The NBA and the salaries of their players is always a hot topic. Are the players making too much? Are the players making too little? Overall a debatable topic; however, our list of the top 15 showcases the top talents that have delivered for their teams, cities, and the NBA. They are super rich and it's deserved.
Looking into what factors in to a player’s net worth is not only salary, but also business ventures as well as sponsorships. Most of the players on this list have made healthy salaries playing and the truly elite have gone beyond. Which players just missed the list? Oh, there are a few, some truly not deserving of the top 15.
First, there’s Dwayne Wade, the cornerstone of for the Miami Heat and their three championships. Valued with a net worth of $90 million dollars, he just falls short, but in my opinion has been worth every penny. Now, three dishonorable mentions. First, Dwight Howard ($100 million), a great player that has yet delivered greatness on a team level. Currently on the Atlanta Hawks, he will have another chance this season in the playoffs, but don’t hold your breath. Then there’s Juwan Howard ($80 million), the first NBA player to be awarded a $100-million-dollar contract and it’s safe to say not worthy. Finally, we have Alan Houston who received a six-year $100-million-dollar contract because his agent convinced the New York Knicks he was the next Michael Jordan. Sadly, he was not.
Ready to see the richest NBA players? We’ve got current stars, ex-stars that are now in the broadcast booth, and, of course, Michael Jordan, who should probably be on here twice given his influence and net worth. Here are the 15 richest NBA stars today.
15 Ray Allen ($100 Million)
Ray Allen starred everywhere he went. Allen played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. The latter two teams (Celtics, Heat) Allen helped bring an NBA championship. One of the greatest three-point shooters of all time, Allen appeared in 10 All-Star games and in 2000 won a gold medal as a member of the USA Olympic team. Allen also acted, appearing in the Spike Lee movie He Got Game where he played the lead role of Jesus Shuttlesworth.
To the public, Allen has always been squeaky clean, but behind the scenes has definitely had conflict with teammates and coaches. Coach George Karl essentially gave away Allen just to get him off the Milwaukee Bucks team and when the Boston Celtics tried to put together a reunion they neglected to invite Allen, one of the key contributors on their championship team. I guess being a basketball Jesus has its pros and cons.
14 Dirk Nowitzki ($120 Million)
When you hear Dallas Mavericks, one of two people usually come to mind. Owner (and Shark Tank star) Mark Cuban or Dirk Nowitzki, the cornerstone of the franchise that has gone to the playoffs 15 times during his time as a Maverick and also brought Dallas their first NBA championship. He is one of the greatest players of all time and despite taking “team friendly” salaries from time to time, has been paid well, hence his spot on this list.
Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and then traded to Dallas (one of the greatest and worst trades of all time – depending which franchise you were), he would go on to appear in 13 All-Star games and make the All-NBA team 12 times. In 2007, he won the MVP of the league and holds the record for most points by a foreign-born player. In 2012, he received the Naismith Legacy Award, the first foreign player to receive this.
13 Kevin Durant ($120 Million)
Here is a case of a superstar that is definitely on his way up these charts. Kevin Durant, the forward from the Golden State Warriors, will be a free-agent at the end of this season. He is expected to ink a major deal, more than his present net worth. Durant, the four-time scoring champion, has already won the NBA MVP award to go along with an NBA Rookie of the Year, two Olympic gold medals eight All-Star appearances.
After nine seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant headed West to Golden State where he will attempt to win his first NBA championship. Where will he end up next year? That is the question, but most likely the top bucks are on Golden State who will be able to pay him more than other teams. It’s hard to know if winning a title or losing will make it more or less likely he will resign or test the waters elsewhere. Regardless, he is going to get paid big time!
12 Yao Ming ($120 Million)
Regarded as the most famous international basketball star of modern day NBA, Yao Ming joined the Houston Rockets in 2002. He went on to be an All-Star eight times and was part of the All-NBA team five times. Fun fact: During his final season he was the tallest player measuring 7’6”. For Ming, as with many centers, his size took its toll, leading to many missed games in his professional career.
Despite not leading the Rockets to a championship, or even the finals, Ming was still known around the world and parlayed this fame into several sponsorship opportunities with many large companies. Most of his most memorable commercials involved someone not understanding him or unable to pronounce his name. A larger than life Chinese man who excelled at basketball was comedy gold and still is! In 2016, he was elected into the basketball Hall of Fame along with Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal.
