The NBA's Top Earners of All Time, Ranked
Just a decade ago, Kevin Garnett was the highest-paid player during the 2008-2009 NBA season, earning roughly $24.8 million. These days, that figure seems like a drop in the bucket. Thanks in part to a colossal TV rights deal worth $24 billion over nine years, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its teams have the cash to offer players impressive contracts.
For the 2019-2020 season, Steph Curry is the highest-paid player, making nearly double Garnett’s pay for a single season. This trend — coupled with the league’s smaller rosters — means more and more basketball stars are carving out lucrative careers. Find out who tops our countdown of highest-paid NBA players of all time.
30. Vince Carter | $169.5 million
After playing for 21 seasons, the 42-year-old Vince Carter shows no signs of slowing down. With 17 points and four rebounds in just 23 minutes of play, Carter — playing for the Atlanta Hawks — led his team to victory as recently as October 2019 in an exhibition game against the New York Knicks.
The shooting guard’s big night proves that he’s still got the skills to nab the big bucks. His highest single season earnings totaled an impressive $17.5 million. Come 2020, Carter will have played across (parts of) four decades, so it’s no surprise this big earner makes our list.
29. Mike Conley | $173.6 million
Diana Allen, a writer for SLC Dunk, recently called Mike Conley "a superstar tailor-made for the Utah Jazz." The point guard became a coveted asset while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, earning both the NBA Teammate of the Year Award once and the NBA Sportsmanship Award three times.
Moreover, he has the stats to bolster his winning personality, passing Marc Gasol to become the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in career points. Coming off a five-year, $153 million deal with the Grizzlies, Conley is now making roughly $30 million with the Jazz for the 2019-2020 season.
28. Kevin Love | $174.6 million
Drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies but then traded that same night to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love quickly made a name for himself. The five-time NBA All-Star signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and just two years later helped the team defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Although Love suffered an injury during the 2016 NBA Finals, he helped the Cavaliers rally from a 3–1 finals deficit. The team’s eventual comeback in Game 7 ended Cleveland’s 52-year drought without a major sports title. The NBA champ also established the longest streak for achieving double figures in points and rebounds in consecutive games.
27. Marc Gasol | $178 million
As a member of Spain’s national team, Marc Gasol won two Olympic silver medals and two FIBA World Cup titles. Towering at 7 feet 1 inch tall, Gasol went on to make a name for himself as a center in the NBA, playing for both the Memphis Grizzlies and — most recently — the Toronto Raptors.
The three-time NBA All-Star was traded in February 2019 to the Raptors, and within six minutes of his first 19 minutes of play, Gasol racked up seven points and six rebounds. The season ended with the Raptors defeating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, a victory that meant Gasol and his brother Pau became the first set of siblings to win NBA titles.
26. Chris Webber | $178.2 million
Chris Webber began and ended his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. In between those years, he actually played for quite a few teams — most notably the Sacramento Kings. The five-time NBA All-Star signed his most lucrative career deal with the Kings — seven years at $127 million — earning him a career high of $19.1 million for a single season of play.
In addition to basketball, Webber became a notable philanthropist, even creating the charity The Timeout Foundation. For Kings home games, "C-Webb’s Crew" donated a group of tickets to at-risk and underserved youths and their families. Since retiring, Webb has become an analyst for NBA Gametime Live.
25. Paul Millsap | $181.2 million
Drafted by the Utah Jazz during the 2006 NBA draft, Paul Millsap started off strong and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. In 2013, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks on a two-year deal, later re-upping with the team with a three-year, $59 million contract.
However, the four-time NBA All-Star really struck gold a few years later, signing a three-year, $90 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. Despite suffering an injury in the 2019 season, Millsap rebounded to set a new season high of 33 points in a single game.
24. Jason Kidd | $182 million
During his 19-season career in the NBA, Jason Kidd played for five teams. Since retiring and moving into coaching, he has coached three teams. With 10 All-Star Games, five First Team All-NBA honors and a championship title under his belt, it’s no wonder Kidd donned the coach’s mantle — or blazer, in this case.
