Top Earners in NBA History: 54 Players Who Have Made More Than Michael Jordan
The NBA has handed out some serious wads of cash to its players.
While some of the names on this list, like Shaquille O'Neal, are hardly shocking to most, others, like Juwan Howard, may really surprise when you read just how much money they have accrued over their careers.
All of the players listed accrued more money than Michael Jordan over the tenure of their time in the league, and it's hard to imagine anyone being worth more to a team than the greatest player of all-time.
Since the 1990s, the landscape of salaries has really changed in the NBA, and these inflated deals have gotten out of hand. In fact, player salaries are among the most critical points in negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement, which has separated the players and the league and made another NBA lockout look very likely.
Note: All salaries were compiled using Basketball Reference.
55. Michael Jordan
Career Earnings: $90,235,000
Michael Jordan is the greatest player in the history of the NBA, and it’s a shame to see so many lesser players earn more than he did during his playing days.
It’s amazing to see how the salary structure in the league has changed over time, and this final slide should illustrate that point rather emphatically.
54. Joe Johnson
Career Earnings: $91,313,901
Joe Johnson has received a lot of flak for not being a “maximum contract player," but he’s definitely performed better than the Celtics thought.
With all of the money that’s still owed to him, it’d be surprising not to see him among the highest earners when his career is wrapped up.
53. Andrei Kirilenko
Career Earnings: $91,447,414
Kirilenko rewarded a Utah Jazz team that gave him an insane multi-year contract by delivering inconsistency and disappointment over the last few seasons.
At one point, he was a very talented player, so maybe he just needs to cut his hair so he can actually see the hoop once again.
52. Yao Ming
Career Earnings: $93,390,336
Yao Ming might not ever play another game in the NBA again, but I’m fairly certain he’d have enough money to get by.
It’s amazing how much money a person can make if he is of extraordinary height, but it’s really incredible to think that he’s going to make more than Jordan regardless of whether or not he ever plays again.
51. Erick Dampier
Career Earnings: $97,113,349
Erick Dampier was never a star and, frankly, he reached his ceiling as an above-average center.
Can someone please explain to me how he weaseled his way into more than $97 million over his career? As Chad Ochocinco would say: “child please!” That’s just ridiculous.
50. Peja Stojakovic
Contract Earnings: $97,956,720
Peja Stojakovic was bought out earlier this season and the Mavericks didn’t need to dole out the big bucks to bring him aboard.
Why? Because he’s already received plenty of money for his career accomplishments. The numbers don’t lie.
49. Lamar Odom
Career Earnings: $98,867,658
Lamar Odom is better known by some as Khloe Kardashian’s husband than as the Lakers sixth man, but that doesn’t seem to bother him one bit.
Between the amount of money he’s collected in his career and what Khloe is worth, I’m pretty sure any kids they have won’t struggle too hard at any point in their lives.
48. Pau Gasol
Career Earnings: $99,574,396
Pau Gasol is often critiqued for being soft and lacking a killer instinct, but perhaps the White Swan just doesn’t have the mentality to be mean.
He’s got more than 99 million reasons to be the nicest guy in the world, so maybe he should pretend like he’s motivated to earn even more in order to reacquire the fire in his eye.
47. Damon Stoudamire
Career Earnings: $99,672,198
Mighty Mouse might have seen his career end on a sour note, but his career earnings leave nothing but the sweetest taste in his mouth.
Stoudamire was a personal favorite of mine, and I still don’t believe that there will be a similar point guard of his mold any time soon.
46. Gilbert Arenas
Career Earnings: $100,637,492
Gilbert Arenas used to be a downright superstar, but now he’s just a $20 million-plus role player and the owner of the worst contract in the league.
He’s still owed more than $60 million on his current deal and has already racked up triple digits (in the millions) to this point during his playing days.
45. Michael Redd
Career Earnings: $100,682,819
Michael Redd has made over $100 million in his career, and he made more than $18 million last season despite sitting out the majority of the year with an injury.
That’s some of the best worker’s compensation that I’ve ever seen in my life.
44. Eddie Jones
Career Earnings: $101,254,222
Eddie Jones was the starting two-guard in Los Angeles long before the Black Mamba came into town, but I don’t think he feels too bad about being overshadowed.
