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MichMan's Journal
MichMan's Journal
September 29, 2022

WNBA Players' $1 Million Paydays Vanish as Off-Season Opportunities Dry Up

The lucrative off-season for women’s professional basketball players, when they make the bulk of their income, has dried up this year due to a mix of geopolitical tensions, currency fluctuation and Covid lockdowns.

The median NBA player salary is a little more than $4.3 million for a season spanning eight months, according to ESPN. The WNBA season lasts around four months, and the average base salary is about $130,000 with a max salary of about $228,000. The best players can make up to $700,000 a year through bonuses and sponsorships, according to the WNBA.TV viewership for the WNBA is growing, but it still pales in comparison to the men’s league. The WNBA averaged 379,000 viewers last season, compared with 1.6 million for NBA games.

Cound said a women’s salary in Turkey a few years ago could top out at around $800,000. Now, that number is closer to $350,000 or $400,000. Boris Lelchitski, chief executive officer of Sports International Group, another talent agency, has seen a 30% to 40% reduction in overseas salaries from previous years. Now that many teams with the deepest pockets -- Russia’s Ekaterinburg and the Chinese teams -- are off the table, the next best teams don’t have to haggle as hard for premier players.

“This is driving the market down because the top teams outside of Russia don’t have to pay as much to get the best player or a good player,” Lelchitski said. “They don’t want to negotiate against themselves.” Second-tier teams are struggling to even fill their bench as the war in Ukraine raises food and energy prices across Europe.

The WNBA didn’t discourage players from going overseas this year, not even to Russia, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in an interview. Cound said he knows a couple players who are still going to Russia.


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