Today we’re going to reveal the lowest paid WNBA players this year, as part three of our WNBA salary series. For some reason, “the people” want to know this! Our hope is that the league will continue working hard to ensure even the least paid players make more every year.
Deloitte predicts elite women’s sport revenues could top almost a billion dollars next year. “Women’s sports events have demonstrated their mass-market appeal, and thus monetary potential, on multiple occasions…In sports where men’s and women’s games have relatively equal marketing support, their commercial impact has been roughly equivalent.” And we’d like to see as much of that money as possible go into our players’ pockets, especially the least paid ones.
Just to recap, we believe in order to be fairly compensated, you need to know what to ask for. And while agents negotiate on players’ behalves, knowing your own worth ensures you get more of the type of monetary gain you deserve. That’s why, for office professionals for example, sites that provide pay transparency like Glassdoor have been so clutch in addressing pay gaps. Basically, knowledge is power!
So today, we break down potential revenue streams for our beloved female athletes. And approximate what some of them might have made during a peak playing year. In addition to their WNBA yearly salaries, there are other variables in the equation: endorsement deals, overseas contracts, and merit bonuses awarded to each player based on their individual and team achievements.
What stands out for our lowest paid players in particular, is just how much it hurts to not have the cushion of endorsement deals. Securing overseas playing spots is obviously a close second, but that’s something they seemingly have a little more control over.
Before we get started, let’s set some ground rules: We used 2020 salaries as the springboard for our rankings. We did not include revenue sharing in our calculations, which jumps from the current 20 percent to 50 percent in 2021 per the recent CBA. Also, there was no 2020 All-Star game, which would’ve netted players chosen a bonus of $2,575. Now that you’re locked in, let’s see the results.
Rookies typically earn the least money, and the minimum rookie salary is $57,000 this year. While there are more than 10 players making the minimum salary, the most interesting thing we found about the lowest paid WNBA players is that not all of them are rookies.
The other unfortunately non-surprising factor is that, to supplement their trivial WNBA income, nearly all of them play (or have played) overseas at one point or another. So how did we choose the lowest paid players?
The criteria gets a little muddy, but we based it on seasons playing overseas and/or little to no merit award money. Overseas money varies greatly depending on the player, but as an average, a WNBA player makes at least 3 times more than their stateside salary, so we’ll go with a “modest” $171,000 per season for overseas gigs. Of course, athletes don’t always see all their endorsement earnings in a single year, but we’ve included the guesstimated total amount for simplification.
While these might not necessarily be the exact total pay figures, we did the best we could directionally to surface a range of lower paid players. Regardless, we’d like to see these multi-talented, amazing players making more.
With the kind of stats Victoria boasts, it’s a shame she isn’t paid more by the league. Currently in her third season with the Indiana Fever, Victoria had to sit out the 2019 season after she tore her ACL while playing in Israel. And sit out for about half of the 2020 season. But that doesn’t take away from her talent. In her rookie WNBA season, she sunk an incredible 65 three-pointers. Plus she was the Number 2 rookie rebounder and number 3 rookie scorer in Indiana’s history!
The Fever did not make it to the playoffs in 2020, so Victoria didn’t earn any merit bonus cash.
Victoria has played two seasons in Israel, injuring her ACL in 2019 which caused her to sit out the 2019 WNBA season. But once she healed, she went back to the Maccabi Bnot Ashdod team she played for previously. In order to get ready for the WNBA season. Sadly, however, she re-injured that same knee, this time with a meniscus tear, so it’s unknown whether or not she’ll play this season overseas.
As endorsement deals for WNBA players are few and far between, Vivians has no current contracts we could find.
Despite being expected to be chosen in the second round of the 2019 draft, Kiara was swooped up by the Washington Mystics as the Number 10 pick in round one. According to coach Mike Thibault, they were laser-focused on the NC State guard “for quite some time.” Unfortunately, she had to sit out her first year in the league due to a knee injury, but she was back in form for the 2020 season, twice scoring a season-high 11 points for the team.
The Mystics scored a playoff berth in 2020, but they were defeated by the Phoenix Mercury in Round 1. Still, this merit bonus added another $1,136 to Leslie’s earnings.
While Kiara has yet to play abroad, she’s already signed with the SIG (Sports International Group) Agency in hopes of joining a team during the 2021 off-season. We’ve no doubt, with her deft skill, she’ll be sinking hoops across the pond in no time!
Kiara currently doesn’t have any endorsement deals.
Despite being in her 3rd season in the league and winning two championships with the Seattle Storm, Jordin only brings in the WNBA minimum. Some of her other numerous achievements include leading the league with 2.7 steals per game. And scoring an incredible 26 points in her very first playoff game. Both in the 2019 season. Plus, she played an average of more than 20 minutes per game in 2020, the year her team won the Championship ring. That’s a lot of hard work for not a lot of cash.
Jordin Canada adds to her lower wages with merit bonuses. Being a team member of the 2020 title-winning Seattle Storm put another $11,356 in her bank.
Though Jordin played abroad in Turkey for the 2018-2019 season, she hasn’t played overseas since.
Currently, Jordin doesn’t have any endorsement contracts that we could find.
The Minnesota Lynx guard has been in the league for 3 seasons, yet still earns the minimum salary. She scored an incredible 26 points against the Indiana Fever, and was a stand-out player at Duke. She started her career with the Connecticut Sun in 2018 as a first round, 9th overall draft pick.
As Lexi Brown has yet to be with a team who’ve made the playoffs, she hasn’t yet made any award bonuses.
Since 2018, Lexi has played overseas for Hungary, Germany, and currently, Israel. If we take our estimation of the average overseas contract at $171,000, we’ll add that amount to her current earnings.
