Athletes Unlimited Basketball League is a brand new model launched this year in the US. The five-week pro hoops season runs from January 26 to February 26, 2022 at Sport Center of Las Vegas. The league is known best for its “Shorter season. Higher stakes. More opportunity.” So what does that mean in terms of what Athletes Unlimited basketball players make? Today we take a look at the Athletes Unlimited basketball salary.
Since the WNBA launched in 1997, most WNBA players have competed overseas in the winter months in order to earn higher salaries. While the AU league does not compete with top overseas salary, nor with WNBA salaries, it’s an option for players looking to be with family or to be home to still earn income playing the sport they love.
Before we get into the Athletes Unlimited Basketball pay, let’s put it into the context of the other pro women’s hoops league in the US. Today the lowest paid players in the WNBA, the new class of rookies, will be brought into the league with a 2022 salary of $61,049 to $76,297. The league runs for about five months, and each team will compete in 36 games during the regular season. On the lowest end, that works out to roughly $3,000 per week and $1,685 per game, with the opportunity for added award money based on team and individual performance (tends to top out around $25,000, and averages closer to $0).
At the other end of the scale, the highest paid WNBA players in 2022 are set to make $228,094 (plus bonuses) – or about $11,500 per week and $6,335 per game. Of course, both categories of player make a little less per game when you factor in that the post season is likely to add additional games.
Just to be clear, before we jump into AU, what’s extra exciting is that hoopers can actually participate in all three options: WNBA, overseas, and AU. For example, this year Athletes Unlimited hooper and member of the player executive committee Natasha Cloud will play for AU, compete in the WNBA, and also played overseas in Jordan for about a month.
Similarly, with Athletes Unlimited, all competitors are provided a base salary and bonuses based on their performance. Athletes Unlimited Basketball pays an average base salary of $20,000 in 2022, Cofounder and CEO Jon Patricof told Erica L. Ayala for Forbes – which works out to about $4,000 per week. However there is a high clip of total games: 30, meaning 15 games for each team and player. That works out to $1,333 per game (close to what a WNBA rookie makes), which is perhaps a better way to look at it – considering every time an athlete steps on the floor they risk injury which could threaten their future earning potential.
While Athletes Unlimited Basketball base salaries can be negotiated, they don’t stray far from the average. However top performers during the season can make upward of $50,000, including bonuses (that’s $10,000 per week and $3,333 per game – a little more than half of what a top-scale WNBA player makes). Additionally – and part of what makes this league really special – those bonuses are matched up to 50% and designated to nonprofit causes of the athletes’ choice.
The other key difference in the Athletes Unlimited pays is that the players’ housing, transportation, and “most meals” are covered. That’s a huge amount of value. Plus, other benefits include childcare and accommodations for athletes’ families to join them during the season, as the entire league is played in a single location.
But the players’ earning potential doesn’t stop there. The hoopers are also part of a profit pool that entitles them to a share in the success of the league for the next 20 years. “Our vision and our belief is that the players who are playing today should share long-term in the profits of the venture that they’re creating,” Jon Patricof said. “Their efforts today are gonna help us build what we believe will be a very long-term successful business.”
So how do players get to be a top performer and qualify for bonuses? Athletes score points as individuals and as a team to win MVP titles and cash bonuses. Each week, players and fans get a chance to vote for their MVP. Teams even get points for winning quarters – so every minute of play counts. At the end of the season, the top four athletes receive medals, and the athlete with the most points is crowned the champion.
The leaderboard shows how many total points each player has, and provides a break down of their win points (points earned when their team wins quarters and games), stat points (points earned for offensive and defensive plays), and MVP points (points earned via MVP votes by players and fans). Learn more about how the scoring system works.
“To be able to have those few months off, get back into working out, then have five weeks of AU, it not only offsets that financial responsibility that we take on for our families and to provide, but also… it’s protecting our bodies, protecting the longevity of our careers,” said Natasha Cloud.
“I think it’s a perfect match for the [WNBA]. To be able to keep players home and make sure they’re getting adequate care and treatment, that they’re still working out and playing at a high level against competition, it benefits the investment of the W.”
Don’t miss the quality product on the floor. Here’s how to watch Athletes Unlimited Basketball. Check out Game 1 to get started:
Header photo captured by Jade Hewitt for Athletes Unlimited.