WNBA Players Make Less Than Their NBA Counterparts — A Lot Less

The biggest names in basketball are going to the WNBA, not the NBA, and it's time they get paid equally.

Brandon Charles - Author

Apr. 17 2024, Published 8:15 a.m. ET

The 2024 WNBA Draft class
Source: Getty Images

According to Fortune, in 2023, WNBA players made an average $113,295 base salary, with the highest salary in the league a little over $241,000. NBA players make an average of $9.7 million, with the highest salary coming in at $51.9 million. That base salary is 85 times more for NBA players. The highest-paid player is more than five times.

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With NCAA players Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese joining the WNBA, superstars who helped deliver the best ratings for any college basketball game, many people are wondering why they aren't paid nearly as much as NBA players. Maybe things will change once people see players like Caitlin and Angel in WNBA games. The 2024 WNBA draft featuring those players two drew an average of 2.45 million viewers — the most of any WNBA draft and an increase of 307 percent in viewership from last year.

Angel Reese and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft.
Source: Getty Images
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Solely based on financials, WNBA players may be underpaid but so are NBA players.

According to WSN, the WNBA made $60 million in revenue in 2023. The NBA made $10 billion in revenue in 2023. While WNBA players make 85 times less than NBA players, they should make 190 times less if their salaries were equally in line based on league-wide revenue. This is not an argument to pay WNBA players less, it’s an argument that both leagues underpay their players.

No matter how you want to do the math, you get paid a lot more to play in the NBA than the WNBA.

If a league generates $10 billion in revenue every year and the best players in both leagues make more from sponsorships than player salary (LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Caitlin Clark all make more money from sponsorships and endorsements than their on-court productivity) something is amiss. It's especially bad in the WNBA. At least no NBA player is playing overseas to make more money.

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Brittney Griner playing for the Mercury in 2023.
Source: Getty Images

The WNBA pay makes some of the best players play overseas.

Brittney Griner was supposed to make $228,000 playing in the year WNBA the year she was detained in Russia. The Sporting News reported that she was making $1 million a year playing in Russia.

While most WNBA players who also play overseas aren't unjustly imprisoned and made an example, it's telling that the best of the best have to leave their home country to make what they rightfully deserve.

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While basketball fans hoped WNBA salaries would at least come up to half of what the same players make overseas, it just hasn’t happened yet. The buzz around Caitlin could garner enough league-wide interest to see these athletes get paid what they deserve.

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese playing against each other on April 1, 2024
Source: Getty Images

Based on 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament ratings and WNBA 2024 Draft ratings, more people than ever are likely to watch 2024 WNBA games. Maybe the increased viewers will boost ad buys, ticket sales, and merchandise sales. Once the league is pulling in more than $60 million a year and gets closer to NBA financials, it's only a matter of time for superstars like Caitlin and Angel to get paid like LeBron and Stephen.

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