The NBA already boasts the largest player salaries in U.S. pro team sports — an average of nearly $10.8 million — but is now looking at the next major milestone: $100 million annual player salaries.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry each already exceed $100 million in yearly earnings when factoring in endorsements and other off-court activities.
But amid continually escalating salary caps and on the cusp of riches from a new set of media rights contracts, the league is now less than a decade away from making nine-figure base compensation a reality.
The current labor deal between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association limits the annual jump in the salary cap to 10% in order to smooth out the influx of new revenue — an effort to avoid issues from the cap’s 34% bump in 2016 following the last media rights deals.
Yet with projected increases to the cap and existing rules surrounding supermax contracts, NBA players will exceed $80 million base salary as soon as 2029, and potentially reach $100 million three years after that.
It was only in 1996 that NBA players began to sign $100 million contracts covering multiple seasons, with Washington Bullets star Juwan Howard becoming the first to do so in a seven-year pact.
In the meantime, new salary thresholds continue to be set with Jaylen Brown’s historic five-year deal this past summer with Boston worth $304 million, and Damian Lillard’s contract extension with Milwaukee that currently projects him to become the NBA’s first player above $60 million in the 2026-27 season.
Lillard’s status as a salary trailblazer, however, could be challenged by his Bucks teammate, two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who agreed to a blockbuster three-year contract extension on Monday that could be worth as much as $186 million depending on the league’s future salary cap.