While watching the highest level of open gym basketball in the world last night, the NBA Summer League from Las Vegas, we had a question: How much are these guys getting paid?
It turns out, not much.
While those players that have full NBA contracts are certainly fine — like the newly-signed rookies from the most recent NBA Draft and second-year players that want to get some competitive run in over the summer — the rosters are rounded out with players that are basically street free agents.
After some extensive digging, it looks like players are paid $1,500 in per diem (at least they were in 2019) for the near-two week event that includes a preseason camp and five games. It works out to about $125 per day, with some team meals included. And there’s no bonus for winning, though the Bulls comped the team a nice steak dinner after their victory in 2016.
Of course players are trying to not only get invited to NBA training camps, but also find contracts overseas that can be worth at least an NBA minimum salary if not more. Here’s the language from the CBA related to how Summer League players get paid. It shows players can’t be paid more than a Per Diem unless they have an NBA deal already.
(c) The only compensation that may be paid by a Team or any person or entity affiliated with a Team to a player participating in a summer basketball league is a reasonable expense allowance for: (1) meals, but no greater than that set forth in Article III, Section 2; (2) lodging; and (3) transportation to and from the player’s home to the site of the summer league, and to and from the site of the player’s lodging during the summer league to the site of summer-league-related activities. In addition, the Team may purchase a disability insurance policy for the player covering the term of the applicable summer league.
But the players do get to keep their gear, so when friends and family ask them if they ever played NBA basketball, they’ll have evidence to support their claims. And we all know that good Nike merch is expensive.
Since the event is technically called the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, we’ll assume most of the players are staying at MGM properties on the Las Vegas Strip such as Mandalay Bay, Park MGM, MGM Grand, or perhaps even Bellagio and Aria. You can think of worse resorts to live in for a couple weeks (we’ve done it, it’s delightful). Great food, terrific pools, plenty of entertainment, and an open bar if you’re sitting at a penny slot machine and just don’t press the button as often as everyone else.
And if a Summer League appearance eventually turns into a 10-day NBA contract because of your familiarity with the franchise and how they do things, then it’s very much worth your time. Even if you’ve never played in This League before, a 10-day is worth a guaranteed $61,528. Not too shabby for less than a week-and-a-half of work.