Although Kidd led the (former) New Jersey Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, he earned his championship title in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks. When he retired, Kidd ranked third in the NBA for regular season triple-doubles with a career total of 107. He also ranks second on NBA all-time lists for career assists and steals.
23. Ray Allen | $184.4 million
After 18 seasons of play, Ray Allen garnered 10 All-Star Game appearances and an impressive two championship titles. While playing for the UConn Huskies, Allen developed a reputation as an impressive long-range shooter, and this reputation followed him to the NBA.
Allen and his Boston Celtics teammates — Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — formed the unstoppable "Big Three," nabbing the championship title in 2008. The Olympic gold medal-winner also holds the NBA records in career three-point field goals made in both regular and postseason play.
22. James Harden | $185.5 million
James Harden has earned more than $185 million in 11 seasons in the NBA playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets. As one of the league’s most prolific scorers, this "Best Shooting Guard in the NBA’s" earnings can only continue to climb.
Currently, Harden’s contract with the Rockets has $171.3 million remaining, according to 247Sports. The NBA’s Most Valuable Player of 2018 has achieved success outside the league as well. A two-time member of the U.S. national team, Harden has won Olympic gold and a FIBA World Cup title alongside his teammates.
21. Al Horford | $186.4 million
After playing for several seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, Al Horford signed an impressive five-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers during the offseason, just ahead of the 2019 term. After that half-decade deal is up, Horford will have earned an estimated $295.4 million throughout his entire career.
For now, 247Sports estimates that he comes in at just under $200 million — still nothing to laugh at. The five-time NBA All-Star also won a bronze medal at the 2011 FIBA AmeriCup as part of the Dominican Republic’s national team.
20. Tyson Chandler | $187.7 million
For 18 seasons, Tyson Chandler has played for nine NBA teams, but the near-constant trades all boil down to the fact that he’s a much sought-after player. Chandler was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team an impressive three times.
While playing for the Dallas Mavericks, he helped the team achieve its first NBA championship title in 2011. Outside the NBA, Chandler won gold medals with the U.S. national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2010 FIBA World Championship.
19. Blake Griffin | $192.3 million
Six-time NBA All-Star and five-time All-NBA player Blake Griffin was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009, but a pre-season injury sidelined him. The following season, he had a meteoric debut, winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and snagging the Rookie of the Year title.
Since then, Sports Illustrated has named him one of the NBA’s 15 Greatest Rookies of All Time, but that success extended beyond his freshman season. After playing with the Clippers for the bulk of his career, Griffin signed a five-year contract with the Detroit Pistons. By the end of this deal, he will likely pass the $300 million mark for career earnings.
18. LaMarcus Aldridge | $194.7 million
With 13 seasons and seven All-Star Games under his belt, LaMarcus Aldridge has proven that hard work can make you one of the best — and wealthiest — players in the game. After rocky sophomore and junior seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Aldridge re-upped his contract with a five-year, $65 million extension.
Coming off several notable seasons with Portland, Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2015, nailing down a four-year, $80 million contract. Known for his signature fadeaway jump shot, Aldridge has made a career high of $22.3 million in a single season.
17. Paul Pierce | $195.1 million
Over the course of 19 seasons, Paul Pierce played in 10 NBA All-Star Games, and although he never nabbed a championship title, the forward was named NBA Finals MVP in 2008. He hopped between teams for his last few seasons, but Pierce played the bulk of his career with the Boston Celtics.
While playing for the Celtics, Pierce scored 20,000 career points, making him one of only three players in franchise history to do so. Just before he retired in 2017, the Celtics signed Pierce to a contract so he could retire as a member of the organization. Pierce’s highest single season earnings totaled an impressive $19.8 million.
16. Dwyane Wade | $196.4 million
Sixteen-season vet Dwyane Wade played in a whopping 12 All-Star Games and won a jaw-dropping three championship titles, all with the Miami Heat. Wade has played the bulk of his career with the Heat — the team that drafted him — and plans to retire after the 2019-2020 season with the Heat.
When Wade initially left the Heat in 2016, he did so for an impressive two-year deal worth approximately $47 million — something Miami just couldn’t match. Following another short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade returned to Florida once again. According to Business Insider, in a single season, he raked in a career high of $23.2 million.
