When it comes to professional basketball, everyone knows that the NBA sets the gold standard. It has the best basketball players in the world and the highest level of competition anywhere. So it should not be a surprise to anyone that the NBA pays the highest salaries for basketball players anywhere in the world. For the 2019 – 2020 season, the average salary in the NBA is a breathtaking $7.7 million. The highest paid NBA player, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, is getting paid a stratospheric salary of $40.2 million for the 2019 – 2020 season.
Every year, only 60 people are drafted by NBA teams. Most of these drafted players are Division I college basketball players who attended college on a basketball scholarship and played for their college basketball teams. These are the 60 most elite young basketball players in the entire world. For up and coming basketball players who have missed the opportunity to be drafted by the NBA, what other opportunities are there to play basketball professionally?
Traditionally, other than the NBA, the only other professional basketball league for aspiring basketball players in the US to play in is the NBA G League, which was formerly known as the NBA D-League. The best players in the G League can occasionally get called up to the NBA. But for the most part, G League players will spend their whole careers in the G League. And the salaries of the G League is a far cry from that of the NBA: the average G League player only makes $35,000 a year, 1 / 220 of what the average NBA player makes.
In recent years, playing overseas has become a more and more popular alternative to playing in the G League. By playing in overseas leagues, basketball players can potentially earn a higher salary than they would in the G League. There are also many other possible perks, including free housing, free use of car, tax-free income, and increased opportunities for endorsement deals. At this point, the one thing that everyone wants to know is: how much do basketball players make overseas?
The salary of an oversea basketball players depends on a number of factors such as their skill levels and the specific league and country he plays in. Unlike the NBA, most overseas basketball leagues do not make their salaries information public. Based on anecdotal reports and rumors, according to which overseas basketball players can expect to make anywhere from under $20,000 to well over $1 million per year.
To save you time, our staff here at Love At First Fit has combed through countless official and unofficial sources to compile a list of salary data for various professional basketball leagues around the world. In the rest of this article, we will look at these salary reports in detail. For those in a hurry, here is a summary of the salary data for various professional basketball leagues and you can see which league is the highest paying overseas basketball leagues.
Table of Contents
Realistic Overseas Basketball Salary Chart
|Location||League||Typical/Average Salary (US$)||Max Salary (US$)|
|US||NBA||$7.7 million||$40.2 million|
|Europe||EuroLeague||$65,000 – $100,000||$5 million|
|Spain||Liga ACB||$130,000||$5 million|
|Turkey||BSL||$250,000 – $450,000||$2.6 million|
|Europe||Lower tier leagues||$1,000 – $3,000 per month||–|
|China||CBA||$1 million||$3 million|
|Australia||NBL||$60,000 – $100,000||–|
|Taiwan||SBL||$1,400 – $2,000 per month||$12,000 per month|
Europe – EuroLeague
EuroLeague is a pan-European basketball league. It is widely considered to be the second best basketball league in the world, after the NBA. Its salaries are also among the highest in the world after that of the NBA.
Each year, EuroLeague involves competition of 18 top basketball teams coming from various countries in Europe and the Middle East. For the 2019 – 2020 season, 10 countries were represented in the EuroLeague – Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, France, Serbia, Russia, Israel, and Lithuania.
EuroLeague teams, unlike NBA teams, do not disclose their players’ salary information. As a result, while you can know exactly how much Lebron James and James Harden of NBA make in salaries ($37.44 million and $38.20 million for the 2019 – 2020 season, respectively, in case you want to know), you can only rely on unofficial leaks, rumors, and guesses when it comes to EuroLeague salaries.
Based on these unofficial sources, the highest salary in EuroLeague for the 2019 -2020 season was offered by the Spanish team FC Barcelona to former NBA player Νikola Mirotic. Mirotic’s salary is estimated to be about $4.4 to $5.4 million. While that is a far cry from the NBA’s highest salary – Steph Curry’s $40.2 million – we are still talking about a very significant amount here.
The top 10 salaries in the EuroLeague are estimated to be in the $2 to $5 million range. But the recipients of those salaries are all the biggest superstars in the EuroLeague and their salaries are definitely the exception rather than the rule.
What about young basketball players from America who do not have NBA pedigrees on their resumes? How much can they make in EuroLeague? For non-star players like that, they can expect to get paid in the range of $65,000 to $100,000, depending on the team and the country. In many cases, the salaries are tax free and the teams also provide cars and apartments to the players.
Spain – Liga ACB
Liga ACB is the top professional basketball division of the Spanish basketball league system. The top teams in Liga ACB such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia also compete in EuroLeague. Teams in Liga ACB offer among the highest basketball salaries in Europe.
The typical, non-star salaries at Liga ACB are thought to be in the $130,000 range. If a player plays for a top Liga ACB team such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Valencia, he can expect to earn substantially more.
European leagues that are typically regarded as on the same level as Liga ACB include HEBA A1 in Greece, Lega Basket Serie A in Italy, and VTB United League in Russia. Expect the salaries in these leagues to be on the same level as that in Liga ACB – in the range of $130,000 for non-stars.
