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For most people, when you think of basketball, you think of the NBA. Nobody would blame you, as NBA teams are watched worldwide.
It’s a player’s dream to play in the NBA. The salaries are huge, which is a big attraction.
However, this does not mean overseas basketball leagues don’t pay well. Questions around salaries of overseas basketball players are tricky.
Unlike the NBA, most overseas basketball teams don’t disclose player’s salaries.
So, how much do overseas basketball players make?
The salary would range from zero to over 4 million US dollars a year. The European and Asian leagues lead the way in wages.
However, the salaries change greatly depending on the economy of the country and the popularity of the league.
Join me as I discuss how much overseas basketball players make. I’m a professional basketball player currently playing in Italy, so I have some first-hand experience to share.
Let’s dive right in.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make A Year
The exact basketball salary of overseas basketball players varies from one league to another. On average, players can receive from as low as zero to 4 million usd a year.
Can a player earn a zero salary? Yes, some players just play to gain experience and exposure. Basketball salaries vary depending on the league, country, playing resume, age, team urgency and local economy.
For example, most euroleague teams pay their players an average of 60k to 500k US dollars a year.
The basketball salaries change drastically when you move from the top basketball leagues to the lower tiers.
Basketball wages in overseas countries are a tricky subject as salaries are never made public.
Do Overseas Basketball Players Pay Taxes?
Tax is a big issue in sports that you need to be aware of. So, do overseas basketball players pay taxes? The short answer is NO!
This can be quite surprising, but for an overseas basketball player, what’s on the contract is what you get paid.
This is one of the most significant differences between an overseas basketball player and an NBA player.
On a side note, don’t miss our interesting take on why basketball is super popular in Indiana.
Playing basketball overseas can be exciting as the team pays taxes for you. Many overseas basketball leagues pay taxes for their players. What’s on the contract is what gets into your bank account.
So, if you want to play basketball professionally overseas, the tax issue might be a great motivation. In the NBA, the salaries are enormous, but you’ll be losing most to taxes and expenses.
Top 8 Highest Paying Overseas Basketball Leagues In 2023
Any overseas basketball player is always on the lookout for greener pastures. Whether starting or already playing, you want to know the highest paying basketball leagues.
The salaries vary depending on the professional basketball division you’re playing in. The top professional basketball division players earn the most, followed by the next tier and so on.
Basketball salaries also vary depending on several factors.
However, the average salary is almost the same in most basketball clubs. The variations come in a few players with exceptional resumes.
Let’s dig in deep and see how many overseas teams play in different leagues.
Highest Paid Basketball Players in Europe
The European basketball salaries are pretty decent, with most leagues paying an average of $500K to $800K per season. The highest-paid players are up to $4 million per season.
Most European basketball teams pay way better than an NBA G League.
The minimum budget for a European team is $6.5 million a year, while the max is 47 million usd a year. This gives us an average European salary of $14 million a season.
An import player will still earn a pretty decent salary per season.
These estimates are for a national basket league in different European countries. They are much lower when you move down the basketball divisions.
For professional players in Europe, you can be sure of living a pretty good life.
The Euroleague remains one of the highest paying overseas basketball leagues. Professional players overseas can even earn more than those in the NBA.
However, such players are few, and most have had experiences in the NBA. Most are former NBA players and play for the most successful teams in Europe.
For example, I currently play for Messina in Italy and my salary is far from being even close to the one of a pro NBA player. In general, playing in Europe is exciting and rewarding. The average European basketball salary is decent, considering there are no taxes.
Professional basketball players in Europe can lead a glamorous life like their compatriots in the NBA.
You can watch the video below to see how basketball players in the Euroleague earn.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Germany
Germany is one of the economic powerhouses in the world. You would expect the average salary of most basketball players in Germany to be pretty decent.
So, how much money do German basketball clubs pay?
The average salary for a basketball player in the German league is between $100K to $350K a year. The German BBL league hosts some of the top basketball teams participating in various European competitions.
Teams like Bayern Munich have budgets hitting up to $25 million a year. It is a top league that has paid former NBA player Greg Monroe up to 1 million USD a year.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Spain
Some of the highest paid basketball players in Europe can be found in Spain. The Spanish basketball league system boasts some of the top players playing for the top league.
You’ll find at least one or two successful NBA players in most teams in Spain. The teams boast some of the biggest budgets in Euro basketball salaries.
Teams like FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have budgets of up to 40 million US dollars a season. The average import salaries are between $200K to $500K a season.
However, the max salary for some players can hit up to 4 million US dollars a season when you add bonuses.
The Spanish league is among the best in Europe, with up to 4 teams competing in the Euroleague. It also boasts several foreign players making it an attractive place for players worldwide.