He was gift-wrapped more than $100 million for his services before hanging ‘em up to enjoy the good life.
43. Reggie Miller
Career Earnings: $101,311,748
Reggie Miller might have had his three-point record broken by Ray Allen earlier this season, but Pacers fans still remember him as the greatest shooter from deep to ever play the game.
At least he had a large impact on his franchise, because for $101 million, I’d like to see a positive return on that investment.
42. Jalen Rose
Career Earnings: $102,438,250
Jalen Rose might be most known for being a member of the “Fab 5," but people often forget what a prolific career he enjoyed in the NBA.
He collected over $102 million despite never standing out as an elite talent, which speaks more to the grotesque landscape of salaries in the league than anything else.
41. Steve Francis
Career Earnings: $103,501,131
Stevie Francis was nicknamed “The Franchise” because he was supposed to represent the team for years into the future.
He enjoyed some successful seasons and was a fairly promising talent, but the yield returned from this investment wasn’t one that the team would like to repeat in the future.
40. Karl Malone
Career Earnings: $104,133,378
The Mailman might not have ever delivered on an NBA ring, but he certainly brought home the bacon.
Accruing over $104 million during his playing days, it’s no wonder that he’s got such an extensive Harley-Davidson collection.
39. Gary Payton
Career Earnings: $104,367,619
Gary Payton earned his nickname of “The Glove” because he was such a pesky defender.
But it’s not surprising considering the fact that he needed something to catch all of those heavy paychecks with.
38. Mike Bibby
Career Earnings: $105,741,440
Mike Bibby gave up over $6 million guaranteed to join the Miami Heat this season, but it’s really not that great of a sacrifice when you look at how much he’s made in his career.
Isn’t it amazing the types of deals that a player can land when he’s drafted second overall? Bibby has never come close to being an elite talent at his position.
37. Hakeem Olajuwon
Career Earnings: $107,011,426
Hakeem Olajuwon collected fat paychecks in an era when they just weren’t as prevalent as they are in today’s game.
Arguably the greatest center of all-time, he’s regarded as a guru around the league to this day. They don’t just give out the nickname of “The Dream” to anybody.
36. Steve Nash
Career Earnings: $107,346,058
Steve Nash has only played for two teams throughout his incredible career, but neither one has been shy about paying him what he deserves.
Maybe the hairy-chested point guard can get a fresh wax job when he’s enjoying retirement in order to even out his tan.
35. Shawn Marion
Career Earnings: $107,502,663
Shawn Marion’s nickname is the “The Matrix”, and perhaps it’s because that’s exactly the type of mathematical analysis one needs to figure out how he came up on so much dough.
He would’ve made even more had he not rejected a very fair contract extension from the Suns back in the day, but all is well that ends well for Marion.
34. Marcus Camby
Career Earnings: $107,797,072
Marcus Camby may or may not have been collecting some extra benefits during his time at UMass, but I’m guessing that even the most lavish of gifts didn’t equate to what he’s making at the professional level.
Still a shot-swatting machine at the end of the line, Camby has made a very nice living playing the game of basketball.
33. Antoine Walker
Career Earnings: $108,142,015
How does a guy make over $108 million in his career and go broke? Just ask Antoine Walker.
He’s now attempting a comeback in the D-League since he’s managed to spend his large fortune, but I’m guessing that, even if he manages to make another appearance, it won’t be on a lucrative deal.
32. Kenyon Martin
Career Earnings: $108,284,447
A former first-overall selection out of Cincinnati, it’s hard to imagine that K-Mart is worth all of the money that he’s received over his career.
In fact, I have absolutely no idea what made Denver think it was such a good idea to give him such a large contract when it did. He may have showed a lot of promise, but there was very little in terms of proven production.
31. Scottie Pippen
Career Earnings: $109,192,430
Scottie Pippen will be best remembered for playing the Robin to Jordan’s Batman, but No. 33 actually pulled in almost $20 million more than MJ did during his playing days.
It’s pretty remarkable that he was able to make more than Jordan, but there’s no doubt that Pippen is one of the greatest ever to grace the hardwood.
