How Much Do WNBA Players Make?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock (10741532j)The Las Vegas Aces and Indiana Fever tip off during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, in Bradenton, FlaAces Fever Basketball, Bradenton, United States - 11 Aug 2020.
©Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock

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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Oct. 25, 2021

About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.

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