11 Gary Payton ($130 Million)
Known as “The Glove” due to his stingy defense, Gary Payton played for 13 years with the Seattle Supersonics. He would also spend time playing for Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Boston, and Miami (where he finally won a championship), but it was his time in Seattle where he made his name, and money. Known as one of the greatest guards of all-time, he won an NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and was selected to the All-Defensive team nine times. He was also All-NBA and an All-Star nine times. In 2013, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Payton often got the tough assignments (guarding Michael Jordan, for example) and had both the skills and cockiness needed for the job. Along with Shawn Kemp, he reached the NBA Finals, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The end of his career was unmemorable; the trade to Milwaukee was a disaster for everyone involved and when the Lakers didn’t win with him he took a much lesser role with the Heat, finally getting an elusive title.
10 Tim Duncan ($150 Million)
Quite possibly the quietest superstar of the modern day era, Tim Duncan let his work on the basketball court do the talking. A 15-time All-Star, Duncan is considered one of the greatest power forwards of all-time. During his nineteen years with the San Antonio Spurs Duncan won two NBA MVP awards, NBA Finals MVP three times, and the NBA Rookie of The Year Award. He was also named All-NBA and All-Defensive Team in each of his first thirteen seasons in the NBA.
Most important were not the individual awards, but rather his leading the Spurs to 5 NBA Championships and bringing San Antonio into the NBA national conversation as one of the greatest basketball teams of the modern era. Each championship was a surprise until after their third everyone realized this was a special dynasty. Duncan was paid average for his time given what he accomplished and probably could have made a lot more had he wanted to, but that’s just not who he is.
9 Grant Hill ($180 Million)
No surprise as we start to get to the big hitters that Grant Hill, the face of Sprite soft drinks during his prime, is on this list. Hill played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers. In 1994, he was the ACC Player of the Year in college and the next year won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award (shared with Jason Kidd). He would make seven All-Star games and be selected for the All-NBA team five times. For most of his college career as well as the first few years in the NBA Hill was known as one of the best overall players in the game. Unfortunately injuries cut Hill’s career short. Despite playing 19 years in the league we really only got “top talent” Hill for about four.
Hill has since been part of ownership groups trying to buy an NBA team (Atlanta Hawks), works the broadcast booth for NBA TV, and continues to occasionally appear in commercials. It’s no longer Sprite work, but hey, whatever works.
8 Kevin Garnett ($190 Million)
The 1995 McDonald’s All-American, Kevin Garnett, went straight from high school to the NBA where he played for 21 years at both the power forward and center positions. He was the first drafted straight out of high school to the NBA in 20 years. Garnett would go on to play in 15 All-Star games, winning MVP in the 2003 game. He was also named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and has been part of 12 All-Defensive Teams. Garnett changed the way teams looked at the center position, realizing athleticism could have as much impact as pure size.
After being traded to the Boston Celtics, Garnett lead his team to an NBA Championship in the first year. Garnett was also traded to the Brooklyn Nets where he was expected to compete for another title, but came up short and was traded back to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he started his career. He retired from basketball in 2015.
7 Hakeem Olajuwon ($200 Million)
Is there any nickname better than “The Dream?” I can’t think of one and this was the nickname given to Houston Rocket great Hakeem Olajuwon. The nickname comes from college where he dunked so easily his coach said it “looked like a dream” but real impact came during his time in the NBA. Playing for both the Rockets and Toronto Raptors, he was one of the most versatile centers who was able to score, rebound, pass, steal, and of course, block shots. In 2008, Olajuwon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It was the time from being drafted in 1984 (same draft as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley) through his two championships with the Rockets where Hakeem solidified his play as the greatest and worthy of “The Dream.” In 1994, he was the first player to be named NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, and the Defensive Player of the Year. That year and the following year he lead the Rockets to NBA championships over the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic.
6 David Robinson ($200 Million)
Known as “The Admiral” due to his mad basketball skills and previously serving as an officer in the United States Navy, Robinson was an All-Star ten times during his career and in 1995 won the NBA MVP. Robinson was a two-time NBA champion with the Spurs, winning in both 1999 and 2003. He is the only member of the Naval Academy to play in the NBA.