30. Brian Grant
Career Earnings: $109,842,052
Brian Grant will go down in NBA history as the most overpaid role player ever.
And if you think I’m kidding, just take a look at the insane yearly salary he collected with the Heat in order to gain a better understanding.
29. Antonio McDyess
Career Earnings: $113,998,859
Antonio McDyess is still giving it his all in the twilight of his career, but just one look at his career earnings is an easy indicator as to his reason.
He was a beast in the early part of his career, and fans should take a moment to check out some of his earlier highlights to see just how dominant he was.
28. Allan Houston
Career Earnings: $117,556,500
If Allan Houston played in today’s NBA, I can’t even imagine how much more money he would have made.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea that he collected more than Karl Malone.
27. Baron Davis
Career Earnings: $117,590,802
Baron Davis’ beard might be the best looking one I’ve seen in professional sports, but he’s got all of the money in the world to keep it well-conditioned.
Despite being constantly pestered by injury and lacking a work ethic at times, B-Diddy is going to be among the highest-paid players in history when his career comes to a close.
26. Rashard Lewis
Career Earnings: $117,744,496
Rashard Lewis was supposed to be a superstar for the Orlando Magic, but now he’s playing for Washington, so that should tell you everything that you need to know about how that one panned out for the Magic.
But before that juncture, Lewis was a legitimate stud in the making up in Seattle, so it’s easy to see why Orlando sought to pay him the big bucks.
25. David Robinson
Career Earnings: $118,135,623
David Robinson was one of the founding members of the “Twin Towers," and will forever be a face of the San Antonio franchise.
He may have earned less than Duncan, but in terms of the team’s history, the two are clearly 1A and 1B.
24. Penny Hardaway
Career Earnings: $120,469,142
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was a magician on the court, and although his career came to a halt rather abruptly, I don’t think he’ll be going broke any time soon.
He made more than $120 million and got a whole lot more than that with his endorsement deals as well.
23. Patrick Ewing
Career Earnings: $123,843,120
Patrick Ewing is the best defensive center ever, so it’s amazing to consider that he made less than half of Shaq’s total earnings.
It’s not a surprise that Dwight Howard is the closest thing we’ve seen to Ewing on the defensive end, considering that the two work together all season long in Orlando.
22. Antawn Jamison
Career Earnings: $124,717,193
Antawn Jamison was a silky smooth power forward during the prime of his career, and he is one of the more underrated players in recent memory.
This guy had range for days, and on his best nights he could go toe-to-toe with anyone at the position.
21. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Career Earnings: $124,487,723
I’m just as shocked about Big Z as everyone reading this.
This guy is a great human being and was an integral player on Cleveland for many seasons, but I’m floored by the fact that this guy is among the top 25 highest earners in history.
20. Elton Brand
Career Earnings: $126,118,550
Elton Brand is one of the most overpaid players in the NBA today, but he wasn’t always delivering such pedestrian numbers.
During his time with both the Bulls and Clippers, Brand was a much more explosive player than he’s ever been with the Sixers.
19. Vince Carter
Career Earnings: $134,093,315
Vince Carter has really experienced a major drop-off in production as of late, but fortunately his performance doesn’t correlate to his salary.
Being the owner of the best slam dunk of all-time and having more than $134 million sounds like a good living to me.
18. Grant Hill
Career Earnings: $134,379,650
Grant Hill was on his way to being one of the most recognizable figures in league history until the injury bug began to bite.
This guy was as recognizable as Jordan to every NBA fan when each was in their prime, and you couldn’t find a more likable and well-respected man in the league.
17. Paul Pierce
Career Earnings: $137,362,539
“The Truth” may not always be giving us full disclosure in regards to injuries he’s playing with, but he manages to find a way to get it done on almost every single night.
He’s spent his entire career with the Celtics, and they’ve handed out a lot of green to him to re-enforce the fact that he’s a member of the family despite having roots in Los Angeles.
16. Michael Finley
Career Earnings: $138,576,839
How did Finley ever earn so much money?
It's hard to imagine that he got so many lucrative deals without ever really standing out as an elite talent in the league, but when you're a swingman who can shoot it from the outside, you're clearly a coveted asset.
