Money in the NBA skyrocketed in the summer of 2016, when a salary cap spike occurred thanks to the league’s newest TV deal.
Because of that, the size of max contracts exploded, hence why today so many of the highest-paid players in the league’s history are still currently reaping the benefits.
Nevertheless, not every highest-paid player for each franchise is still active. A few legends from the 1990s also check into our list, as well as a couple of players whose careers peaked in the early 2000s.
Without further ado, we present the highest-compensated player ever from each NBA team.
Joe Johnson: $101.8 million
A six-time All-Star as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson is the highest-paid player in the Georgia-based franchise’s history.
Johnson was well-compensated throughout his entire stint with Atlanta, with his contract peaking in 2010-11 at $16.3 million. He was acquired from the Phoenix Suns through a sign-and-trade after he agreed to a five-year, $67.4 million deal to facilitate the move.
Once that expired, the Hawks re-signed him to a maximum six-year, $123.7 million contract in 2010, before showing buyer’s remorse two years later by trading him to the Brooklyn Nets. (Prior to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement – CBA for short – max deals could go for as long as seven years. Now, they can only go as high as five.)
Paul Pierce: $169.5 million
One of the greatest Boston Celtics of all time (and the best offensive Celtic ever, according to the legendary Robert Parrish), Paul Pierce was rewarded for his sacrifices during his time with the historic club.
At his peak, Pierce was paid $19.8 million during the 2009-10 season, which made him the seventh-highest paid player in the league for that year.
Not counting his first deal after being drafted, Pierce signed three contracts during his time with Boston, the largest being his rookie-scale extension in 2001, a six-year, $79 million agreement.
Deron Williams: $100.3 million
Pierce was paid handsomely by the Celtics, and he proved to be worth every penny. The same cannot be said for the Brooklyn Nets and Deron Williams.
The Nets acquired Williams through a trade with the Utah Jazz and only signed him to one contract during his time there, albeit an enormous one. On July 11, 2012, Brooklyn and Williams agreed to a massive five-year, $98.8 million contract, the biggest deal in Nets history.
Less than three years later, they agreed to buy him out for an absurd $27.5 million – simply because they were that ready to get rid of him.
Money not so well spent.
Nicolas Batum: $55.2 million
A small-market franchise not known for their spending ways, the Charlotte Hornets’ highest-paid player was acquired in the summer of 2016.
Nicolas Batum hasn’t exactly lived up to the expectations of being the most well-compensated athlete in Hornets history yet, but he hasn’t been a total bust either.
On the final year of his deal in 2019-20, Batum will be owed $27.1 million by the Hornets, which will almost certainly make him one of the 20 highest-paid players in the league. Considering the French swingman will be 32 by then, it’ll be interesting to note the value of that deal once the final year begins.
Derrick Rose: $95.5 million
It’s Derrick Rose and not Michael Jordan who takes the place as highest-paid player in Chicago Bulls history.
Inflation, along with the league’s skyrocketing fiscal worth thanks to new TV deals is the primary reason for that, so this shouldn’t be all that surprising.
The majority of Rose’s money earned while with the Bulls came on his rookie-scale extension, which was a five-year, $94.3 million contract. As a Bull, Rose’s deal peaked in 2015-16 at $20.1 million. That year, the Memphis product was the league’s ninth-highest paid player, slotted between Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade, two future Hall-of-Famers still in their prime.
Unsurprisingly, with his play falling off due to different injuries, Chicago traded Rose to the New York Knicks in the summer of 2016, before his contract’s final, most expensive, season.
LeBron James: $169.9 million
One of the greatest players of all time has been compensated as such throughout his career.
LeBron James is currently the second-highest paid player in the NBA trailing only Stephen Curry, and his single-year salary for 2017-18 ($33.3 million) was the highest single-year salary of any player since Jordan in 1997-98… until Curry signed his extension with the Golden State Warriors.
James is a lock to opt out of his deal this summer, and even though he’s starting to get up there in age, he’ll undoubtedly draw massive interest on the open market. After all, he’s still the best player in basketball.
Dirk Nowitzki: $250.4 million
Despite taking various pay-cuts in the latter stages of his career in order to help the Dallas Mavericks build potential contenders around him, Dirk Nowitzki still checks in as the highest-paid player in the Texan franchise’s history, and the second-highest paid player (by one team) ever.