15. Zach Randolph | $196.6 million
Zach Randolph has made a long, 18-season career out of playing in the NBA. After being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2004, he signed a six-year, $84 million extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.
His next big deal came in 2011 — after a string of trades — when he signed a four-year extension with the Grizzlies for $71 million. Randolph’s highest single-season earnings came in at an impressive $17.8 million. Meanwhile, his latest contract with the Sacramento Kings nabbed him two years of play at $24 million.
14. Russell Westbrook | $205.4 million
Russell Westbrook’s latest contract with the Houston Rockets in 2019 is a mega-deal for the star. The point guard signed up for five years for a whopping $206 million. That means his average yearly salary comes in at $41.4 million.
The eight-time NBA All-Star led the league in scoring for both the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons. Westbrook also became one of only two players in history to average a triple-double for a season. With about $171 million left on his contract, Westbrook’s earnings will soar even higher soon.
13. Joe Johnson | $214.8 million
Joe Johnson has played for seven teams in the NBA throughout his career, so he’s been offered quite a few great deals. The best, however, came in 2010 when he signed an extension with the Atlanta Hawks — six years for $123.7 million. At the time of this deal, Johnson was the NBA’s highest-paid player.
The 17-season vet also has an impressive seven All-Star Games under his belt. Notably, Johnson scored a basket in 937 consecutive games — from 2003 to 2016 — but while playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2016, he failed to make a basket against the Memphis Grizzlies, ending the NBA’s longest active scoring streak.
12. Pau Gasol | $220.5 million
Pau Gasol, older brother of Marc Gasol, is a six-time NBA All-Star and four-time All-NBA honoree. Perhaps even more impressively, he won two NBA championship titles, both with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 18-season vet’s highest single-season earnings came in at $19.3 million.
Outside of the NBA, Gasol has won three Olympic medals — two silver and one bronze — as well as a FIBA World Cup title and three EuroBasket titles, all with the Spanish national team. Off the court, Pau "personifies everything that is good about NBA players and their charity projects," according to the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
11. Kevin Durant | $225.4 million
If we were factoring in endorsement deals with the likes of Nike and Foot Locker, Kevin Durant’s earnings would earn him a spot much closer to the top. Nonetheless, his NBA earnings are still mind-blowing. After winning back-to-back NBA championship titles with the Golden State Warriors, he re-signed with the team on a reported two-year, $61.5 million contract.
In college, Durant became the first freshman to be named Naismith College Player of the Year. As a professional basketball player, he has earned an MVP Award, two Finals MVP Awards, two NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards and four NBA scoring titles. The 10-time All-Star and nine-time All-NBA player also has two Olympic gold medals and a reputation for philanthropy.
10. Chris Bosh | $239.1 million
Chris Bosh played with the Toronto Raptors for the first half of his NBA career, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes played. After seven seasons, he was traded to the Miami Heat, where he formed the "Big Three" with teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
With the Heat, the 11-time All-Star nabbed back-to-back NBA championship titles in 2013 and 2014. Off the court, the gold-medal Olympian established the Chris Bosh Foundation in 2004 to promote education and athletics among children. Additionally, Bosh has supported the Toronto Special Olympics and the computer literacy nonprofit code.org.
9. Dwight Howard | $240.1 million
Following in the footsteps of his idol Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard went straight from high school to the 2004 NBA draft. The eight-time NBA All-Star is also a five-time NBA rebounding leader and two-time leader in blocks.
As part of the U.S. national team, Howard won an Olympic gold medal and a FIBA Americas championship. In 2008, he helped rejuvenate the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Not only did Howard win the contest — with 78% of fans voting for him — but he also displayed some innovative dunks, even wearing a Superman cape at one point.
8. Tim Duncan | $242 million
Unlike other players, who often chase deals with other teams, Tim Duncan played for the San Antonio Spurs for the duration of his 19-year career. In that time, he became a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP and 15-time NBA All-Star.