15. Dirk Nowitzki
Career Earnings: $141,342,603
Nowitzki has been compared to almost every great white basketball player that came before him, and it's too bad because he's really in a class of his own.
He transformed the power-forward position in great new ways and he is going to be remembered as one of the best international ballers of all-time.
14. Dikembe Mutombo
Career Earnings: $143,666,581
Mutombo was one of the greatest ambassadors to the league that it will ever know, and a good portion of his large earnings will be dedicated to philanthropic work.
He made the finger wave famous, and apparently his teams paid him to register his trademark rather frequently.
13. Alonzo Mourning
Career Earnings: $143,906,333
Zo is going to be remembered as one of the toughest players to ever take the hardwood.
He has a lifetime ticket to any Miami Heat game in South Beach that he'd ever like to attend, and there's no doubt that he did a lot of good things for the franchise that treated him like a king.
12. Juwan Howard
Career Earnings: $150,113,452
Juwan Howard has made more than $150 million in his career. Let that sink in for a minute.
This guy not only made more than Michael Jordan, but he's No. 12 of players all-time in terms of money garnered strictly from the contract.
11. Stephon Marbury
Career Earnings: $151,115,945
Marbury was paid handsomely by the New York Knicks for not playing for the team.
In fact, Starbury didn't even have to show up to the games since he was banned by his own club after repeated acts of insubordination.
10. Allen Iverson
Career Earnings: $154,494,445
Allen Iverson enjoyed a fruitful career in Philadelphia before it all went downhill.
The Answer provided excitement to a franchise that desperately needed it, as he really elevated the team from the doldrums where it otherwise would have been.
9. Rasheed Wallace
Career Earnings: $156,758,400
Sheed was a very talented big man capable of doing several things on the court, but I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that he made so much money.
He clearly had too much of it, as evidenced by the heated bathroom floor featured on his MTV Cribs episode that cost him approximately $8,000.
8. Jermaine O'Neal
Career Earnings: $159,215,640
Jermaine O'Neal has spent nearly half of his life in the NBA, and in 15 years of work, he has nearly $160 million to show for it.
That's not too bad for a guy who is just 32 years old and already contemplating retirement.
7. Tracy McGrady
Career Earnings: $161,626,097
Before his career was riddled with injuries, T-Mac was an explosive player and an elite talent.
He was a highly-coveted piece to any-and-every championship puzzle, and I hope that the McGrady we see in 2012 reminds us of the one that we saw during his early tenure with the Houston Rockets.
6. Jason Kidd
Career Earnings: $174,464,468
Jason Kidd is an elite talent at his position, so it's not surprising that he ranks in the top 10 on this list.
What is surprising, though, is the fact that Kidd earned almost $200 million in just contract money alone.
5. Chris Webber
Career Earnings: $178,230,697
The majority of Webber's earnings came in from one of the largest contracts ever signed in professional sports, but it's not like C-Webb didn't deserve it.
He was a prolific power forward and a double-double threat on a nightly basis who really wreaked havoc on the opposition's front court.
4. Tim Duncan
Career Earnings: $183,544,536
Timmy D has been one of the most productive players at his position since he entered into the NBA, and although he's nearing the end of the line, he's been worth every penny invested.
It's not all that often you see a player stay with the same team throughout his entire career anymore, but I'd be hard-pressed to say that the Spurs didn't like the return on the investment that they received.
3. Kobe Bryant
Career Earnings: $196,190,615
The Black Mamba has made a ton of money in his professional career, and he's the closest thing to Michael Jordan that the league might ever see.
Let me make it clear: Bryant is not on the same level as Jordan. Nobody is. But I'm sure that His Airness wouldn't have minded if he made another $100 million.
2. Kevin Garnett
Career Earnings: $270,115,354
Kevin Garnett is one of the most influential people to ever step onto a basketball court, because when he entered the game, the power-forward position was changed forever.
Spending his career as an absolute beast on both ends of the floor, Garnett made the lives of his opponents a living nightmare in every game they played.
1. Shaquille O'Neal
Career Earnings: $292,198,327
Shaq Daddy tops the list with almost $300 million to his credit from contracts alone, but is anyone really surprised?
O'Neal changed the center position forever with his dominant destruction in the middle, and there wasn't anyone like him for a very, very long time.