So, if you want to play professional basketball in Europe, Spain is a great place to take your career to the next level.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Turkey
Turkey also boasts some of the best Euroleague teams. While Turkey is not in the European Union, its teams play in the Euroleague.
As of the 2020/2021 season, Turkey had two teams playing in the Euroleague.
The average salary for basketball players in Turkey ranges from $250K to $500K a season. There are a total of 16 teams in the Turkish Basketball Super League.
There are players earning up to $2.4 million a season. Teams boast great NBA talents like Shane Larkin with a whopping $3.7 million in salary and bonuses.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Russia
The Russian VTB United League pays players handsomely. The average salary for an import player ranges from $200K-$450K a season.
Some of the top teams in Russia have huge budgets of up to $40 million per season.
Salaries of most players are on par with most professional leagues. Most players in the Russian leagues make solid incomes. It is one of the most successful leagues with former NBA players.
CSKA Moscow is the most successful team in Russia, with players earning up to $2.5 million per season.
Other big leagues in Europe with decent salaries are the Italian League and the Greek League. Players in Italy earn from $180K-$350K per season. Players like Olimpia Milano reach up to $2 million a season.
The Russian Basketball Super League is an excellent destination for players worldwide. The excellent basketball salaries offer great motivation for the cold Siberian weather.
The Greek League pays an average salary of $60K-$250K per season. However, there are a few players raking up to $1.8 million a season.
However, if the average salaries of basketball players in Europe are enticing you, wait and until you see how much China teams pay their players.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In China
The average salaries of basketball players in China are among the best in the pro basketball salaries. Some top teams earn way too more than those in the Euro leagues.
It has a huge following with over 500 million fans across the globe. Some of the best overseas players can be found in the Chinese league.
A great successful import in China is Stephon Marbury, with three titles, three seasons, and over $12 million in salaries. China allows two import players per team in China.
Stephon made the change to China and now has a shoe selling company and a statue.
The Chinese league is the only overseas basketball league that gets closer to the average NBA salary. You can expect pretty decent basketball salaries despite the regulations.
On average, import players earn up to $1 million to $3 million a year.
Another good example is Lance Stephenson, who earns an estimated $4 million per season playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards.
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is growing in stature with a total of 19 teams. It has a huge following that is growing per day, with most stars heading to China.
The Chinese Basketball Association has a limit on the number of imports and salaries teams can pay. Teams can sign up to 4 foreign players and [ay not more than $7 million per season.
This is quite attractive to NBA stars looking for a new experience.
Furthermore, a season in the Chinese league is shorter than most basketball leagues. It lasts 6 months which is ideal for most stars that need a break.
Most overseas leagues and the NBA last up to 9 months which can be tiring for players.
CBA teams are a force to reckon with when you compare top basketball leagues overseas. The huge basketball salaries keep on bringing the highest paid stars to China.
Overall, China remains the highest paying overseas basketball league in the world.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Israel
The Israeli basketball league is another excellent choice for players with good average salaries. It is famous for great results in Europe and is also known as the Winner’s League.
The league hosts 12 teams and is known for having some of the best talents. A professional basketball player in Israel will earn an average salary of $80K to $250K a season.
The league is home to the highest paying overseas basketball teams. A good example is Scottie Wilbekin, who earns an average of $1.7 million a season.
A six-figure income is common in the Israel league. For most overseas basketball players, playing in Israel presents a good opportunity to see the oldest civilization.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Australia
Just like many overseas basketball leagues, the Australian league does not offer public information on player salaries. However, the average professional basketball player will earn around $45K a season.
The average salary for Australian basketball players is around $106K a season.
There is a cap on the max salary teams can pay, set at $1.03 million. Teams paying above the set limits receive a tax on the excess payment.
The basketball salaries for import players are a little high ranging from $120K to $250K a season.
There are rumors of a professional basketball player (Bryce Cotton) being paid over $400K a season. However, you can never tell the exact figures since the information is private.
The Australian National Basketball League is quite exciting, with import players making a max salary of up to $500K after incentives.
How Much Do Overseas Basketball Players Make In Japan
There have been huge improvements in the Japanese Basketball League over the years. A merger of two leagues in 2016 saw great improvement and huge salary increases.
The average basketball salary in Japan is $147K per season, which is pretty good. The basketball salaries are even better for players in the most successful team.
Players in the Japan National team earn up to $417K per season.
You can also find import players making up to $1 million a season. While living standards are pretty high in Japan, players have little to worry about.
Most teams cover most of these expenses, making Japan an attractive league for foreign players.
