Two years ago, WNBA icons Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird worked with USA Basketball to hatch a plan in which prospective members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic team could make up to an additional $100,000 if they trained together in the offseason. That pay boost, they said, would encourage more players to work out together, build a rapport ahead of the Olympics and provide a financial incentive to bypass big money to play overseas in their WNBA downtime.
Most WNBA players, unlike their counterparts in the NBA, don’t have the monetary luxury of spending the offseason traveling the world on extravagant vacations. While the top NBA contracts exceed $40 million for the usual 82-game regular season — or around $487,800 per game — just seven WNBA players will make the league’s “supermax” salary of $221,450. That’s an average of $6,920 for one game during the 32-game 2021 season regular season.
Taurasi and Bird are among the group of WNBA players who are making the supermax salary of $221,450 in 2021. Fellow U.S. Olympians Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner also make the maximum salary, as do DeWanna Bonner, Liz Cambage and Elena Delle Donne.
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The U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team opens play in the coronavirus-delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on July 27 versus Nigeria. The American women have won six gold medals in a row, while the men will be seeking their fourth straight.
A Raise, but Still Far Below the Men
The average salary this season for a WNBA player is $120,648. In 2019, it was $74,349. The top cumulative contracts are four-year deals worth $899,480. Bonner, Delle Donne and Diggins-Smith all have such deals. For comparison, Taurasi earned about $1.5 million and Griner close to $1 million in 2016 when they played in Russia in the offseason.
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In the NBA, the minimum salary is $898,310 — more than four times what Taurasi and Bird make this season — and about the same for the top four-year WNBA deals. Only 10 WNBA players make at least $200,000 in a season; the others are Natasha Howard ($215,000), Alyssa Thomas ($200,000) and Courtney Vandersloot ($200,000).
While making $200,000 sounds good to shoot baskets and collect rebounds, remember this: For the upcoming 2021-22 season in the NBA, 10 players will have contracts averaging more than $40 million a season.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors had the highest NBA base salary in 2020-21 as he took home $43 million. For 2021-22, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will have the highest average salary at $45.6 million per season. He is slated to make $228.2 million in a five-year contract that begins next season.
So just what is the net worth of a veteran player in each league? Taurasi, 39, is in her 17th season in the WNBA — all with the Phoenix Mercury — and was the MVP in 2009. Her net worth is $1.5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
And how about another veteran, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who is in his 18th season? His net worth is $500 million.
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Future Pay Scale
The WNBA and the players union reached a deal on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement through the 2027 season prior to the 2020 campaign. The agreement guarantees that the top players in the league eventually will earn in excess of $500,000 annually and that the average pay will reach $130,000.
But the lower end isn’t all that impressive — at least for now.
One of the players making one of the lower salaries at $57,000 for 2020-21 is Arike Ogunbowale. The second-year pro with the Dallas Wings won 2021 All-Star Game honors and received a bonus of $5,150 — almost 10% of her annual salary.
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Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson was a bargain in 2020 while making just $57,000 and winning season MVP honors. She is again a bargain this upcoming 2021-22 season, making $70,040 in the final year of a four-year, $232,178 deal she signed in 2018 after being the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft.
Wilson, obviously, will look for a sharp increase in pay when it comes to her next contract. And her feelings were evident in a tweet during the summer of 2019 after LeBron James agreed to a four-year deal worth close to $154 million with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“154M ….. must. be. nice,” Wilson tweeted. “We over here looking for a (million) but Lord, let me get back in my lane.”
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Last updated: July 16, 2021