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October 26, 2020


If some of you are wondering the difference between NBA players salary versus the NFL players salary, well you’re not alone.  In fact, the disparity of salary is significant one NFL player has been very vocal on the huge downside.

DeAngelo Williams is a retired NFL running back and was selected by the Carolina Panthers’ 27th pick back in 2006.  Although his tweet is ten years ago it is still significant today.  Most of us who doesn’t follow the NFL except during the Super Bowl would probably guess that because the NFL is much bigger than the NBA their players get paid more.  Reality though, is the opposite.

Most compelling evidence of the huge disparity is basically the number of players and haggling.  Let’s break it down simply!

  • NFL players are significantly more than NBA players.  The average numbers of NBA players per team are 15 while some teams have 13 to 14 players.  The NFL rooster has 53 athletes for each team and there are 32 NFL teams compared to 30 franchises of the NBA. 

Basically, NBA has 450 athletes while the NFL has 1,696 athletes.  If we do the math, spreading the income between the NBA and the NFL athletes would be substantially larger for the NBA than the NFL.

  • League Revenue Shares. The NBA gets more of the revenue pie than the NFL athletes.  For example, the NBA league revenue is about $8Billion average, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) half of that would go to the players before expenses.   The NFL on the other hand, has more intricate CBA and most NFL teams don’t necessarily give way as compared to NBA Teams.  The NFL made about $14Billion last 2017. (Investopedia)

To explain further, the 30 teams of the NBA would get $4Billion collectively for the players.  Hence, spread across 450 players the average NBA athletes would get $8.9Million each average.  In contrast with the NFL with $7Billion collectively for the players, the average athletes would get $4.2Million.  The sheer number of athletes alone makes the big gap. 

  • Guaranteed Contracts.  Guaranteed contracts make up the huge difference of the income received by players.  Most NBA contracts are guaranteed or provide a player options on their last contractual year.  Given the intensity difference of the game, football should have a guaranteed contract than basketball but that is not the case with the NFL.  The NFL on the other hand, doesn’t have guaranteed contract not unless you’re a superstars, middle tier players get less.
  • Shelf Life of Players. Obviously, the NFL is more prone to injuries and career threatening activities as compared to the NBA.  The shelf lives of NFL athletes are shorter than the NBA athletes.  Further, the washed up NBA athletes can still play competitively and economically in the regionals and overseas.  Yes, China Basketball is a great example.  As matter of fact, if they have shown potential they can have a call back to the NBA.  Whereas, washed up NFL athlete doesn’t have that option. 

Conversely, if an NFL athlete performs below standard due to injuries, the possibility of contract extension is nil.  In addition, because there are virtually no more competitive high level football league to get their groove back, there is significant chance that they won’t be able to recover their lost glory.

  • Restrictions. The NFL teams can actually spend more and give more to its athletes.  The NBA has three (3) restrictions namely: 1. Maximum Contract; 2. Luxury Tax and 3. Roll-over of Salary Cap.   

Maximum contract limits the earning power of every athlete as every player in the NBA can only be given max contract depending on their tenure and or Bird rights.  Luxury Tax, on the other hand, deters NBA owners from over spending because they will have to pay a dollar-to-dollar if they went over the luxury tax.  As for the roll-over the NFL can roll-over for the next year their unused cap room and use it accordingly for that year.  The NBA doesn’t have roll-over ability but most of them actually max their cap room just to contend for the championship.  Yes, I’m talking to you Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The NFL can actually be more generous to its players/athletes given the reasons above, they just don’t want to.

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