Nowizki’s finances were aided mostly by the fact he spent his entire career with one team because returning to your former team always pays out better than switching franchises as a free agent.
In 2016-17, Nowitzki received a two-year, $50 million contract from the Mavericks, with a club option on the second season. More than anything, it was a sort of lifetime achievement deal – one usually reserved for franchise legends of Nowitzki’s ilk. The $25 million the big German made in 2016-17 made him the league’s eighth-highest paid player.
However, before the NBA’s new TV deal helped the salary cap spike, Nowitzki actually peaked as the league’s second-highest paid player. That occurred in 2013-14, when the future Hall-of-Famer made $22.7 million.
Kenyon Martin: $91.8 million
A smaller-market franchise similar to the Hornets, the Denver Nuggets haven’t exactly dolled out money left and right throughout their existence.
Their highest-paid player historically, Kenyon Martin, made the majority of his money with the team off of one six-year, $82.3 million contract that was signed in 2004.
Martin’s deal peaked in 2010-11 at $16.6 million, which made him the 15th-highest paid player that year, ahead of the likes of Pierce, Wade and Chris Paul.
Richard Hamilton: $92.2 million
Richard Hamilton being the Detroit Pistons’ highest-paid player ever is more about longevity than anything else.
The underrated shooting guard signed a seven-year, $64.3 million with Detroit during the 2003 offseason, and then agreed to an extension with the team early in the 2008-09 season, worth three years and $37.5 million.
In total, the player known as “Rip” spent nine seasons with the Pistons. Without question, Detroit got great value out of their deals with Hamilton.
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry: $91.4 million
The player with the richest contract in NBA history, Stephen Curry is also, obviously, the highest-paid player in Warriors history.
After the end of his rookie-scale contract, Curry re-signed with Golden State on a four-year, $44 million deal, meaning when the explosive floor general won his two MVP trophies, he did it on one of the most team-friendly deals ever.
Here are some fun facts on Curry’s new contract:
- It’s a five-year, $201.2 million deal.
- He’s earning $34.7 million this year, which is the highest single-year salary since Jordan.
- He’s making 186.3 percent more this year than he was in 2016-17.
- On the final year of his deal, in 2021-22 when he’s going to be 34 years old, Curry will earn $45.8 million.
James Harden: $104.7 million
The player affectionately known as “The Beard”, James Harden‘s prime has coincided with a great time for NBA players financially.
In the summer of 2017, Harden signed a Designated Veteran Player Exception, making him one of the highest-paid players in league history, and the player with the richest contract in Rockets history.
Harden will earn $30.4 million next season, which is projected to make him the fourth-highest paid guard in the league.
Reggie Miller: $105 million
One of the top 2-guards ever, Reggie Miller remains the Indiana Pacers highest-paid player ever. Although the value of contracts has skyrocketed in recent years, Miller remains the richest player in Indiana history because he spent his entire illustrious 18-year-career with the team.
The annual value of Miller’s contracts with Indiana peaked in 2002-03 at $12.1 million. However, relative to the rest of the NBA, the UCLA product’s deal was actually at its richest in 1996-97, when Miller was the third-highest paid player in the NBA, making $11.3 million. The only men he trailed financially that year were Jordan and Horace Grant.
Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul: $117.2 million
The majority of Chris Paul’s money earned with the Los Angeles Clippers came from one five-year, $107.3 million max extension, which was signed in the summer of 2013.
Paul’s contract peaked in 2016-17 at $22.9 million, when he was the fifth-highest paid guard in the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant: $328.2 million
The highest-paid player by a single team on our list, Kobe Bryant’s longevity with one franchise and transcendent peak made him worth every penny.
The former Los Angeles Laker and future Hall-of-Famer was the league’s highest-paid player six years running, from 2010-11 through 2015-16.
The single-year value of Bryant’s contracts throughout that time ranged from $20.3 million in the lockout season, all the way to $30.5 million in 2013-14.
Marc Gasol: $130.8 million
A former second-round pick and throw-in as part of the package of the infamous Pau Gasol trade, Marc Gasol surprised many with his excellent play as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The younger Gasol’s ability to get buckets down low and be an anchor defensively landed him two contracts with Memphis after his rookie deal: the first, a four-year, $57.5 million contract signed in 2011, and the second, a five-year, $113.2 million deal signed during the 2015 offseason.
