The average 2022 WNBA salary currently is $108,085 There are many players signed to training camp contracts this time of the year, which brings the average a bit lower than in-season.
In the US, that’s a decent wage, in general, considering the US Census Bureau listed the annual median personal income at $35,805 in 2020. However it’s not a decent wage for a professional athlete. It’s especially not a decent wage for one of the most coveted positions in a women’s sports league that has been around for more than two decades.
The WNBA is the longest-lasting professional women’s sports league in the US, now with 25 plus seasons under its belt. And while the league has found its footing, unfortunately its players struggle to. Each opportunity they get, they continue to fight for a higher WNBA salary.
A spot in the WNBA is one of the hardest jobs in the world to get. For perspective, there are more professional astronauts in the world (560) than WNBA players (144)! And seasoned astronauts earn an annual salary upwards of $144,566 by the way. Yet, these elite female athletes aren’t compensated relative to the value they’re delivering, with the support of very little marketing.
However, hope is on the horizon. The new eight-year CBA, which began with the 2020 season and runs through 2027, provides the foundation to chart a new course for women’s professional basketball. “With bonuses, players can now make $650,000. For four-and-a-half months of work, that isn’t bad.” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
So today, we’ll take a look at the new average 2022 WNBA salary, the highest and lowest paid players, and how that stacks up to the NBA (spoiler alert: it’s ridiculous). Plus, we’ll reveal what the coaches and refs in the WNBA might make, and it could shock you.
In 2022, the super-maximum base level salary a WNBA player can make is $228,094. The minimum base level salary is that of a player with zero to two years of experience, which is $60,471.
That’s tremendous progress considering that just five years ago in 2016, the maximum income a player could earn was $109,000. For Russia that number tripled to $325,000 per season. While in China that number triple-doubled to $600,000 per season.
As a result, at that point, almost three-quarters of WNBA players were playing for teams abroad, as overseas women’s basketball salaries help carry WNBA players year round. With some, such as Washington Mystic Kristi Toliver, juggling three teams.
For example, a week after Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus finished her seven-month season in Russia with the Dynamo Kursk, she was back in Minneapolis for WNBA training camp. At the time – her eleventh year in the league – that had been her routine for eight years. To make a satisfactory wage, the three-time WNBA champion gave up summers, time with her family and her wife, to play overseas.
Even more egregiously, Diana Taurasi sat out of the entire 2015 WNBA season because her Russian team, which paid her more than $1 million, wanted her to rest.
Obviously this overseas continual play is hard on the players’ physical and mental well-being. Furthermore, the WNBA team owners don’t like it, because their talent can get hurt, which can cost them their season (for example, Alysha Clark’s injury ahead of the 2021 season). So, this was a big sticking point for everyone in the 2020 CBA negotiations.
The result was a nice step in the right direction. WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike and the players did a phenomenal job negotiating the latest the CBA, bringing the WNBA maximum base salary up to $215,000 in 2020, which was a $97,500 increase from even the previous year! Though, it’s worth nothing, that even that new maximum is still a fraction of the millions that top women’s players earn overseas in Russia, China, and Turkey.
The new CBA contract stated that salaries need to begin being paid “on or about June 1.” So the league requires WNBA teams to cut rosters down to 11 or 12 players below the salary cap by the time the season starts. Check out the 2022 salary cap sheet here to see how each team has used their current budget so far.
Furthermore, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird also helped create a plan with USA Basketball to pay members of the Olympic team another $100,000 to train in the United States. This providing even more motivation to not play and train overseas.
When asked how they arrived at the $100,000, Diana said, “Working with USA Basketball, working with other players, that was the number that we felt really comfortable with, that people would want to stay and actually do it.” All in all, things (the average!) in the WNBA are on the up and up!
The average 2022 WNBA salary currently is $108,085, as of April 8th, 2022. The average is generally reasonable to measure as the league standard, because there are no tremendous outliers at either end, skewing the results. It will rise a bit further during the year when there are fewer players on training camp contracts (for example, the last few years it’s hovered in the $120,000s). The league also created additional bonuses and prize pools that raise the total compensation by 53%, the WNBA said:
There are also additional cash compensation elements to consider.
The biggest win here is the revenue sharing, which was set to start in 2021, allowing players an opportunity to profit as they drive profit. Past revenue sharing was tied to ticket sales and provided 20%-30% of league revenue for the players. But the revenue sharing wasn’t triggered because the specified goals weren’t met. Excitingly, the union believes the new revenue-sharing plan has a more realistic chance of benefiting the players. If the league reaches certain revenue markers in broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships and licensing deals, the WNBA and its players could split revenue equally as of 2021. Cash additions include:
In 2021, as part of the WNBA’s focus on innovation, the league launched its inaugural Commissioner’s Cup in-season competition. Conference rivalry bragging rights, a unique Commissioner’s Cup trophy, and a prize pool of a half a million dollars are at stake.