Although she doesn’t have any endorsement deals, a fun (and possibly profitable) fact is that she’s one of the Top 10 most influential WNBA players on social media, with an incredible 1.5 million impressions. Here’s looking at you endorsers – somebody scoop this queen up!
The third overall pick in the 2019 draft, the 6’7” McCowan is a force to be reckoned with on the court. During her rookie season, she had an amazing 305 rebounds – an Indiana Fever record! She started 16 of the 34 games the Fever played that year. And holds the WNBA record as the first rookie to score more than 20 points and have more than 15 rebounds in consecutive games. Still, in her second season in the league, Teaira only makes the WNBA minimum.
The Indiana Fever have yet to make the playoffs with Teaira onboard. So she hasn’t made any merit bonus cash this year, nor any individual bonuses.
McCowan currently plays overseas for Beijing Great Wall. Where we estimate she earns somewhere near our guesstimate average of $171,000 per season.
As of yet, Teaira hasn’t signed any endorsement deals, sneakers or otherwise.
Azura is going into her third year in the league as a forward for the Chicago Sky (she was previously with the Dallas Wings). But still only earns the lowest WNBA base pay. The 6’6” dynamo is going to be one to watch, as she’s not only a great rebounder, but also opponents need to watch out on the court for her ability to steal the ball. In 2018, she broke a career high record with an amazing 9 steals against Chicago.
Azura scored some extra funds by the Chicago Sky being a sixth seed in the 2020 playoffs. They lost to Connecticut in the first round, but Azura still added $1,136 to her pocket.
Azura has played for two seasons overseas, for China and Turkey. Taking into account our overseas average salary guesstimate of $171,000 per season adds more dollars to her take-home pay.
Azura hasn’t yet scored any endorsement deals. However, in 2020, she opened a food trailer in her hometown of Raleigh, NC. There aren’t any financial figures available as of yet, but we have no doubt it’s going to be a success.
In her second season, Natisha played in all games of the regular season. And started in four of them. In her first season, she helped her team, the Connecticut Sun make it all the way to the WNBA Finals. And in 2020, she helped get them to the 3rd round (semi-finals) of the playoffs. She was also named Big East Player of the Year in her senior year at Marquette. So keep your eye out for more amazing plays from this talented guard!
Natisha lined her pockets with another $2,839 team bonus when the Sun made it to the semi-finals this year.
Signing her first overseas contract in 2020, Hiedeman plays for the Maccabi Ironi Ramat Gan team. Netting her near $171,000 per season.
We’ve found no confirmation that Natisha has any current endorsement deals.
In her second season as a forward for the Minnesota Lynx, Napheesa Collier is multi-talented on the court. She was in a three-way tie with Alyssa Thomas and Brianna Turner for the most rebounds per game this season. Averaging 9 per game, under only Candace Parker. In another three-way tie (with Lexie Brown and Ariel Atkins), Napheesa averaged nearly 2 steals a game. And in her debut game in 2019, she scored 27 points against the Chicago Sky – an amazing feat for a rookie.
In 2019, Napheesa was voted to the WNBA All-Rookie team. But this year, she helped pave the way for the Lynx to make it to the semi-finals. Which earned her a bonus of $2,839. She also plays for Team USA, which should net her another $100,000 per year come 2021. Thanks to Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi’s relentless fight for training money.
Napheesa will follow the WNBA player masses and play overseas for the very first time this year in Turkey. That adds our guesstimate of $170,000 to her pocketbook
While Napheesa doesn’t yet have any endorsement deals, we think, with her talent, it’s only a matter of time!
The 6’7” center has only been in the league two years, but she’s already made waves with two teams. Both the Los Angeles Sparks, who selected her as a 7th pick in 2019, and her current team, the Atlanta Dream. Kalani only played a total of 61 minutes for the 2020 season. But still managed to score a total of 30 points, averaging 52.1% from the field.
The Dream failed to make the playoffs this season, so unfortunately, Kalani didn’t score any additional bonus cash.
Kalani has played overseas in China for the Xinjiang Magic Deer the past two WNBA off-seasons. Taking our guesstimate calculation of $170,000 as the average dollar amount a WNBA player earns overseas, we’ll add that total to her 2020 income.
Kalani is part of the new Glossier campaign for their new body products, along with 7 other WNBA players.
There’s no question Kia Nurse has amazing abilities, which were confirmed in her very first game in the WNBA in 2018. The rookie scored 17 points for her team, the New York Liberty. And then went on to score a career-high 34 points against Indiana that same season! This past season, she averaged 12.2 points, the most on the team. And in 2019 she started on the WNBA All-Star team. Yet, in her third season, she’s still paid the WNBA minimum salary.
Kia’s current team, the Liberty, failed to make the playoffs this season, so there was no bonus money to line her pockets.
Kia Nurse plays in Australia for the Canberra Capitals. And helped lead them to a championship last year. So we’ll go with our $170,000 average overseas salary guess and add that amount to her yearly till.
Kia scored a coup when she and Asia Durr signed a deal with Jordan Brand, which is part of Nike’s deal with Michael Jordan. While Jordan himself earned $130 million last year for his deal, there are no hard and fast numbers regarding Kia’s total take. We’ll suppose a modest estimate of $250,000.
That’s it for our rankings of the lowest paid WNBA players ever. As you can see, there’s even a large disparity between the players themselves. Considering how hard these ladies work year-round, and despite the immense strides they’ve made in salary advancement (thanks Nneka and the CBA crew!), there’s still a long road ahead.
So be sure to share your favorite WNBA news and players with everyone you know. And encourage your friends and family to watch games with you. You can be a part of the change. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say!
Written by Cynthia Cohen, writer/producer and basketball fan.
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