Basketball is one of the most profitable and entertaining sports organizations to exist today. From a financial point of view, the money being generated is tremendous by one of the most famous basketball leagues in the world, the NBA. They average around $2.48 billion per year from revenues and commercial dealings. These astronomical numbers being generated are due to the players who ply their trade to please and fascinate the audience worldwide. These players contribute to the massive economy behind each team’s success and are considered some of the most expensive players.
Therefore it is imperative that these players are highly sought after. From the moment these stars are drafted from the colleges, they are destined for greatness. The fees that these players are offered can set up anybody for life. A dream for many aspiring basketball players, getting signed by a franchise can make anybody’s career. So keeping that in mind, let us look at the top 10 most expensive basketball players of all time.
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David Robinson: San Antonio Spurs
Salary: $5,740,000 Year: 1993-94
David Robinson can be argued as the one who put the Spurs on the map as a dominant force in the NBA. His passion for the game and personality off the court really portrays the nature of the city of San Antonio. Joining in 1989, he remained at Spurs throughout his career, and San Antonio made sure they kept him by all means necessary. In the year 1993-94, Robinson became the highest-paid NBA player of the year, and rightfully so.
His performance on the court was remarkable, however, his work in the community was praiseworthy, to say the least. His presence in the city became a symbol of hope and solidarity. From donating money to 5th graders for completing their diploma to establishing the David Robinson Foundation, which would provide help and care to children’s charities. A leader for the city and club, David Robinson, makes our list as one of the top 10 most expensive players in basketball.
Larry Bird: Boston Celtics
Salary: $7,070,000 Year: 1991-92
The legendary Larry Bird was crucial for the success of the Boston Celtics. Thus making it a no-brainer to keep him in the club without thinking about the cost. In the year 1991-92, Larry Bird was offered a contract of $7,070,000, which made him the highest-paid basketballer at the time and 9th overall on our list. Known for his shooting and his trash-talking skills, Larry Bird would generally back up his trash talk with results. His game IQ was off the charts.
The infamous story about him memorizing the dead spots of the Celtics court, which was made with oak wood, gave him an edge while stealing the ball off the opposition. This only goes on to prove his dedication to his craft and the desire to be the best. Truly a once in a lifetime player.
Magic Johnson: Los Angeles Lakers
Salary: $14,660,000 Year: 1994-95
Earvin Johnson Jr. or better known as Magic Johnson, was considered one of the best to ever set foot in the NBA. Playing for LA Lakers in the season of 1994-95, he was offered an extension contract of $14,660,000 even if he did not play. Magic Johnson in 1991 announced he had contracted HIV and had to retire immediately. However, owner Jerry Buss decided to offer him an extension even though he wasn’t sure he would be able to play that season. Having played in the transitional period of the NBA, where the game was slowly becoming more athletic and high-paced, Magic Johnson easily dominated and paved the way for future players.
He was drafted first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the LA Lakers. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year as well as the NBA Championship. To make matters even more ridiculous, he even won the Finals MVP award that year. Playing as a point guard, his contributions led to 5 NBA Championships for the Lakers. Therefore, the Lakers were very keen to hold on to him.
Patrick Ewing: New York Knicks
Salary: $18,724,000 Year: 1995-96
Drafted as a 1985 overall first pick, Patrick Ewing would go on to be one of the leading forces behind the Knicks’ short-lived dominance in the league. His presence on the team soon changed the core dynamics of the squad. The Knicks started to adopt a more physical style of play to dominate other teams. This change bought about a revolution, and in the 90s, the Knicks were able to become one of the most feared teams in the league. However, their short-lived dominance would fail to bore them any fruits since they were unable to win the championship on two separate occasions.
Nonetheless, the impact of Ewing on the team warranted a huge contract, given the legacy he just left them with. In the year of 1995, Patrick Ewing was handed a contract of $18,724,000. Which makes him 6th on our list of the most expensive basketball players.
Shaquille O’Neal: Miami Heat
Salary: $27,696,430 Year: 2004-05
One of the most marketable players in the NBA, Shaq, is money. It was impossible not to like him, and in the 2000’s Shaq was everywhere. Whether it be movies, commercials, or billboards, Shaq’s prominence in pop culture was booming. Additionally, his career in the NBA as a dominant force was also rampaging through everybody. In 2004-05 Miami Heat broke the bank and offered him a whopping $27,696,430 contract. It proved to be good business for the Heats as it bought a lot of eyes to the team, which resulted in high revenues. Always a larger-than-life personality, Shaq’s presence and domination on the court and in pop culture deemed him worthy of such a massive contract at the time. He ranks 5th on our list of the top 10 most expensive basketball players.