“To have the Commissioner’s Cup come to life in this historic 25th WNBA season [was] a testament to the players, fans, partners and WNBA teams who have supported and driven innovation at the league,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Together, we view the Commissioner’s Cup not just as a compelling competition, but as a multi-faceted platform designed to drive opportunities for broader fan engagement, create additional interest around our regular season games, convene around equity and equality themes in our WNBA markets, and provide the players with an opportunity to earn significant cash compensation.”
Another compensation lift comes in the new quality of travel arrangements. Finally, the women have room to stretch out with Premium Economy class status (such as Comfort/Economy Plus) for all players for regular-season air travel. Plus, they can rest better with individual hotel room accommodations for every player. And, there’s also a Player Advisory Panel to address new travel concerns as they occur.
Now, players can receive their full salary while on maternity leave. There’s also a new annual childcare stipend of $5,000. And players with children are provided two-bedroom apartments.
Added workplace accommodations will provide a comfortable, safe and private place for nursing mothers. Finally, new, progressive family planning benefits of up to a $60,000 reimbursement are now included, for veteran players for costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility/infertility treatment.
The WNBA has pledged to work with its affiliated leagues, teams and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities designed to prepare players for their post-playing careers. They will also help veteran players interested in coaching careers with opportunities.
Because athletes, such as Kevin Love, have become more outspoken about their mental health, positive changes were made for mental health as well. The WNBA enhanced the players’ mental health benefits and resources. And the new CBA also includes an augmented and holistic domestic/intimate partner violence program that includes education and counseling.
Finally, a joint Nutrition Council committed to identifying resources and address proper nutrition to optimize athletic performance was added. And players are now provided access to experts in women’s health, as well as have the opportunity for representation on league policy committees.
All of these wins are a giant step forward. But there is still a significant amount of work to be done to compensate our female athletes correctly.
The highest paid WNBA player in 2022 is every hooper making the $228,094 supermax which includes Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd.
In 2021, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, DeWanna Bonner, and Liz Cambage were the highest paid WBNA players. Each player made the maximum base salary of $221,450.
In 2020, DeWanna Bonner, Elena Delle Donne, Emma Meesseman, Liz Cambage, Brittney Griner, Skylar-Diggins Smith, and Sue Bird were the highest paid players at $215,000 when only considering base salary.
This is to be expected. Salaries typically increase sharply after years three and four when rookie contracts are up. At that point, an elite player quickly begins nearing the maximum WNBA salary, while an average player’s salary increases more gradually.
Tune in each year during the WNBA free agency period to find out how this changes.
WNBA rookies typically earn the least money as they are the newest to the league. So the lowest paid WNBA players in 2022 are mostly the new rookies, each of whom will earn $60,471. These are all the players at that level currently: Jaylyn Agnew, Khaalia Hillsman, Maya Caldwell, N’Dea Jones, Anneli Maley, Kamiah Smalls, Kathleen Doyle, Kysre Gondrezick, Rebekah Gardner, Tina Krajišnik, Beatrice Mompremier, Joyner Holmes, Stephanie Jones, Taja Cole, Yvonne Anderson, Destinee Walker, Morgan Bertsch, Unique Thompson, Chelsey Perry, Haley Gorecki, Jaime Nared, Micaela Kelly, Lauren Cox, Te’a Cooper, Jessica Shepard, Natasha Mack, Han Xu, Paris Kea, Jennie Simms, Kiana Williams, Leaonna Odum, Ezi Magbegor, Lauren Manis, Lee Seul Kang, Linnae Harper, MeMe Jackson, Li Yueru, and Rui Machida.
They’re followed by the players with zero to two-years of experience, including Aari McDonald, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards, Dana Evans, Charli Collier, Awak Kuier, Arella Guirantes, Kysre Gondrezick, and DiJonai Carrington – all of whom are now making between $60,471 to $71,441. Veteran Sue Bird isn’t close behind, as she’s pegged to make just $72,141 in 2022 – a salary she took to help set her team up to win a Championship.
Interestingly, the base salary for the same pick and years of experience increases by 3% year over year. Meaning 2022’s first overall pick will make 3% more in her first year than Charli Collier made in 2021 ($72,141 vs $70,040).
Rookie base salaries are not guaranteed, which means players are just paid when they’re actually on the roster, according to the CBA. The CBA also actually allows for rookie scale contracts to fall below the league minimum, in a few select situations (such as hardship contracts).
Base salaries vary depending on how high each player was drafted, with the first four picks in the draft earning $72,141 in 2022. And at the other end of the spectrum, those drafted in the third round will earn $60,471.