So, if you want to play basketball overseas, Japan is a good choice. Average basketball salaries are between $120K a season to $300K a season.
As a related read, check out my article on the top 3 European NBA superstars.
Highest Paid Overseas Basketball Players
There has been an upsurge in the budgets of most EuroLeague teams. This has led to even bigger salaries for players. In Europe, FC Barcelona leads with the highest paid player.
Nikola Mirotic, wearing a jersey with the number 33 earns the highest salary per year of up to 3.8 Million US dollars.
This changes greatly when you compare Nikola to the highest NBA player. For example, NBA players like LeBron James from La Lakers earn up to 33 million USD gross a year. The same goes for other NBA stars such as Lamar Odom.
He remains the highest paid player in the world. You can see the huge variation in salaries.
These are a dozen of players that have become multi-millionaires playing for top national leagues in Europe.
Check out the following table of famous players and their earnings/salaries in Europe as of 2021:
|NIKOLA MIROTIC (Spain)
|3.8 Million US Dollars
|SHANE LARKIN (Turkey)
|3.7 Million US Dollars
|NIKOLA MILUTINOV (Russia)
|2.5 Million US Dollars
|MIKE JAMES (Russia)
|2.5 Million US Dollars
|ALEXEY SHVED (Russia)
|2.5 Million US Dollars
|NANDO DE COLO (Turkey)
|2.4 Million US Dollars
|JAN VESELY (Turkey)
|2.2 Million US Dollars
|SERGIO LLULL (Spain)
|2 Million US Dollars
|WALTER TAVARES (Spain)
|2 Million US Dollars
|CORRY HIGGINS (Spain)
|2 Million US Dollars
However, you’ll find most of these players have amazing resumes. Most of them might be former NBA players, NCAA graduates, veterans with over 5 years of experience, or are highly established and have experienced overseas agents.
Former NBA players like Mike James earn a pretty decent salary because of their resume and huge experience.
This shows the great value the overseas basketball leagues place on NBA players. Many successful NBA players end their playing careers overseas.
Import Players vs. Domestic players
The American Basketball Association does not have restrictions on the number of imported players. However, this is not the case for many overseas basketball leagues.
In the NBA or NBA G league, teams can sign players as they want.
The rules change for most overseas teams where there are restrictions on the number of import players. The definition of an import player changes depending on the basketball league you play in.
However, it usually refers to a player with a passport outside the country they are playing in.
A good example of an import player is an American playing in the Chinese league. A domestic league player is one playing in their home country.
In most cases, import players get paid much better than domestic players. However, there are a few cases where a domestic player overseas is paid much better than important foreign players.
How To Play Basketball Overseas?
Playing overseas can be fun and exciting. The overseas basketball salaries are also pretty decent and enticing.
Most overseas basketball leagues have shorter seasons than the NBA giving players enough breaks. So, how do you start a career in basketball overseas?
Are you struggling for opportunities in the overseas basketball leagues? You need to start your search for professional placement programs. Sometimes, playing for a zero salary to showcase your skills makes sense.
However, you need to be aware of some important things a national basketball league overseas will check. Those include but are not limited to:
- Some experience playing professionally or from university
- Statistics from a competitive league, the G league
- A video of yourself in a competitive game. The video needs to be of the last one or two seasons.
- A CV/resume that showcases your experience as a basketball player.
These are just a few of the things most overseas basketball teams check when recruiting new players.
Season Lengths For Overseas Basketball Leagues
The season lengths for most overseas basketball leagues are another great motivation to play professional basketball overseas. Most teams in the NBA play for more than 9 months a year.
This is a whole year of games without rest and breaks. Of course, players like LeBron James, who is the highest paid NBA player, might not complain about it.
For a skillful basketball player overseas, the short season is quite good.
However, in the overseas leagues, seasons are shorter, and players have enough free time to spend with their families. For example, a season in China ends in a mere 5-6 months.
So, when you compare the average overseas basketball salaries and season lengths, the pay seems pretty good. The highest paid player in China will have enough free time compared to one in the NBA.
About The Data
The data on player salaries in our article is between 2018 to 2021. Most of it is bound to change due to the effects of Covid-19.
The data gives an average of what players earn, with most leagues keeping player salaries a secret.
The term overseas in the article refers to players playing basketball outside America. The G league and NBA are not considered overseas.
However, someone in the Euro league might consider basketball outside his home country overseas.
The most successful team overseas will usually pay max salary and have the highest paid stars. The success brings more exposure and more income for the team, hence the huge salaries.
Overall, overseas basketball players make pretty good money. However, the highest paid basketball players (cigar aficionados Steph Curry or LeBron James) can be found in the NBA, with a max salary hitting close to $30 million per season.