Kevin Garnett: Minnesota Timberwolves
Salary: $28,000,000 Year: 2003-04
Kevin Garnett of the Timberwolves would go on to become a legend for the team. In the year 2003-04, Garnett was offered a whopping $28,000,000 contract which at the time it was an astronomical figure. It’s still a huge figure even after almost 20 years. He won the MVP award after averaging 24.2 PPG and 13.9 RPG. In that same season, he even managed to take the Timberwolves to the finals. However, they were unsuccessful in the end. Nonetheless, Kevin Garnett had already etched his name in the club’s history books as this was the first time they managed to reach the conference finals. Garnett places 4th on our list of the top 10 most expensive basketball players.
Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Lakers
Salary: $30,453,805 Year: 2012-14
After Micheal Jordan, the title of the greatest was up for grabs. “The Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant grabbed it with both hands, and the rest is history. He was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th pick overall. However, the Lakers had a prior deal fixed in place to obtain him from the Hornets, and they did. Regarded as one of the best scorers of our generation, Mamba’s cold-blooded nature on and off the court made him a fierce rival. His rock-hard mentality and dedication were second to none. He seemed to be out there to prove the world wrong, and he did. Winning 5 NBA Championships and breaking numerous personal records, Kobe Bryant has inspired an entire generation.
His most jaw-dropping inspiring story came during a match in 2013 against Golden State Warriors. An unfortunate foul on Kobe resulted in him tearing both his Achilles tendon. However, he went to the free-throw line to drop the free throws, all the while being in excruciating pain. This moment solidified his already legendary career.
LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers
Salary: $30,963,450 Year: 2016-17
Arriving at the age of 18 and being the first overall pick by Cleveland Cavaliers, King James was destined for greatness. He was touted as the one to take the mantle from Micheal Jordan, and he did. He even guided Cleveland to an NBA Championship in 2007. It was their first NBA Championship after 52 years, and going by the stats that season, it was pretty clear that LeBron James single-handedly carried his team to glory.
Still playing at the highest level with the LA Lakers, LeBron James, now 37, is still the best player in the league. It is hard to argue the impact and dominance of LeBron James when talking about their accomplishments. He has done it all and is in no mood to stop. Truly he is one of the greatest to grace us in the sport. He ranks 3rd on our list of top 10 most expensive basketball players.
Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls
Salary: $33,140,000 Year: 1997-98
Synonymous with the game of basketball is Micheal Jordan. Such is the impact of this individual that there is probably nobody who hasn’t heard about Micheal Jordan. Basketball is Jordan. His dominance took over the entire industry by storm. His godlike technical ability makes it wonder maybe the game was designed for Micheal Jordan. One of the greatest scorers in the history of the league. Winning the NBA Championships 6 times and having 6 Finals MVP awards, Jordan’s impact on the game cannot be disputed. Widely regarded as one of the best players to ever step foot in the NBA, and his unblemished finals record of never losing an NBA final is perhaps the biggest argument for GOAT status.
Outside of the game, he has been a successful actor, played baseball for a few years, and has made a business out of sports shoes which also became synonymous with sneakers. MJ has done it all in the game and is certainly the greatest player in the history of the NBA. Jordan ranks 2nd on our list of the top 10 most expensive basketball players.
Stephen Curry: Golden State Warriors
Salary: $48,070,014 Year: 2022-23
Steph Curry this year becomes the highest-paid player in the history of the NBA. He signed a deal back in 2021 with the GSW, which runs through till 2025, and he will pocket $201,158,790 in the 5 years. Curry also becomes the first NBA player ever to sign two $200m+ contracts. There isn’t much to say about Steph Curry that hasn’t already been said. A three-point machine. Multiple MVP award winner Steph Curry is in his prime and is in no mood to stop. He has already led the GSW to five consecutive NBA Finals. Out of which, he managed to win three championships and end a 40-year trophy drought in 2015.
Curry has undeniably made himself a GSW icon whose name will forever be engraved in the halls of Chase Center. Stephen Curry is the highest-paid NBA basketball player in history and concludes our list of the top 10 most expensive basketball players.
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