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NBA AM: A Look At 2015-16 NBA Salaries

The contracts for the current NBA season show that not everyone makes as much as you think.

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Fun With Numbers:  We like to think Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth and thorough NBA salary data anywhere. Awhile ago, we decided to put all of this data into a database so we could parse information and display it in a more interesting way. This database allows us to answer questions like: Who are the highest-paid NBA players? Which team spends the most? Which team is spending the least?

We also have some internal tools we can use and, from time to time, we like to post some of the top tier data like this:

There are currently 525 player salary records associated with the 2015-16 NBA season in the Basketball Insiders salary database, which includes all of the active players and all players that received some sort of guaranteed money as part of training camp. There are also several players who have been waived or have stretched contracts that impact the current season.

Of the 525 players, 10 players will make more than $20 million this season.

Twenty-five NBA players will make between $15 million and $19.999 million this season, with 42 players making between $10 million and $14.999 million. Said differently, 448 NBA players will earn less than $10 million this season.

To continue that line of thought, 420 players will make less than $7.5 million, while 383 players will earn less than $5.5 million. Finally, 268 players will earn less than $2.5 million, with 209 players earning less than $1.5 million.

There are 75 players that will earn less than $750,000 this season, including seven players who had the balance of their contracts “stretched” – Jordan Farmar ($510,922), Aaron Gray ($452,049), Fab Melo ($437,080), Richard Hamilton ($333,333), Gal Mekel ($315,759), Miroslav Raduljica ($252,042) and Jamaal Franklin ($163,297).

That 75 also includes $3.92 million in waived guaranteed contract money to 48 players; the two biggest being Jimmer Fredette ($507,711 waived by the Spurs) and Pablo Prigioni ($440,000 waived by the Nuggets).

The Basketball Insiders’ salary data is updated frequently, and reflects the most accurate data available. The NBA and the Players’ Association agreed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to keep salary information confidential, so sourcing every detail of a player contract is not always easy; however, the validity and accuracy of our data is the best out there. Make sure you bookmark it.

Fun With History:  The value of NBA contracts has become a pretty insane concept. There are millions upon millions of dollars paid out to players who barely play or in some cases do not play at all. The value of talent has ballooned exponentially over the last five years and with a influx of new TV money coming into the NBA, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

It’s important when looking at salaries to understand the rules that govern the salary pool from which teams operate. The NBA via its agreement with the Players has to pay out no less than 51 percent of revenue to its players in salary and benefits. As the revenue pool grows, so does the amount of money teams must spend.

Teams have to spend the money, and every year there is a small handful of players that the money can be spent on, hence the crazy valuations players get.

It also important to understand that while NBA players are well compensated, they don’t get to keep nearly as much of the paycheck as you’d think. Even with clever tax planning, most players lose anywhere from 40-45 percent of their income to taxes and fees. At the end of the day, the take home number is still pretty crazy, but $10 million a year isn’t exactly $10 million – it is more like $5.5 million. While that number is still big, the lower you go on the NBA food chain, the smaller that check becomes.

So with all that in mind, who has done the best for themselves in NBA history?

Keep in mind, accurate salary data for players before 1983 was hard to come by so while it would be interesting to understand what NBA icons like Wilt Chamberlain or Jerry West earned in their playing days, those figures are not accurately available.

For the purpose of this exercise, the list of players selected was done with accuracy and availability of data in mind.

Player Career Total
Kevin Garnett 1995-2015* $327,372,398
Kobe Bryant 1996-2015* $303,238,062
Shaquille O’Neal 1992-2011 $292,198,327
Tim Duncan 1997-2015* $234,709,155
Ray Allen 1996-2014 $184,356,410
Jermaine O’Neal 1996-2014 $168,794,021
Vince Carter 1998-2015* $165,575,296
LeBron James 2003-2015* $149,800,313
Patrick Ewing 1985-2003 $119,943,120
Karl Malone 1985-2004 $104,133,378
Shawn Kemp 1990-2004 $91,572,963
Michael Jordan 1985-2003 $90,235,000
Kevin Durant 2007-2015* $88,510,296
Charles Barkley 1985-2000 $40,301,000

Earnings represent published career earnings from Basketball Reference and do not include active seasons. The * represents active players still earning NBA salary.

The values above do not account for inflation and are based on the published values each player earned in their career.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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