His contract peaks in 2019-20, Gasol’s age-34 season, when the seven-footer will be paid $25.6 million by the Grizzlies. That may sound like a lot of money, but consider that with the new TV deal, a single-year salary of $25.6 million will only make him one of the 25 or so highest-paid players in the league. In prior years, a contract that rich would have certainly made Gasol one of the league’s three or so richest players.
If the Grizzlies feel any sort of regret concerning their deal with the big Spaniard, they may feel hesitant to move him, since, according to Eric Pincus, Gasol has the second-richest trade kicker in the league, at $10.2 million.
Chris Bosh: $159 million
Chris Bosh, not Wade, checks in as the highest-paid player in Miami Heat history.
As you’ll recall, in the summer of 2014, Miami lost the services of James. What a lot of people forget is that Pat Riley‘s team was also awfully close to losing Bosh to the Rockets as well.
Riley and Co. scrambled to convince Bosh to stay, and did so, ultimately, by offering him a five-year, $118 million max contract. Wade, being the team player he always has been, took a small pay-cut to help give the Heat the ability to bring Bosh back on such a rich contract. At his peak in 2014-15, Bosh became the NBA’s sixth-highest paid player at $20.6 million.
Unfortunately, Bosh wound up contracting career-ending blood clots, which prematurely ended his time with the Heat. Though he claims he’s still planning a return, it’s hard to envision a league-approved doctor clearing him when his ailment is so clearly life-threatening.
Kevin Garnett: $214.9 million
The highest-paid player in NBA history earned the majority of his money as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. For his career, Kevin Garnett made an obscene $315.4 million; $214.9 million of those came with the team that drafted him.
Following his rookie-scale contract, Garnett signed three contracts with the Timberwolves. (That’s not counting the two-year, $16.5 million deal Garnett received from Minnesota in 2015, which was voided after one year and Garnett’s retirement.)
The first was a six-year, $126 million deal, the second, a five-year, $100 million extension and the third, a three-year, $51.3 million extension. Garnett spent just one year with Minnesota after signing the third contract but nevertheless, he still earned a whole lot of money with the Timberwolves.
The future Hall-of-Fame big man was the NBA’s highest-paid player from 2000-01 to 2003-04, as well as in 2006-07. His annual value peaked in 2003-04 at $28 million. The second-highest paid player that season was Shaquille O’Neal, who earned $24.8 million that year.
Michael Redd: $100.7 million
A one-time All-Star and a member of the 2008 Olympic men’s basketball team, Michael Redd made a ton of money during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Redd’s richest contract with the Bucks was signed late in the summer of 2015, and it was a six-year, $90 million deal.
His contract peaked in 2010-11 at $18.3 million, which made him the fifth-highest paid player in the league that year, and the second-highest paid guard, trailing just Bryant.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis: $69.1 million
Most of Anthony Davis’ money from his latest contract with the New Orleans Pelicans has yet to be paid. Following this year, Davis has another three years and $81.3 million left on his contract with New Orleans.
The deal David signed in 2015 was the maximum rookie-scale extension for a former No. 1 pick, and was worth five years and $127.2 million overall.
Davis is projected to be just the 18th-highest paid player in the league next year, which only speaks to how much money is flowing around the NBA right now. His next contract, which will come around 2021, will make his current deal look cheap in comparison.
New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony: $147.4 million
Acquired by the New York Knicks through a trade with Denver, Carmelo Anthony wound up spending six-and-a-half seasons in the Big Apple.
Anthony signed one long-term contract while with the Knicks – a five-year, $124.1 million deal agreed upon in the summer of 2014. Over the next three seasons, the Syracuse legend was the league’s third-highest paid player twice in 2014-15 and 2015-16, when he earned $22.5 million and $22.9 million respectively.
Anthony’s time in New York City may have ended tumultuously, but no one can say it was for a lack of compensation.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook: $132 million
Whether or not the following factoid was coincidental is up for debate, but Russell Westbrook may have pulled one of the low-key pettiest moves in recent league history:
Westbrook’s deal, which he signed in the summer of 2017, was the richest contract in terms of total worth ever in the NBA.
In total, the contract is worth $205 million over five years, and will see Westbrook paid an obscene $46.7 million in 2022-23, when the explosive point guard will be 33 years old.