Turkey – The Basketball Super League (BSL)
The Basketball Super League (BSL) is the top professional basketball league in Turkey. Top teams in the BSL such as Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahçe Beko also compete in EuroLeague. Each BSL team is allowed to sign up to 8 foreign players and can play up to 6 foreign players in each game.
According to a source at BSL, the salaries for non-Turkish, foreign players at BSL are generally in the $250,000 to $450,000 range but can go above $1 million.
For the 2019 – 2020 season, the highest paid player in the BSL was Shane Larkin, an overseas player from the US. He played for Anadolu Efes and got paid a salary of $2.6 million, tax free.
Europe – Lower Tier Leagues
Besides the top national leagues, different European countries have various 2nd and 3rd and 4th tier professional basketball leagues. For example, in addition to its top-tier league Liga ACB, Spain has the 2nd tier LEB Oro, the 3rd tier LEB Plata, and the 4th tier Liga EBA. In addition to its 1st tier Basketball Super League, Turkey has the 2nd tier Basketball First League (TBL), 3rd tier Basketball Second League (TB2L), and the 4th tier Men’s Regional Basketball League (EBBL).
These lower tier leagues are easier to get into, but they also pay significantly less. Salaries in these leagues vary, but they are generally in the $1,000 to $3,000 per month range. Some may even pay less than $1,000 per month.
China – Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)
Basketball is a very popular spectator sport in China. About 800 million people in China watched NBA content during the 2017 – 2018 season. That is more than 2 times the entire population of the USA. Needless to say, some NBA games have a bigger Chinese audience than an American one.
Given basketball’s popularity in China, it should not be a surprise that the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), China’s top basketball league, has a gigantic fan base of 450 million – the largest number of domestic fans among all professional basketball leagues anywhere in the world.
Having such a huge audience also means that CBA teams can afford to pay top dollar for their foreign imports. One sports agent estimated that foreign players in CBA are earning an average of $1 million per year while the biggest names can earn as much as $3 million per year. Better yet, the basketball teams in CBA also cover the Chinese income tax, so this salary is entirely tax free (American players would still need to pay their US income tax though.)
Among the most prominent Americans who have played in the CBA is Stephon Marbury, a former NBA player who became a superstar in China after he retired from the NBA. After 13 seasons in the NBA, Marbury moved to China in 2010. He ended up spending 8 years playing for 4 teams in the CBA. Finally retiring from the CBA in 2018, Marbury was reportedly getting paid about $2 million per year in China.
Stephon Marbury turned down 1.3 million from Boston Celtics, and signed with China’s Beijing Ducks for 2 million per year, in contrast to his 4 years 74 million max contract in NBA.
Taiwan – Super Basketball League (SBL)
Super Basketball League (SBL) is the top basketball league in Taiwan. Compared to Turkey’s BSL or China’s CBA, SBL’s salaries definitely leave something to be desired. The starting salary for SBL is anywhere from NT$40,000 to $60,000 a month (approximately $1,400 to $2,000 per month)
The maximum salary a foreign player can earn in SBL is NT$360,000 per month (approximately $12,000 per month). There is also the restriction that all foreign players must not be taller than 6’7”.
Australia – National Basketball League (NBL)
The NBL is the top professional basketball league in Australia and New Zealand. While not as prestigious as the Spanish Liga ACB or the Turkish BSL, the Australian NBL is an up and coming basketball league that is quickly becoming a favorite overseas destination for aspiring players in the US. One reason is that unlike Spain, Turkey, or China, Australia does not present any language barrier to Americans.
Every team in the NBL can sign up to 3 foreign players — players born outside of Australia or New Zealand. Most American players in the NBL make somewhere in the range of $60,000 to $100,000 per year. A small number of bigger names can make more.
The minimum wage for roster players is about $40,000, while 1st time development players have a minimum wage of approximately $12,000. The teams also provide all players with health insurance and access to programs for mental health, career transition, and education. All told, the average total wage-and-support package for NBL roster players was about $100,000 for the 2018 – 2019 season.
In this article, we have looked at the salaries in various professional basketball leagues around the world. The actual salary you can earn overseas as a basketball player depends on a number of factors including your skill levels and the specific league and country you play in. In terms of salary:
- Unsurprisingly, the NBA offers the highest salaries anywhere in the world. The average salary is $7.7 million. The highest paid NBA player (Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors) is being paid $40.2 million for the 2019 – 2020 season.
- EuroLeague teams offer a typical salary of $65,000 to $100,000 to non-star players. The highest paid stars in EuroLeague get paid in the range of $2 million to $5 million.
- The typical non-star salaries at the Spanish Liga ACB are in the $130,000 range.
- The salaries for foreign players at the Turkish BSL are generally in the $250,000 to $450,000 range but can go above $1 million.
- For lower tier European leagues, salaries run in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 per month but can go lower than $1,000
- China’s Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) offers very high salaries to overseas players. Foreign players in CBA earn an average of $1 million per year while the biggest names can earn as much as $3 million per year.
- Salaries at Taiwan’s Super Basketball League are between $1,400 to $2,000 per month. The most you can earn there as a foreign player is $12,000 per month.
- For Australia’s National Basketball League, most American players there earn $60,000 to $100,000 per year. A small number of bigger names can make more.