How much do WNBA players make?

Author: Kate MagdziukPublished: 05/17/23
WNBA Players Salary 2560x1440 (1)
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Back in 2020, the WNBA and WNBPA (the league's players' association, AKA collective bargaining unit) came together in agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement that will run through the 2027 season — unless sides agree to a 2025 opt-out.

It's a lengthy document — 350 pages in its entirety — outlining regulations for just about everything you can think of, from player contract minimums, to trade rules, to information on the league's 401k program.

Here, we'll take a look at that very long document and break down all you need to know, including how much WNBA players make and how the salary cap works.

How much do WNBA players make?

The 2020 WNBA CBA outlines both the minimum and maximum salaries that the WNBA can pay its players.

WNBA minimum annual salaries by year and experience level

2023: $62,285 (0-2 years played) to $74,305 (3+ years played)
2024: $64,154 (0-2) to $76,535 (3+)
2025: $66,079 (0-2) to $78,831 (3+)
2026: $68,061 (0-2) to $81,196 (3+)
2027: $70,103 (0-2) to $83,631 (3+)

Maximum annual salaries

For players with 6+ years in the league OR are playing on the core franchise tag OR are having their rookie contracts extended:

2023: $234,936
2024: $241,984
2025: $249,244
2026: $256,721
2027: $264,423

For all other players:

2023: $202,154
2024: $208,219
2025: $214,466
2026: $220,900
2027: $227,527

How the quest for equal pay in the W is widely misunderstood

Do yourself a favor, and do not bother looking through the comments on social media when WNBA players speak out about pay inequality. Just don't do it. I cannot stress that enough.

Why? Because what you're going to find is a trove of recirculated (yet incredibly misinformed) "takes" on why WNBA players shouldn't be earning "NBA money".

As Kelsey Plum clarified on The Residency Podcast earlier this offseason, WNBA players aren't seeking NBA money. They're seeking an equal revenue share — a big, big, big difference.

"I don't think I should get paid the same as LeBron," Plum said, "But the percentage of revenue... for example, they sell my jersey at Mandalay Bay, and I don't get a dime."

Who are the WNBA's top-paid players?

Here are the six highest-paid WNBA players for the 2023 season, courtesy of Her Hoops Stats.

  • Diana Taurasi (Mercury) — $234,936

  • Arike Ogunbowale (Wings) — $234,936

  • Jewell Loyd (Storm) — $234,936

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith (Mercury) — $234,350

  • DeWanna Bonner (Sun) — $234,350

  • Elena Delle Donne (Mystics) — $234,350

What's the WNBA salary cap, and how does it work?

The WNBA salary cap is the pre-determined amount that each team is allowed to spend on the salary of its players. This year, the salary cap is at $1,420,500 — meaning that is the budget each team is allowed to spend on player salaries (barring emergency exceptions from the league). Under the current CBA, the WNBA salary cap is set to increase by 3% every year, maxing out at $1,598,800 for the 2027 season.

Unfortunately, while having a salary cap helps to promote "financial equality" across the league, it has its problems:

A) It significantly lowers the earning potential of its players.

B) It prevents owners who might otherwise be eager to financially invest in their teams from doing so.

c) The WNBA has a hard salary cap, meaning teams cannot go over the cap. Unintentionally, that's meant teams with multiple players on maximum contracts can only afford to pay 11 out of 12 roster spots, making what was already one of the hardest leagues for players to make rosters in, even tougher.

See for yourself with our 2023 WNBA Roster Cuts Tracker — it's brutal out there.

How do WNBA rookie contracts work?

WNBA rookie contracts are signed for a three-year period with a fourth-year option, with each player's annual salary depending on where they were drafted. The higher the pick, the more money to be made (naturally).

Here's what the rookie contract wage scale looks like for the 2023 draft class, ac:

  • Year 1 salary: $62,285 to $74,305

  • Year 2 salary: $63,532 to $75,792

  • Year 3 salary: $66,710 to $83,371

  • 4th Year option: $76,240 to $94,740

Based on that, you'll note that new Fever superstar (and No. 1 pick of the 2023 WNBA Draft) Aliyah Boston's entire rookie contract is capped at $328,208, assuming her fourth-year option is picked up. The rookie minimum in the NBA is set at $953,000 per year, FWIW.

Do WNBA players get maternity leave?

In short, yes. The 2020 WNBA CBA ensures WNBA players will make 100% of their base salaries under its "Pregnancy Disability Benefit".

The CBA does not outline any specific timeline for returns, instead noting that players will continue to receive their base salaries either "for the direction of her inability to perform services as a result of her pregnancy or the remaining term of her Standard Player Contract" — whichever is shorter.

How much do WNBA coaches make?

We don't know a ton about coach salaries, to be honest!

We do know, however, that Aces head coach Becky Hammon became the first WNBA coach to exceed a $1 million average annual salary. By how much does her salary exceed that $1 million? One can only guess.

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