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Overseas Women’s Basketball Salary

ByQueen Ballers Club|@queenballers| August 25, 2021
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Did you know about 67% of rostered WNBA players spent time playing abroad in 2019?Four years later, in 2022, the number has remained fairly consistent: 60% of WNBA players join women’s professional basketball overseas. The main reason players hoop during the offseason is to continue to earn more money to complement their WNBA salary. And while players encounter language barriers and culture shock as well as risk injury, overseas play is tempting because of the larger bag. So today, we’ll take a look at the overseas women’s basketball salary.

We’ll share what some of the most popular destinations are, and how much hoopers make in those countries using published player salary specifics, as well as based figures about what men reportedly make there. We’ll also take a look back at what female hoopers were already making abroad in 2008, which might surprise you!

“I’ve been vocal since day one, I sat out five seasons because I get paid 5-8 times more overseas. … It’s hard when you have the best league in the world, but we’re not treated like the best athletes in the world.” Los Angeles Sparks’ forward Liz Cambage told ESPN.

Overseas women’s basketball salary

“The money is a way where a lot of us make a living,” Diana Taurasi said of her time spent hooping abroad. “But in 13 years, I’ve also gotten to see all of Europe and met some really great people, and I’ve played on some tremendous teams that you know, made it really enjoyable to be over there and they were like family. I’ve been really lucky.”

Today, countries such as Russia and Turkey are some of the most popular destinations for WNBA players. 2021 WNBA Champion Stefanie Dolson’s favorite place to play has been Turkey. “I mean everyone loves Turkey because it’s the party country. And a lot of the teams are fairly close to each other, or it’s like a 45 minute flight to get to Istanbul. It’s where a lot of the Americans play. So you guys have a weekend off, or night off, everyone goes out to party in Istanbul. It’s pretty Westernized so they have good food. But also I just love Turkish food.” she said.

Eastern and Southern European clubs from Russia and Turkey tend to be stronger than teams in Western Europe both in terms of the level of play and the pay. Though, over the years, the leagues come in cycles – depending upon where the money is reported Bullets Forever. Basically it comes down to the economic strength of the country at any given time, and as a result of that, which team owners are willing to pay the money to bring in elite talent.

There has always been money in Russia during the modern era for women’s players, and the last decade has seen Turkish basketball rise. However, when the Greek economy hit the rocks, so did women’s basketball throughout much of Europe. Interestingly, some leagues such as Poland lurch from one extreme to the other: they had about six clubs in European continental play in 2017, while two years prior in 2015 they only two.

Average overseas women’s basketball salary

Already back in 2008 BallinEurope reported the average salary for a female American player with no WNBA experience in the top leagues abroad (Spain, Italy, France, Russia) was about 5,000-6,000 EUR a month. Meanwhile players with WNBA team experience were making 10,000 EUR a month.

At the time, the EuroCup team of Taranto, Italy had three WNBA players from the Sacramento Monarchs: Linda Froehlich, Yolanda Griffith, and Rebecca Brunson. Leader of the Italian league in points and rebounds, Rebecca Brunson was reportedly making 30,000 EUR a month tax free (or roughly $34,000 today) then. A big benefit of receiving an overseas basketball salary is that your team usually pays the taxes on your income.

Certainly the average has gone up since then. Let’s take a look at some specifics from popular countries to play in.

Russia’s women’s basketball salary

Breanna Stewart earns approximately $1.5 million per season overseas in Russia reports ESPN. “…overseas at UMMC Ekaterinburg, where basketball is very valued, we’re treated really well and able to make a lot of money…Obviously, these clubs have more money than what the WNBA team’s cap space is,” said Breanna, who added that her team has mostly played to sellout crowds. “The WNBA salary is not moving, at all. When you are overseas you have the ability to negotiate with what you want, what the team wants and that kind of thing.”

Breanna is following in the footsteps of her Team USA teammates when it comes to playing abroad. In 2006, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi spent time playing in Russia, where they reportedly earned between $400,000 and $1 million, depending on bonuses. In 2015, UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, offered to pay Diana’s WNBA salary on top of her base earnings to rest her body instead of playing in the WNBA, and she obliged. By 2016, Diana was earning $1.5 million playing there. Brittney Griner also earned close to $1 million playing for Russia at the time.

China’s women’s basketball salary

China is another destination on the rise, due to its high salaries. “For me I just go to make the money. That’s why I went to China. China is a short season too. So for me that’s the best. Most money, shortest season, kind of bang it out, and get back home.” said Stefanie Dolson.

In 2013, Maya Moore pursued the overseas path playing for the Shanxi Flames starting in, leading the team to back-to-back championships. Though terms were not disclosed, Maya claimed her WCBA contract was “significantly more than double” her rookie deal with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

As of 2014, a player could earn an estimated $600,000 playing in China according to The Undefeated. For example, at the end of Brittney Griner’s first WNBA season in 2013, she played for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association and earned $600,000 for a four-month season.

Overseas WNBA player salaries

For the men’s game, many countries in Europe offer on average anywhere between $60K to $500K per season to players in the highest level leagues. Similarly, some countries in Asia, such as Japan or South Korea, offer between $120K to $400K a season. China is ahead of the pack with an average salary of $1M to $3M per season.

The max men’s salary in Russia is about $4M. So if we take Diana’s $1M as something close to the max Russia women’s salary, it appears the translation could be that women make 25% of what men make abroad. Inferring, we can assume a first-division female hooper today earns about $250,000 in Spain; $125,000 in Italy; $100,000 in Germany; $60,000 in France; $125,000 in Greece; $150,000 in Russia; $75,000 in Israel, and $175,000 in Turkey.

Overseas Basketball Salaries in Europe
Via EuroProBasket

Now you know what WNBA players make overseas

With the WNBA raising $75 million recently and ratings on the rise, plus prioritization right around the corner, and the stateside option of Athletes Unlimited, it will be interesting to see whether players continue to go abroad at a similar rate.

It’s not just about the money though, there’s definitely experience to be gained. “For me, being overseas each time has been this wonderful, unique little adventure, with ups and downs,” said Carolyn Swords, a Boston College product who played with Basket 90 Gdynia in northern Poland, as well as in in Spain, Turkey, Italy and Australia. “But I’ve learned a lot from living and being abroad. It keeps me on edge – I’m always stretching the limits of my comfort zone. And I think that’s a good thing. And it helps us bring back valuable experience to the league.”

Up next, learn more about the Athletes Unlimited Basketball salary.

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