NBA vs NFL: Players of which sport get paid more? Looking at top contracts, deals, and more across the 2 sports

Stephen Curry and Russel Westbrook are two of the highest paid athletes in the NBA.
Stephen Curry and Russel Westbrook are two of the highest paid athletes in the NBA.

The NFL and the NBA are two of the biggest and most lucrative sporting leagues in the world. Recent years have seen both the leagues seeing a huge increase in the salaries and overall contracts, with multiple NBA players signing contracts worth more than $200 million in recent seasons.

At the same time, the NFL has a higher salary cap than the NBA, although that does not mean that players are better paid overall. This is because the league has a higher number of players in each team, with both leagues allowing a total of 32 teams. In this article, we look at which of the two leagues are more lucrative for professionals.


NBA vs NFL: Players of which league are paid more?

Currently, the two leagues have a range of similarities when it comes to the highest packages offered. The NFL’s highest earner is currently Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who will be earning around $45 million in the current season. He is followed by Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen and Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott as the only two players who will earn at least $40 million in the upcoming season.

At the same time, the NBA currently has exactly seven players who will be paid more than $40 million in the upcoming season. Stephen Curry leads the overall list across the two leagues as his contract guarantees him a salary of more than $45.7 million in the upcoming season. John Wall, Russell Westbrook’s new LA Lakers contract, James Harden and Damian Lillard are all guaranteed salaries of over $43 million in the upcoming season, which means that all of them would have been the highest earners if they had similar NFL contracts.

The other players who will be earning more than $40 million in the upcoming season are LeBron James and Kevin Durant, with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Klay Thompson all guaranteed salaries of more than $37 million for the 2021-22 NBA season.

The new Los Angeles Lakers duo are two of the highest-paid athletes in the NBA.
The new Los Angeles Lakers duo are two of the highest-paid athletes in the NBA.

Additionally, the fact that NBA players do not wear helmets means that they have a higher brand value around the world which makes them more marketable. Hence, not only are NBA players better paid than NFL players, they are also earning more via off-the-court activities in the form of endorsements and other brand deals.

While this makes sense to a great extent considering that NBA players have a significantly higher number of games to play in a season, the NFL currently is not as lucrative as the NBA. Finally, NBA players are only offered guaranteed contracts which means that they will have to be bought out by teams if they wish to not pay all salary dues.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar