NBA salaries are based on market value, and, for the most part, are relative. A weak free agent class typically over values certain players (re: Rashard Lewis). Similarly, longevity increases max contract value, thus explaining why LeBron James can be ranked behind players like Joe Johnson. So when you read the following list – big shoutout to @warriorsworld on this – which chronicles the top 25 career NBA salaries, don’t look at it as a barometer of the greatest players. Rather, see it as the ultimate expression of the NBA as a business, in which certain players have taken advantage of their situation to cash in as much as possible.
(Note: active contracts are factored in.)
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25. Steve Nash – $146,736,620
He may have racked up two MVPs and held the title of the NBAs best point guard for a number of years, but Steve Nash is not one of the 25 greatest players ever. Still, the money feels well deserved for Nash, especially when he toiled in Phoenix despite their anti-winning salary cap ways without complaint.
24. LeBron James – $149,745,913
LeBron James has at least two more contracts left in him, so expect him to top this list by the time it’s all said and done. But for now, he can take his almost $150 million and NBA ring and smile.
23. Stephon Marbury – $151,115,945
We all remember that final season in New York, when Mike D’Antoni left him on the bench as Marbury raked in $20+ million. Marbury was a very good player in his day, but there’s no question that he’s made much more than he’s ever deserved.
22. Juwan Howard – $151,465,633
The last standing member of the Fab Five, Howard finally got his ring in 2012. Clearly that was the only thing missing, considering the money he’s made over his career.
21. Rashard Lewis – $152,580,678
Nope. We won’t get started.
20. Allen Iverson – $154,494,445
This seems about appropriate. A.I. has bled for every dollar he’s made, and his lack of a championship ring is about the only thing missing from his career resume.
19. Pau Gasol – $156,574,396
It’s unfortunate when players are overpaid and their relative on-the-court expectations skyrocket. Pau has always been a strong big man, arguably one of the top five in the league, but he’s nowhere near as good as the money he’s made. But that’s no fault of his own.
18. Rasheed Wallace – $156,758,400
Oh, what could have been. Rasheed Wallace had a magnificent career, but doesn’t it feel like he could’ve been even better? Well, at least both teams played hard.
17. Deron Williams – $158,712,708
It feels like he stands to make a lot more money as the face of Mikhail Prokhorov‘s franchise, right?
16. Carmelo Anthony – $161,230,223
‘Melo’s a confusing one. The talent is there, but the championship pedigree just doesn’t seem to be. He’s one of the NBA’s top players, but you pay players for victories, not stats.
15. Elton Brand – $161,378,377
Brand is particularly unfortunate, considering how dominant he was in college and the beginning of his career. But he blew out his knee before blowing out your knee was a 10 month injury (that could even make your knee stronger), so he was never the same. Turns out he was paid for what could have been.
14. Vince Carter – $161,663,315
Vinsanity was great, but that amount of money feels obscene. Just another one of those guys who could have been – which is crazy in his case, because Carter was still a great player.
13. Tracy McGrady – $162,978,278
T-Mac is basically Vince Carter in that could-have-been sense. The money may be excessive, but that jump shot is one of the prettiest ever.
12. Jermaine O’Neal – $165,441,840
11. Amar’e Stoudemire – $146,736,620
Two years ago, this wouldn’t have felt so ridiculous. Amar’e was an MVP candidate and reviving the Knicks. Then ‘Melo came around and everything fell apart, and Knicks fans are counting down the days until his current $20+ million a year contract expires.
10. Paul Pierce – $169,486,218
Pierce is an icon in Boston, even a legend. There’s no question everyone appreciates his loyalty by sticking with the Celtics through the bad years, but there’s no question he doesn’t quite deserve this much money. But we won’t nitpick with an overall good guy who’s done a lot for this game.
9. Chris Webber – $178,230,697
How many guys can be the 9th highest paid player ever, have an unbelievable NBA career and still be a labeled a never was? Chris Webber had beyond All-Star potential, but a gaffe in college and a not-ridiculously-stellar NBA career has dogged his reputation for years.
8. Ray Allen – $181,127,360
He might be the greatest shooter ever, but this is a bit much. But even traitors get paid, people.
7. Jason Kidd – $193,855,468
The man just won’t retire. Longevity, more than anything else, explains this number. When you remain among the top NBA point guards for 15 years, you can expect your bank account to explode.
6. Joe Johnson – $198,647,190
We won’t go here either.