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How Much do WNBA Players Get Paid Per Game?

How Much do WNBA Players Get Paid Per Game?

The WNBA, as compared to the NBA, has a few noticeable differences in both style of play and rules of the game. From the size of the basketball to the length of the court, the WNBA generally has smaller court and ball sizes to accommodate the women athletes.

However, a main difference between the NBA and the WNBA is the level of pay the athletes receive for their play.

And while we’re not going to delve into the nuances of the pay scales between the two leagues, we will be looking at just how much do WNBA players get paid per game.

And, contrary to the NBA’s current max and minimum salaries and pay per game, the WNBA and its athletes tend to make far less than their male counterparts.

However, it is a useful and interesting case study to examine just how much WNBA players make per game.

What Is the WNBA?

The WNBA was founded on April 22, 1996, by the Board of Governors for the NBA.  Currently, the WNBA is composed of twelve teams, with the regular season being played from the months of May through September, with the WNBA All Star game being held midway through the season.

Of the twelve WNBA teams, five share a direct NBA counterpart and typically play in the same arena.  The five teams include the Indiana Fever, the Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Lynx, the New York Liberty, and the Phoenix Mercury.

From the remaining seven teams, the Atlanta Dream, the Chicago Sky, the Connecticut Sun, the Dallas Wings, the Las Vegas Aces, the Seattle Storm, and the Washington Mystics, none of those teams share an arena with a direct NBA counterpart. 

However, four of the seven do share a market with an NBA counterpart and the Washington Mystics and the Atlanta Dream do play in an NBA G League arena.

The initial purpose of the WNBA was meant to attract and bring additional viewership to the women’s sport.  In addition, by creating an exclusive women’s basketball league, the NBA Board of Governors hoped to attract female viewership to both the NBA and the WNBA.

However, digging deeper, and looking at the WNBA’s initial motto of, “We Got Next”, the purpose of the WNBA was meant to elevate the women’s sport of basketball past an afterthought and into the spotlight as a competitive, qualified, and equally entertaining league.

How Many Games do WNBA Players Play?

Unlike the NBA, with each individual team playing an 82-game regular season, the WNBA and its franchise team’s play just a 36-game regular season. The reason for the shortened regular season is twofold.

Firstly, and perhaps most obvious, is that the WNBA simply has less team’s than their NBA counterparts. Whereas the NBA is made up of 30 franchise teams, the WNBA only has 12 teams.

Secondly, and perhaps more bluntly, is that fewer people watch WNBA games as compared to NBA games. For this reason, the WNBA has a shortened regular season schedule, allowing for true and interested fans to tune in to the games without overlapping against more popular professional sports.

Who Are the Highest Paid WNBA Players?

Again, as compared to their male counterparts in the NBA, with many seeing max salaries upwards of $50 million annually, the WNBA simply cannot compare.

However, the highest paid women athletes in the WNBA do not make chump change. Again, compared to the NBA, their salaries are quite poor, but compared to national average salaries, WNBA players are well-compensated.

Below are the top-10 highest paid WNBA athletes.

1Diana TaurasiPhoenix Mercury$228,094
2Jewell LoydSeattle Storm$228,094
3Breanna StewartSeattle Storm$228,094
4Skylar Diggins-SmithPhoenix Mercury$227,900
5Brittney GrinerPhoenix Mercury$227,900
6Elena Delle DonneWashington Mystics$227,900
7DeWanna BonnerPhoenix Mercury$227,900
8Natasha HowardNew York Liberty$221,450
9Tiffany HayesAtlanta Dream$215,000
10Chelsea GrayLas Vegas Aces$206,267

Who Are the Lowest Paid WNBA Players?

While the highest paid and most successful WNBA players can make in excess of $200k annually, the same cannot be said of the lowest paid players in the WNBA. In fact, for many of the lower paid athletes, many are forced to take second jobs or work in different women’s basketball leagues to supplement their annual incomes.

1Maya CaldwellAtlanta Dream$25,146
2Yvonne TurnerAtlanta Dream$28,392
3Crystal DangerfieldNew York Liberty$30,086
4Khayla PointerIndiana Fever$37,121
5Iliana RupertLas Vegas Aces$37,420
6Marine JohannesNew York Liberty$40,713
7Nina MilicMinnesota Lynx$42,210
8Emma CannonIndiana Fever$50,713
9Jessica ShepardMinnesota Lynx$60,471
10Li YueruChicago Sky$60,471

What is the Average WNBA Salary?

While we’ve looked at both ends of the pay-spectrum in the WNBA, it is also important to take a look at the average pay in the WNBA.

And with only 14 WNBA players making over $200,000 from a total of 144 players, less than 10% of WNBA players are making over $200,000.

For the 2021-22 WNBA season, the average pay across all players was $120,648.

Again, while not a terrible annual salary, it is far less than the average pay in the NBA and is, in some cases, the total pay of an elite NBA player for just one game.

WNBA Salaries Per Game

As compared to our reviews on an NBA players salary per game, it is important to note that the WNBA season is a mere 36 games long. As compared to the NBA’s 82, the lesser games do help to increase the overall average pay per game.

Below is the list of WNBA players pay per game.

PlayerAnnual SalaryPay Per Game (36)
Average WNBA Player$120,648$3,351.33
Diana Taurasi$228,094$6,335.94
Jewell Loyd$228,094$6,335.94
Breanna Stewart$228,094$6,335.94
Skylar Diggins-Smith$227,900$6,330.55
Brittney Griner$227,900$6,330.55
Elena Delle Donne$227,900$6,330.55
DeWanna Bonner$227,900$6,330.55
Natasha Howard$221,450$6,151.39
Tiffany Hayes$215,000$5,972.22
Chelsea Gray$206,267$5,729.64
Maya Caldwell$25,146$698.50
Yvonne Turner$28,392$788.67
Crystal Dangerfield$30,086$835.72
Khayla Pointer$37,121$1,031.14
Iliana Rupert$37,420$1,039.44
Marine Johannes$40,713$1,130.92
Nina Milic$42,210$1,172.50
Emma Cannon$50,713$1,408.69
Jessica Shepard$60,471$1,679.75
Li Yueru$60,471$1,679.75

Takeaways From WNBA Average Salary Per Game Data

While it is quite obvious that WNBA players make far less than their male counterparts in the NBA, it should be noted, that overall, on an per game basis, WNBA players are not paid terribly.

However, and an important note, is that being a player in the WNBA is more than just participating in games. In addition to practice, both during and after the season, training, flights, and the opportunity costs associated with playing in the WNBA, it is clear that WNBA players are simply underpaid.

And we understand the economic rationale behind the pay scale and structure in the WNBA, demand simply doesn’t meet the supply of talent.

However, the pay scale for some of the lower-paid players is simply too low and not sustainable. The WNBA will have to rework their minimum contract guarantees if they wish for the league to survive.