How much do NBA players make per game

We all know that NBA players are rich, compared to usual people from middle class. But how rich? Its not a secret that top NBA players earn even more from contracts with brands like Nike, Adidas, or by selling their own clothes, than they earn from playing in their clubs. But lets take all of that type of income aside, and concentrate only to their main source of money - being basketball players, playing for NBA clubs. We will also compare them to past NBA stars, how their salaries changed over time.

Assumption

Before counting other people money, we will make an assumption that NBA player plays 82 games per season. Of course they can play more by going to the Playoffs, but for the sake of simplicity, let's do not count those extra games.

Salaries in 50s

According to some sources, in 1957-58 NBA season, average NBA player earned $12,000 per year. One of the best players at that time Bob Cousy, in 1956 had the biggest salary - $25,000. Bill Russell at his rookie season earned $24,000. That seems not a lot. Believe it or not, salary of web developer these days averages from $36000 to $80000. Is that mean that web developer now earns more then NBA super stars in 50s? Well, not actually. We need to take infliation into account. $12,000 in 1958 were worth $104,000 in 2018. Cousy and Russell would earn $210,000 nowadays. 

Per game at that time: $304
Value in todays money: $2,650

Salaries in 60s

Things changed a little bit a decade after. In 1965, Wilt Chamberlain became the first NBA player to earn $100,000 per season. When Bill Russell found that out, he demanded to get $100,001. Celtics paid him that sum and added $25,000 as his salary as a coach. So technically, in 1965, Bill Russell was the most highly paid athlete in NBA, $125,001 per season. In 2018 this sum is worth just little bit more than 1 million dollars. So there we have it, 1965 NBA player could become millionaire (if he was a coach too).

Per game at that time: $1,524
Value in todays money: $12,000

Salaries in 70s

In 1975, average salary of NBA player was $90,000. Highest paid player at that time was Kareem Abdul Jabbar, he earned $450,000 per season. In todays money that would be more then 2 million dollars. Not every NBA player these days earn that amount of money. It seems like we entered the times when NBA players started to be really rich. Its not some magic number, that in 70s players started to earn more. In late 60s, more and more people started to watching TVs at home. NBA games became accessible not only in game arenas, but at home, near TV screens. TV contracts took place and NBA players became more famous and recognizable faces. NBA players like Dr J started to promote Converse shoes. Players worth grew up immediately. 

Per game at that time: $5,400
Value in todays money: $24,300

Salaries in 80s

In 1985, eleven NBA players earned more than 1 million dollars per year. While 10 years ago, highest paid player earned only half a million. Highest paid player in 1985 was Magic Johnson. NBA legend was topping the list with $2.5 million dollar salary. In todays money that would be worth almost 6 million dollars. A little bit more than Langston Galloway will earn next year.

Per game at that time: $30,500
Value in todays money: $70,700

Salaries in 90s

In 1997-98 Michael Jordan earned 33 million dollars per season. But lets take that one salary aside, because it does not show the whole picture, because the second highest paid player at that time, Patrick Ewing, earned only 20 million dollars. Actually, 90s is a different story, until 1995 salary cap was staying around 15 million dollars, while in 1996 it grew up to 24 million dollars. So lets calculate how much per game earned top NBA athletes before that rise of salary cap and after.

Per game until 1996: $89,000 ($7.3 million per season - David Robinson).
Value in todays money: $146,000 ($12.0 million per season)

Per game after 1996: $243,000 ($20 million per season - Patrick Ewing).
Value in todays money: $378,000 ($31 million per season)

Per game Michael Jordan 1998: $378,000 ($33 million per season).
Value in todays money: $621,000 ($51 million per season). 

Play two games, and you are a millionaire (if you are MJ and came back after playing baseball for two years).

Salaries in 00s

At this decade, NBA player salaries were like roller coasters. In 2005 Shaq earned 28 millions per year, while next year he earned only 20 millions per year and still was highest paid NBA athlete. We will assume, that average salary of highest paid NBA player in 00s were 25 million dollars.

Per game at that time: $304,500
Value in todays money: $390,700

Salaries in 2010s

Until 2016/17 season, salaries were pretty much the same as in 00s. What we want to talk about is the biggest increase of salary cap since this term was introduced. In 2016 salary cap was 70 million dollars. Next year, it became mind blowing 94 million dollars and will bet 100 millions this season! What that means? Well... That means that Mike Conley, for example, will earn 30 million dollars per year this season. Thats $365,000 per game, almost the same as Ewing's in todays money, or Shaq's at its prime. So, if player, who scores 17points per game, earns has this mind blowing salary, how much per game earns top NBA stars like Lebron, Durant or Harden you ask. The answer is: Steph Curry will earn 37 million dollars this season ($451k per game), and according to his contract with Warriors, in 2021, he will earn 45 million dollars per year! ($584k per game). And this is not the limit. In 2022 Russell Westbrook will earn 47 million dollars. 

In conclusion, we see that three times (1970s, 1996, 2017) player's salaries increased drastically. From players, that earned barely more in 1950s than web developer in 2018 to one of the best paid athletes in whole sports in 2018. Even tough, there is still no contract signed, that would beat MJ's 33 million dollar salary in 1998. We know that in 2018 it would be worth 51 million dollars. It seems that in 2022 Russell Westbrook will almost reach this limit, but we are not sure how much MJ's salary will be worth at that time. 

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