“154M…must be nice. We over here looking for a M but Lord, let me get back in my lane.”
The gender wage gap is nothing new, and it’s certainly not just relegated to basketball. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, working women earn 80 percent of what their male counterparts do annually. Furthermore, the gap widens for Black women. Specifically, in 2016, Hispanic or Latina, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN), and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NHPI) women had lower median annual earnings compared with non-Hispanic white and Asian women full-time workers.
The NBA pays 50 percent of its revenue to its players. According to a Forbes analysis, NBA teams brought in around $5.9 billion in revenue in 2015–2016.
Previously WNBA was required to pay about 20 percent of its revenue to its players if certain goals were hit (they weren’t!). That has been update to 50% with more reasonable goals. You can see how the gap was previously quite wide at 30%.
Though, the gap will still be wide, because the women’s total revenue will be much smaller than the mens. Even 50% of a smaller pie is still a smaller slice. While revenue data isn’t accessible for the WNBA, approximating it puts it at about $70 million in 2019.
Here’s the breakdown: The WNBA brought in a minimum of $45 million through ticket sales (the average median ticket price found on WNBA.com in 2019 was $17.42. Multiply that by 2,614,000 tickets sold – average game attendance was 6,535 fans times 40 games), and in 2016 signed a deal with ESPN increasing what the network pays to broadcast games from $12 million to $25 million per season.
Plus, the league also brings in revenue from merchandise sales, sponsorship, and licensing agreements. So, in 2021, the women could expect about 50% of $70 million. No billions there.
On the other hand, the NBA capped teams at $101.869 million for the 2018–19 season. Under the NBA-NBPA’s collective bargaining agreement, the minimum team salary is $91.862 million. That’s 90 percent of the salary cap, and allows teams to determine mid-level salaries based on the overall, team salary average, while setting the minimum starting salary at $582,186. That’s a lot more ($525,186 – half a million!) than the women’s $58,710 minimum in 2021.
Meanwhile, the average 2020 NBA salary is $7.7 million. That’s up from $6.4 million in 2019. The average WNBA player makes $120,648 a year in 2020. That’s less than an eighth of what an NBA rookie makes ($820,000) on average.
Unfortunately, when you look at the top players, it doesn’t get any better for the females. Consider the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, who was the highest-paid NBA player for the 2019 season, at about $40.2 million. Followed by Chris Paul at $38.5 million. Meanwhile, the highest earner in the WNBA at that time was Phoenix Mercury forward, DeWanna Bonner at just $127,000.
While the contrast is large, the new CBA was a positive step towards compensating the women more. Even Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr joined those speaking out in praise of the WNBA’s new labor deal. “I read that they got their own hotel rooms on the road, which may not seem like a big deal to you but it took us forever to get that in the NBA,” Kerr said.
“I think we got that kind of midway through my career, first half of my career. We shared rooms with roommates. If we wanted our own room we had to pay the difference. And that just seemed like kind of a petty thing that the owners were hanging onto, but we could never win that in collective bargaining. And I remember when we finally won it, it was a really big deal.”
Though, the fight is not over. Nor will it be for quite some time. Former WNBA President Lisa Borders told Forbes that bias against female athletes is at the heart of the pay disparity, and that’s one thing that will take generations to change.
“Let’s be clear, there is a lot of sexism that still goes on. People do not believe that women can be superb professional athletes. That frankly is an ignorant perspective, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to see a game, a player, or experienced the game, then perhaps you have an uninformed perspective. We invite folks into the area to actually see a game.”
However, the men of the NBA are on their side. NBA players have expressed their WNBA fandom daily in recent years. Kyle Lowry said, “sick handles,” explaining why he watches the WNBA in a video promoting the league, with Anthony Davis adding, “Mad skills.” And recently, the WNBA hoodie finally got its moment in the spotlight, becoming the hottest item in the still very-much-fashion-concerned bubble, according to GQ.
So the future looks bright, but what exactly can make the future brighter? The most powerful way for the women to raise their wages again in the future may be to strike. According to economics professor Dave Berri in a 2016 radio discussion, “Until very recently in most sports, women have not gone on strike or threatened to go on strike.” And historically, that’s how the most progress was made.
For example, the first time men and women got paid the same amount of money in a sports competition was at the 1973 US Open. There, legend Billie Jean King raised the issue of unequal pay, lobbied hard, and then threatened to sit out. Eventually, Ban Deodorant stepped in to offer equal pay. Which led to the other four major tournaments offering equal prize money to both genders, inspiring the 2017 movie “Battle of the Sexes.”
“She got wages changed by just threatening not to play anymore,” said Berri. “And that really is the story of sports. And we’ve seen this throughout the history of sports. If the players are not willing to walk away, they cannot change their wages.” So don’t be surprised if WNBA players walk the walk once the current CBA expires.
