NBA salaries continue to climb.
This is because of the growth in the NBA’s broadcasting deal – the last broadcasting deal was signed in 2014, a nine-year/$24 billion deal – and the growth of the NBA brand around the world.
Since it was first instituted in the 1984-’85 season, the NBA salary cap has increased or stayed the same for every NBA season except one – the 2009-’10 season –
Since then the career salary earnings of the top 100 players exceeds $17 billion (as of 2022), with the top ten earning 16% of that – $2.8 billion.
48 out of the top 100 are actively playing having made $8.3 billion till date.
This is a list of the ten NBA players who have earned the most salary in playing contracts during their careers.
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10. Blake Griffin
8. James Harden
5. Kevin Durant
4. Kobe Bryant
3. Chris Paul
1. LeBron James
10. Blake Griffin, Brooklyn Nets
NBA Career salary earnings: $255 million ($255,764,829)
Griffin was one-third of the Big Three on the LA Clippers.
He formed a high-flying and high scoring trio with point guard Chris Paul, and centre DeAndre Jordan between 2011 and 2017.
His current contract is a 1-year / $2.6 million player minimum contract.
Prior to joining the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin was a star on the Detroit Pistons and the LA Clippers.
His largest single-season salary was $34.2 million he received from the Pistons in 2019-20 – his last season there.
Griffin’s largest contract was with the LA Clippers with whom he signed a 5-year / $171 million deal in 2017.
9. Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Career salary earnings: $262 million ($262,523,093)
Anthony is one of the two oldest active players on this list. He is considered by many to be among the most effortless scorers in the history of the NBA.
His current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers is a 1-year/$2.6 million player minimum deal.
Prior to that, Howard was a big earner, earning over $230 million over a 15-year span.
His career’s largest contract is the 5-years/$124 million contract the New York Knicks gave him at the start of the 2014-15 season. This was following the 3 years/$64 million contract he received from them in 2012. Prior to the Knicks, Anthony was a star with the Denver Nuggets and earned $75 million in salary over the eight he played for them.
Anthony’s highest single-season salary was the $26.2 million he earned during his one season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
8. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
NBA Career salary earnings: $268 million ($268,660,574)
James Harden is by many to be one of the most skilled scoring guards in the history of the NBA.
He is one of three players – the other two being Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan – who have more than one season ranked in the All-time top-15 season scoring averages. The two seasons were 2018-19 where he averaged 36.13 ppg and 2019-20 where he averaged 34.34 ppg.
His current contract is a 4-year / $171 million contract he had signed with the Houston Rockets in 2019. This has carried on to his current team – the Philadelphia 76ers – through trades that included a stop at the Brooklyn Nets.
He is set to earn $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season – his highest per season salary ever.
This is Harden’s second $100 million+ contract; the last one being a 4 year / $117.9 million contract he signed with the Houston Rockets.
7. Shaquille O’Neal, retired
NBA Career salary earnings: $286 million ($286,344,668)
The most dominant big man to ever play the sport, Shaq towered at 7’2″ and weighed a monstrous 325 pounds (147 kgs) at his apex.
The four-time NBA Champion led the NBA in FG% for ten seasons during his 20 year NBA career, topping off with 29.3 ppg in 1994-95.
His largest contract was the 7-year / $120 million contract he signed when he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers from the Orlando Magic – the team that drafted him.
It was the first of two $100 million+ contracts he signed in his career; the second one coming with the Miami Heat in 2005, where he signed a 5-year / $101 million contract.
In the 2004-05 season, O’Neal earned $27.6 million, making that the highest salary he has earned in a single season.
6. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Career salary earnings: $288 million ($288,581,670)
Westbrook rakes in the numbers both on and off the court.
The former NBA MVP is the only player in the top 100 to make at least $30 million with four different teams.
Westbrook’s biggest single-season salary jump came at the start of the 2016-17 season when he earned $26.5 million for the season. He averaged a triple-double that season – only the second NBA player to do so after Oscar Robertson.
His largest contract is the 5-years/$206 million contract he signed in with the Oklahoma City Thunder at the start of the 2018-’19 season. He has been traded thrice since that contract, which will end in 2023 with Westbrook expecting to be paid over $47 million for the 2022-23 season.
Westbrook’s highest-earning season is the current season (2021-22) where is drawing a salary of $44 million.
5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
NBA Career salary earnings: $306 million ($306,172,746)
At just under 7-feet tall, Durant is a smooth operator on the court. The two time NBA champions has been the scoring champion four times in five seasons between 2009 and 2014.
His current contract is 4-year / $198 million extension he signed with the Brooklyn Nets starting 2022.
This was an extension of the 4-year / $164 million contract he had signed with the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal in 2019.
His current contract is the largest contract he has ever signed. The $40 million he will earn this season makes it the biggest season paycheck of his career.
4. Kobe Bryant (late)
NBA Career salary earnings: $323 million ($323,312,307)
The late Kobe Bryant is a five-time NBA Champion. He finished his career with 33,000 points, giving him the fourth highest points total in NBA history.
Bryant’s last contract with the Los Angeles Lakers was a 2-year / $48.5 million contract. This came on the heels of a 3-year / $83 million contract he signed in 2011
His career’s largest contract was the 7-year / $136 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
The highest salary he has received in a season is the $30.4 he received in 2013-14.
3. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
NBA Career salary earnings: $330 million ($330,709,419)
Nicknamed “The Point God”, Paul continues to be be among the top points guards in the NBA in 2022 – his 17th year in the league.
He has led the NBA in steals six times, and in assists five times. He is also the only NBA player to lead the NBA in assists and steals three times – ’08, ’09, and ’14
His largest contract is the 4-year / $159.7 million which he signed while with the Houston Rockets in 2018. It also included a salary of $41 million in 2020-21 which is the highest salary he has received in a single season.
This is second $100 million+ contract, the first one being the 5-year / $107 million contract he signed when he joined the LA Clippers in 2013.
2. Kevin Garnett, retired
NBA Career salary earnings: $334 million ($334,304,240)
“The Big Ticket”, as he was often referred to, Kevin Garnett is one of three players on this list who entered the NBA right out of high school.
He led the NBA in rebounding four times and was named NBA regular season MVP in ’04.
His last contract was a 2-year / $ 16.5 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garnett made headlines early in his career by getting a $100 million+ extension contract in 1998 right after his rookie contract. It was a 5-year / $126 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was immediately followed by another $100 million+ contract. The Timberwolves put their trust in him by giving him a 4-year / $100 million contract in ’04.
The highest salary he has earned in a season is the $28 million he earned in ’04 as part of his extension contract with the Timberwolves.
1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Career salary earnings: $387 million ($387,384,119)
The self-proclaimed “The King” tops the list of All-time career earnings list, getting close to that coveted $400 million number.
The four-time NBA Champion has amassed just over 37,000 career points, putting him in second place behind the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is also the only active player in the top-10 all time scoring list.
His current contract is a 2-year / $85.6 million which ends with the 2023 season.
The largest contract he has ever singed is the 4-year / $153.3 million contract he signed in 2018 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He has signed almost three $100 million contract in his career – the other two being (a.) a 3-year / $99.8 million contract in 2016, and (b.) a 6-year / $109.8 million contract in 2010 – both of which he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His highest season payday will come in ’23 where he will rake in $44 million.
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