The richest basketball players in the league

Contracts in the NBA increase yearly, with members of the next generation breaking the previous generation’s records. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once took offense to Magic Johnson signing a 25-million-dollar, 25-year contract. Now the superstars are picking up 60 million each in one year.

2023, the year the new collective bargaining agreement is signed, is an excellent time to take a midterm look at who has made the most money in league history. If you are hooked on sports betting, particularly basketball and cricket betting, it will be helpful to know about the favorites.  

John Wall (2010-present).

  • Seasons in the league: 13
  • Clubs: Washington, Houston, Clippers.
  • Amount: 276 million

John Wall’s career was forgotten a few years ago: he never made it out of the second round, never learned how to shoot, and was only remembered as the man who moved the least on the floor.

But for nearly a decade, Wall was the “franchise guy,” the man Washington tried to build something around – and that’s why they gave him max extensions before they were needed and long before the player was convinced he deserved it all simply because small clubs need to be friends with their stars and assure them of their love well in advance.

Injuries destroyed Wall’s career and erased a dozen years from his hometown club’s history.

Shaquille O’Neal (1992-2011).

  • League seasons: 19
  • Clubs: Orlando, Lakers, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston.
  • Amount: 286 million

The great centre took part in the financial revolution when he moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1996 and signed a then-record contract with the Lakers – 120 million for 7 years (Jerry West turned on all his Magic to shell out that amount and beat the Magic’s offer). Shaq received 167 million in 9 seasons with the Lakers and was always at the top of the league regarding payroll.

“The Lakers watched with apprehension as O’Neal gradually ballooned and were reluctant to extend him. But he was lucky to have Pat Riley, who never spared money: the Heat president secured the centre’s place among the wealthiest basketball players in the league when he gave him another 100 million for five years, regretted it very soon and traded him almost immediately (as he usually does).

It was rich, considering that O’Neal was coming into a league where Michael Jordan himself was getting about 4-5 million dollars.

James Harden (2009-present).

  • League seasons: 14
  • Clubs: Oklahoma, Houston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia.
  • Amount: 302 million (337 million guaranteed)

Harden has long marched ahead of Stephen Curry, his chief antagonist, in various ways. But financially, the same thing has happened to both of them on the parquet. Golden State’s point guard has only gotten better over the years, while the one who was once held up as an example (and who is younger than he is) has lost his way – he’s close to leaving his third club in three years, he’s lost his previous level of play, and he hasn’t received offers he considers worthy of himself.

Last summer, Harden went after Philadelphia and turned down a 47 million option (he agreed to 69 million over two years) for the club to sign P.J. Tucker and Danuel House. He expected to return the favour this summer, but didn’t get a multi-year deal from the 76ers or Houston. As a result, he took offence to everyone and demanded a trade for the third time in his career (yes, that’s a record). Harden still believes he has one last superstar contract waiting for him somewhere.

Stephen Curry (2009-present)

  • League seasons: 14
  • Clubs: Golden State
  • Amount: 302 million (470 million guaranteed)

His prospects in the NBA seemed dim for a long time, and the Warriors dynasty arose mainly because its leader played on a penny contract and, already a two-time MVP and three-time champion, received 12 million per season.

The money worthy of Curry came to him when he was 28 years old. But even those rates were enough for him to move to the top of the all-time list and move record holders. “Golden State owes their legend another 170 million over three years. That’s a pass to the top three.

Kobe Bryant (1996-2016)

  • League seasons: 20
  • Clubs: Lakers
  • Amount: 323 million

Bryant was close to snagging the top spot from Kevin Garnett, but only at the expense of the Bass family’s disposition: the final “48 for two years” became a meme already at the time of signing.

In the end, he was satisfied that, technically, with his friend and rival, he had parity. The minimal difference of 10 million is because KG received 8.5 million as a trade kicker for his move to Boston.

Kevin Durant (2007-present).

  • League seasons: 16
  • Clubs: Seattle, Oklahoma, Golden State, Brooklyn, Phoenix.
  • Amount: 350 million (500 million guaranteed)

Durant won’t catch up to LeBron James in career points. However, in terms of total earnings, he can still come out on top (he’s already guaranteed second place): he’ll make almost $150 million over the next three seasons, and if his competitor considers the financial issue secondary and goes to play for symbolic money to be near his son, and KD signs one last impressive contract, anything is possible. The difference between the two is about 30 million; even Fred Vanvliet laughs at that figure.

Kevin Garnett (1995-2017)

  • Seasons in the league: 22
  • Clubs: Minnesota, Boston, Brooklyn.
  • Amount: 334 million

For several decades, Garnett was considered a symbol of financial revolutions in the NBA: the “Big Ticket” (i.e. something mind-bogglingly expensive) always signed not only grandiose contracts but outrageous contracts, contracts that provoked lockouts and talk that players’ appetites should be regulated somehow.

Garnett kept the first line in the earnings ranking for a very long time and managed to heroically wrest it from the claims of Kobe Bryant at the expense of the last symbolic season in his native Minnesota. But all is meaningless: the entire “old guard” will soon be out of the top ten.

LeBron James (2003-present)

  • League seasons: 20
  • Clubs: Cleveland, Miami, Lakers.
  • Amount: 432 million (guaranteed 531 million)

Throughout his career, James has either made small discounts to clubs (as he did with Miami to leave room for Yudonis Haslem) or signed one-year deals (as he did with Cleveland to keep an owner intimate). Still, there was no significant loss in that: King James reigned frighteningly long in basketball history’s most successful, media-savvy, most prosperous era and enjoyed its benefits to the fullest.

He will add another $100 million to his basketball fortune in the next two seasons. That’s a nice chunk of change, not to mention retirement.