. This time he’s out because of his right knee, which is a big disappointment for his team and fans who were looking forward to seeing the results of his time and effort spent improving his game (including his three-pointer) in practice over the past year. Rose didn’t return to the court even when the Chicago Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Miami Heat.
Rose’s endorsements generated him a lot of hype and money. Adidas is shelling out a reported $250 million over 10 years.
1. Kevin Durant – 25 – $17.83 million in 2013-14
After being named the NBA scoring champ the past three years, Durant’s on course to earn the title again. He’s scored an average of 31 points per game this season and has been the driving force behind the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success for the past few years. He joined the 50-40-90 club this year, too. While Durant is on the hunt for his first championship win, teams like the Nets are already after him, indicating that when his free agency comes up in 2016, that they’d like him on their team.
Durant’s made a significant portion of his money thanks to endorsements like his 7-year, $13 million deal with Nike.
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