A writer for the Associated Press noted that Duncan is "widely considered the best power forward ever" — as all of his accolades can attest. In 2016, the Spurs retired his jersey — No. 21 — and just three years later recruited him as an assistant coach.
7. Carmelo Anthony | $246.8 million
As a freshman at Syracuse, Carmelo Anthony led the team to an NCAA championship title and was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Drafted by the Denver Nuggets, he led the team to the playoffs every year from 2004 to 2010 — though none of those appearances led to a championship title.
Nonetheless, the 10-time NBA All-Star proved to be one of the best players in the league. With the U.S. national team, Anthony won four Olympic medals — three gold and one bronze — and is currently the team’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and games played. According to Spotrac, although Anthony is inactive for the duration of the 2019-20 season, he is still reaping the benefits of his bought-out contract, pocketing an estimated $8.5 million this year.
6. Dirk Nowitzki | $251.6 million
Considered one of the best power forwards in NBA history, Dirk Nowitzki played an impressive 21 seasons in the league, all with the Dallas Mavericks. The 14-time NBA All-Star has also been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player as well as the NBA Finals MVP in 2011, the same year he and the Mavericks won the championship title.
Known as the highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history, Nowitzki ranks sixth on the list of career scoring leaders. In 2001, he signed a six-year, $90 million extension, making him the second highest-paid German athlete, just behind Formula One champion Michael Schumacher.
5. Chris Paul | $260.9 million
One of the highest-paid athletes in the world, Chris Paul’s numbers would be even greater if we included all those State Farm and Nike endorsements. Over the course of 15 seasons, he has played for several different teams, most notably the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Thanks to Paul, the Clippers earned a reputation for fast-paced offense and crowd-pleasing alley-oop dunks — hence the nickname "Lob City." The nine-time NBA All-Star has also been named All-Star Game MVP and won two Olympic gold medals. Spotrac shows that Paul’s projected earnings between 2020 and 2022 could bring his total earnings up to $342.3 million.
4. Shaquille O’Neal | $286.4 million
Drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1992, Shaquille O’Neal went on to win Rookie of the Year. After several years with the Magic, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them win a whopping three consecutive NBA championship titles.
With 15 All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP Awards and three Finals MVP Awards, O’Neal’s reputation as a phenomenal athlete is set in stone. Not to mention, he’s one of only three players to win all three of those MVP awards in the same year. Off the court, O’Neal has released a platinum rap album, guested on reality shows and become passionate about esports.
3. LeBron James | $307 million
From Bleacher Report to Fox Sports, numerous publications have dubbed LeBron James "the greatest basketball player of all time." Despite being known as the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James actually won two of his impressive three championship titles with the Miami Heat.
With two Olympic gold medals, 15 All-Star Game appearances and numerous MVP, All-Star Game MVP and NBA Finals MVP awards, James’ accolades are admirable. As of October 2019, he is the all-time playoff’s scoring leader and ranks fourth in terms of all-time career points. Spotrac estimates that after the 2021-2022 season, his career earnings could climb to $387.2 million.
2. Kobe Bryant | $323.3 million
Entering the NBA right after high school, Kobe Bryant played the entirety of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. An 18-time All-Star and 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, Bryant has a whopping five NBA championship titles to his name.
As of October 2019, the shooting guard ranks third on the list of all-time career points, which might not be surprising to longtime fans, as Bryant made a name for himself early in the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. Although sexual assault allegations disrupted some of his big-name endorsements for a time, Bryant went on to found his own company, Kobe, Inc.
1. Kevin Garnett | $334.3 million
Kevin Garnett played an accomplished 21 seasons in the NBA, with the bulk of his tenure spent with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics. Considered one of the greatest power forwards in history, Garnett was initially in the spotlight because he became the first NBA player in two decades to be drafted directly out of high school.
The 15-time NBA All-Star also made the NBA All-Defensive First Team a whopping nine times. During the 1997-1998 seasons, the Timberwolves famously offered Garnett a six-year deal worth an unheard of $126 million. That meant the team couldn’t sign new players or retain other stars — this kind of friction led to the 1998-1999 season’s lockout.
Note: This list was compiled using data gathered from Spotrac in October 2019.