Robinson won two Olympic Gold Medals (1992, 1996) and has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice, first as an individual and then as part of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Robinson’s legacy as one of the greatest centers to play the game is complicated in that he didn’t win a championship until Tim Duncan showed up. Duncan would go on to win championships without Robinson, so it’s not like his game was the reason they were successful. Alas, Robinson can sleep well knowing that even though his career was earlier and shorter than that of Tim Duncan, at least he has a higher net worth.
5 LeBron James ($340 Million)
Here we are, the big five and man, they are really the big five. Starting with LeBron James, these players have major net worth compared to the others and quite honestly, deservedly so given their commitment to the NBA. James is still playing and in search of his fourth NBA Championship, which would be his second with the Cleveland Cavaliers; James also won two with Miami Heat after he “took his talents to South Beach” for a few years.
James has won four NBA MVP Awards, two Olympic Gold Medals, an NBA Rookie of the Year Award, twelve All-NBA teams and six All-Defensive teams. James is currently the face of the NBA and is very close with many advertisers and companies, including Nike who was wise to lock him in early and continue to work with “The King” since his rookie season. With a few years left, expect James to climb this list due to an increase in salary as well as more advertising and promotional gigs.
4 Kobe Bryant ($350 Million)
A combination of major talent and right place-right time has made Kobe Bryant a very wealthy basketball player, coming in here with a net worth of 350 million dollars. Playing his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant went to the NBA straight from high school and lead the Lakers to five NBA Championships. Bryant was an All-Star eighteen times and was a member of the All-NBA team fifteen times. He also led the league in scoring twice and is third all-time in NBA regular season and post season scoring. Bryant played in every All-Star game during his career and won four All-Star MVP Awards.
Bryant, never shy of the camera, had lucrative contacts with McDonald’s, Nike, and many other products, boosting his net worth into the top five of this list. Given his relatively young age, Bryant may have a chance to catch one-time teammate Shaquille O’Neal, but then again, Shaq has never been exactly shy either and continues to work.
3 Shaquille O’Neal ($400 Million)
Known simply as “Shaq,” Shaquille O’Neal made a rap record, but that’s not what made him famous, or any of his net worth for that matter. Shaq was one of the most powerful and skilled NBA centers of all time. Currently O’Neal is still getting checks, working as an analyst for the television program Inside the NBA. O’Neal won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, NBA MVP Award in 2000, was selected to fifteen All-Star games and was selected to fourteen All-NBA teams. He won three NBA Championships as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and then another after he was traded to the Miami Heat. He was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
In addition, to the money made on the court, O’Neal released four rap albums with the first actually going platinum. He has also appeared in films and television shows in addition to his podcast, The Big Podcast With Shaq.
2 Magic Johnson ($600 Million)
Known as a business man even when he was playing, it’s no surprise to find Earvin “Magic” Johnson in the number two spot on this list. The current President of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers has Johnson returning to where he started his career as point guard for thirteen seasons. In his first season, he won the NBA Finals MVP Award that would set the stage for four more championship seasons with the Lakers. In 1991, he retired due to contracting HIV, but would return again a couple times in 1992 and again in 1996.
Magic won three NBA MVP Awards, appeared in twelve All-Star games and led the league in assists four times. He was part of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Johnson has many business investments around the Los Angeles area including part of groups that own the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Sparks.
1 Michael Jordan ($1.2 Billion)
Who else could it be? It has been and may always be Michael Jordan in this spot. When it comes to NBA brands – Jordan is the Elvis Presley of the NBA. The greatest basketball player of all time is also an astute business man who was the one of the first to partner with a major shoe company (Nike) and create his own line of shoes. On the court, Jordan is judged by a number of individual factors; however, it’s the two “three-peats,” winning NBA Championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993 and then again in 1996, 1997, and 1998 that will keep his legend intact.
Individually, Jordan won five NBA MVP Awards, was first team All-NBA ten times, appeared in fourteen NBA All-Star Games (winning MVP in three), won ten scoring titles, was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1998 and many more scoring accomplishments. ESPN named him the second greatest athlete of the century (after Babe Ruth) and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Jordan was the greatest and is also the richest!
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