Grant Hill: $93 million
The biggest free-agent acquisition in Orlando Magic history, Grant Hill arrived to central Florida following a sign-and-trade with Detroit. Sadly, constant injuries didn’t allow the Duke product to live up to the hype.
The entirety of Hill’s money earned with Orlando came from one deal, a seven-year, $93 million agreement which was a prerequisite for the sign-and-trade in the summer of 2000.
The contract peaked in 2006-07 when Hill earned $16.9 million and was the NBA’s 10th-highest paid player, despite having played just 135 games in the five years leading up to that season.
Allen Iverson: $97.3 million
The best player in Philadelphia 76ers history is also their most well-compensated athlete ever.
Allen Iverson, after being selected No. 1 overall in the 1996 NBA draft, agreed to two contracts with Philadelphia after his rookie-scale deal. The first was a six-year, $70.9 million rookie-scale extension in 1999, and the second was a four-year, $73.5 million veteran extension in the summer of 2003.
Iverson’s single-year salary with the 76ers peaked in 2005-06 at $16.5 million. That season, he was the NBA’s fifth-highest paid player. Iverson never got higher than fifth in single-season salary throughout his prime.
Steve Nash: $89.6 million
Nash was signed by Phoenix after he spent six seasons with the Mavericks, on a five-year, $65.6 million deal. The Canadian floor general did get one extension during his time out in the desert, worth two years and $22 million. Even by last decade’s standards, though, that’s one hell of a value for a two-time MVP who was arguably the NBA’s top point guard throughout his prime.
For proof, just know that Nash never got higher than being the NBA’s 33rd-highest paid player, which happened in 2009-10, when he earned $13.1 million. Wild.
Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge: $86.1 million
A four-time All-Star during his time with the Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge signed a five-year, $67.5 million rookie-scale extension following his first contract out of college.
His annual salary as a Blazer peaked in 2014-15 when Aldridge earned $16.5 million, which made him the NBA’s 15th-highest paid player at the time.
Chris Webber: $93.6 million
After being traded over from the Washington Wizards, Chris Webber signed a seven-year, $127 million contract with the Sacramento Kings, making him easily the highest-paid player in the Californian franchise’s history.
Webber’s pay peaked in 2004-05 when the big man made $17.5 million and was the league’s third-highest paid player.
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan: $243.5 million
The player to have earned the third-most money from a single franchise ever is arguably the greatest power forward of all time, Tim Duncan.
The Wake Forest product signed a total of six contracts during his time with the Spurs, the largest being a seven-year, $105 million deal from the summer of 2003.
The most San Antonio paid Duncan for a single year came in 2009-10, when the seven-footer earned $22.2 million, making him the NBA’s fourth-highest paid player that year.
DeMar DeRozan: $93.5 million
One of the NBA’s younger franchises, the Toronto Raptors highest-paid player ever is currently on the roster, and still owed another years on his latest contract.
After he opted out of the final year of his rookie-scale extension, DeMar DeRozan received a five-year, $139 million deal from the Canadian franchise.
The contract will pay him $27.7 million annually through its end. It should also be noted that DeRozan does own a player option on the final year of the deal in 2020-21. Considering he’ll be 30 once that option comes available, it wouldn’t be shocking to see DeRozan opt out that year and chase one more pay day while he’s still in his prime.
Currently, DeRozan is the 10th-highest paid player in the league, and the sixth-highest paid guard.
Karl Malone: $105 million
The highest-paid player in Jazz history is also their best player ever: Karl Malone.
The Hall-of-Fame big man signed five contracts with Utah, the largest being a a four-year, $66.5 million deal in 1999, which was a whole lot of money back in the late ’90s.
Malone spent three seasons as the league’s sixth-highest paid player, from 2000-01 to 2002-03. His contract peaked in his final year with the Jazz at $19.3 million.
Gilbert Arenas: $87.6 million
The enigmatic Gilbert Arenas signed with the Wizards in the summer of 2003, on a six-year, $63.7 million deal. He exceeded expectations to the extent he earned another contract with Washington — one worth six years and $111 million.
However, Arenas, due to a controversy involving an unloaded gun in the locker room we won’t rehash here, was traded to the Magic and amnestied during 2011, so he never got the full worth of that contract – as a member of either team.
Even so, Arenas still checks in as the highest-compensated player in Wizards history.
You can find Frank Urbina on Twitter at @frankurbina_.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.
All contract figures found on HoopsHype Salary database and Basketball Reference.
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