Now that you know more about WNBA players’ salaries, what about the professionals who support them every day? Up next, we’ll check out how much WNBA coaches and referees make. Because without them leveling up, too, the women will have a much harder time taking the game to the next level.
WNBA coach salaries are not public. In terms of WNBA coach contracts, on December 31, 2021, the WNBA announced that Becky Hammon will make her return back to the WNBA as the new Head Coach of the Las Vegas Aces. Becky spent 16 seasons in the WNBA, the first eight with the New York Liberty and the second eight with the San Antonio Stars, before retiring in 2014 as a six-time WNBA All-Star.
Becky’s five-year deal will make her the highest-paid coach in WNBA history, according to The Athletic. ESPN reports, in her eighth season with the Spurs, Becky’s salary is estimated in the $750,000 range, more than twice what some WNBA coaches reportedly make. Owner Mark Davis, who owns the Aces, confirmed that new coach Becky Hammon will be the first WNBA coach to exceed $1 million in annual salary.
The salary is in stark contrast to what the top players in the league are making, which had Liz Cambage speaking out. “Ahhh yes the WNBA where a head coach can get paid 4X the highest paid players super max contract. lmao and y’all think imma spend another season upgrading my seat on a flight to get to games out of my own pocket.” said Aces forward Liz Cambage. Nonetheless, more money to any employee of the league – including coaches – is a step in the right direction.
Though college coaches make more than WNBA coaches, here we’ll take a look at college coaches’ salaries as a very loose reference point. Unfortunately, the pay disparity appears as this level as well: the 2021 men’s Final Four coaches made $1 million more than this year’s women’s Final Four coaches.
The late Pat Summitt of Tennessee was previously the highest paid women’s basketball coach, at $1.125 million per year in base salary. As of 2021, there are now multiple coaches of college women’s basketball making $1 million or more annually, including UConn’s Geno Auriemma at $2,400,000, Stanford’s Tara Vanderveer at $2,279,608, and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley at $3 million plus.
Bonuses also add to the bag. Geno Auriemma’s previous contract held a bonus of more than $130,000 for reaching the Final Four. Meanwhile, Dawn Staley’s previous contract had a $200,000 bonus for making the Final Four. And LSU’s Kim Mulkey’s contract incentives range from $10k-150k, depending on the accomplishment from SEC Coach of the Year to NCAA Tournament rounds.
Recently, beyond performance bonuses from championships, strong season performance has driven higher contracts. In 2021, Georgia extended women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor’s contract through the 2026-27 season with a boost in pay to $850,000. She will receive $925,000 by year six of the new contract.
In addition, Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes received an effective raise of 34% to $580,000 next season as part of a reworked five-year contract. The deal kept Adia Barnes under contract through 2025-26, with Adia receiving higher salaries every season up to $770,000 in the final year. But after that extension, the school increased her yet contract again, and it is now a five year contract with $5.85 million in base salary compensation.
Most recently, Kim Mulkey’s deal with LSU is set to pay Kim $2.5 million in year one, and will increase to north of $3 million by the end of the deal which runs through 2028-2029, an LSU official told TheAthletic. Kim Mulkey was previously the highest paid coach in the country at Baylor, and many expected her career would finish there.
And Dawn Staley’s now the highest paid women’s basketball coach in the SEC, with her new 7 year $22.4 million contract.
Based on how much money the WNBA players are paid today, it seems unlikely top WNBA coaches make a similar amount to college coaches. Furthermore, many coaches of the women’s game are men today. In fact, there are fewer women coaches today than ever before. When Title IX was enacted in 1972, women led ninety percent of women’s teams.
Back in 2016 the WNBA joined the National Basketball Referees Association. Today WNBA refs work a shorter season, as only 12 teams play 36 regular-season games. (The 2020 regular-season featured an all-time high 36 games per team, up two games from 34 in 2019.) In 2021, there will be 32 games during the season. Though, often refs can make more in playoffs and finals games.
Recently, on April 30, 2021, the WNBA and the National Basketball Referees
Association (NBRA), the union representing the WNBA referees, announced they
have entered into a new three-year collective bargaining agreement, commencing with
the 2021 season.
“We are grateful for the NBRA’s work in coming to this agreement and for the referees’
ongoing dedication to the WNBA,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “We
look forward to the upcoming 25th season with our referees, who are essential to our
See each team’s players’ WNBA salary for 2022, as reported by Spotrac. As cored, unrestricted free agents, and free agents get settled onto their teams, we’ll update their salaries below.
Now that you know how much money our favorite stars earn, continue to invest in them! Buy tickets and merchandise. And insist that your friends watch the WNBA as fervently as you do.
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