Over the past few decades, the NBA has become a particularly big business. Media contracts, sponsorships and other revenue streams have seen teams and players raise many billions of dollars.
And being a superstar player is terribly lucrative.
Since the 2000-01 season through the 2022-23 campaign, eight players have surpassed $300 million in total NBA earnings. It even includes two players who began their careers in the 1990s, yet reached the impressive mark in seasons after 2000.
The list, which unsurprisingly ends with LeBron James, is strictly based on career NBA earnings and in ascending order.
All contract data is from Mocking.
Earnings since 2000: $301,660,574
Whether he plays another minute for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2023-2024 is an open question, but James Harden’s time with the franchise included joining the rare $300 million club.
And that journey has been fascinating.
Harden began his NBA career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded him to the Houston Rockets after three seasons. The left wing became an elite scorer in Houston, where he stayed for eight plus years. Harden has since played for the Brooklyn Nets and Sixers.
To date, Harden has collected his highest single-year salary ($35.8 million) while securing first-team All-NBA honors in 2019-20.
Earnings since 2000: $302,806,362
The greatest shooter in NBA history, Stephen Curry, jumped past $300 million almost on the same day as Harden.
Curry has spent all 14 seasons of his career with the Golden State Warriors, guiding them to four championships along the way. He has also won a pair of league MVPs along with a Finals MVP honor in 2022.
Back in 2017, he signed a five-year, $201.2 million contract — the largest deal in NBA history at the time. After the 2022 season, Curry signed a four-year, $215.4 million deal.
He must surpass $400 million in career earnings during the 2024-25 campaign and is due $59.6 million follow year.
Earnings since 2000: $303,566,235
Despite not counting the first five seasons of his career, Kevin Garnett still matched the criteria in the new millennium.
Fittingly, Garnett’s highest-paid season — $28 million in 2003-04 — doubled as his MVP-winning year. He averaged career-best totals of 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks that season, along with 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Longevity otherwise brought the Minnesota Timberwolves legend and Boston Celtics icon over $300 million.
Garnett only had a salary of $20 million for six years of his Hall of Fame career, but earned less than $11.5 million only twice in the 2000s.
Note: Garnett’s total career earnings were $334.3 million.
Earnings since 2000: $310,811,067
Among the 20 seasons of Kobe Bryant’s time in the NBA, 16 of them count towards the criteria.
Time for a technicality!
Our sensible but arbitrary cutoff is why Kobe ends up above Garnett. Although the latter had $334.3 million in his career compared to the former’s $323.3 million, Bryant pocketed about $7 million more after the 2000-01 season began.
He crossed the $20 million mark in 2008-09 and stayed there for eight seasons, peaking at $30.5 million in 2013-14. Kobe finished his prolific career as a five-time NBA champion and 15-time All-NBA selection.
Earnings since 2000: $336,430,062
Russell Westbrook is a prime example of players who have benefited from the NBA’s tremendous revenue growth.
As his rookie deal neared its end, Westbrook signed a maximum five-year extension worth $78.6 million. His next contract – five seasons at $206.8 million – surpassed Curry as the largest in NBA history.
Good job if you can get it!
Although he’s still chasing a first championship starting in 2023, Westbrook is headed for the Hall of Fame as a nine-time All-NBA selection who secured the league’s MVP in 2016-17.
Earnings since 2000: $350,297,591
You see that number. The craziest thing, however, is that Kevin Durant has actually left money on the table.
When he left Oklahoma City for Golden State, he didn’t sign max contracts. Durant continued to accept below-market deals to keep the Warriors’ core together — and that helped lead to two NBA titles.
Mission accomplished, I’d say. He left both of the Dubs’ championship runs as the Finals MVP.
Durant finally made a max offer in 2019, joining the Brooklyn Nets on a four-year, $164.3 million deal in a sign-and-trade. His most recent extension — one signed in Brooklyn before joining the Phoenix Suns — is worth $194.2 million over four seasons.
Earnings since 2000: $359,109,419
One of the most annoying defenders of this era, Chris Paul has carried that annoyance into several big paydays.
After his rookie deal, Paul signed a $63.6 million max contract with the New Orleans Hornets in 2008. He received a five-year max extension worth $107.3 million with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013 and followed that with a $159.7 max deal with Houston in 2018.
And those contracts have CP3 on the verge of an exclusive club.
In his debut season with Golden State, he will receive $30.8 million. Because he has a non-guaranteed contract through 2024-2025, Paul may need a new deal. Assuming it’s worth $10.1 million or more, though, he and Durant will join LeBron in the $400 million club.
Earnings since 2000: $431,859,107
To the shock of absolutely no one, LeBron James headlines the list.
He’s not the only one LeBron scared James, he is the longest-tenured player of the 2000s. The King entered the NBA in 2003, so he has signed nine contracts across his 20 combined seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Cavs again and the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron, as Durant did in Golden State several years later, took a discount with Miami to allow for a stronger roster. This strategy also paid dividends on the court with two NBA titles.
Over the past decade, James has prioritized short-term contracts that have maximized both his salary and flexibility (read: leverage).
After collecting $47.6 million in 2023-2024, he’s on the verge of half a billion dollars in NBA earnings. Considering that Bronny James could make his NBA debut in 2024-2025, there is a real chance that LeBron will achieve that outstanding number while playing alongside his son.