The 5 Biggest Pay Cuts in NBA History

Considering how difficult it is to make it into the NBA, it makes sense why the most talented basketball players make a lot of money. However, since the game is changing and external factors such as health and age play a vital role in an NBA player‘s career, many pros are taking massive pay cuts. These are the five biggest pay cuts in NBA history:

5. James Harden: $15 Million

Philadelphia 76ers player James Harden warms up prior to the Eastern Conference Semifinals
James Harden | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The star guard had a chance to be the second highest-paid NBA player for the 2022-23 season by bagging a whopping $47.4 million. However, in a dramatic twist, James Harden refused the deal and accepted a $15 million pay cut.

By renewing his contract for two years with the Philadelphia 76ers, Harden settled for $33 million for the first year and a player option worth $35.6 million for the second year. The motivation behind this sacrifice was to give the 76ers a chance to win a championship.

Harden’s voluntary sacrifice to take a pay cut allowed the 76ers to improve their bench by signing fresh talents like Danuel House, P.J. Tucker, and Trevelin Queen. 

4. Victor Oladipo: $18,610,359

Victor Oladipo‘s recent season proved a disaster for the small forward/shooting guard who made only 33 game appearances with three NBA teams. Furthermore, Oladipo’s health posed a major concern about whether he’d appear in the 2022 season.

As a result, the Miami Heat player agreed to a massive pay cut. The 30-year-old went from earning $21 million for the 2020-21 NBA season to $2,389,641 for 2021-22.

Several factors influence NBA players receiving pay cuts. These include performance, ratings, health conditions, and financial limitations. In other instances, players can voluntarily agree to pay cuts for the common good. For example, Harden’s $15 million cut was influenced by his desire to give the Philly team another chance at the championship.

3. Otto Porter: $26,099,598

Initially, the Washington Wizards formed a solid team of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter, who signed a massive deal worth $20 million yearly. Porter’s talent and dedication made him a solid starter in the NBA. 

Unfortunately, a few injury-filled seasons left the 28-year-old talent with almost no option but to agree to a veteran’s minimum earning with the Golden State Warriors.

From earning $28,489,239 in 2020-21 to $2,389,641 in 2021-22, Porter experienced a 91.6% pay cut — one of the largest in recent NBA history. Fortunately, he became an NBA champion in 2022.

2. Andre Drummond: $26,350,237

Andre Drummond, a two-time All-Star and player for the Chicago Bulls, recently took one of the biggest salary hits in the NBA. Despite averaging a double-double for eight straight seasons, the two-time All-Star was reserved to a veteran’s minimum salary.

From $28,751,774 in 2020-21 to $2,401,537 in 2021-22, reports ESPN, Drummond is now in Chicago. The Bulls hope he can be a reliable presence for the team.

1. Shaquille O’Neal: $30 Million

The legendary Jerry West convinced Shaq to take a $30 million pay cut to join the Lakers in 1996, as Lakers Nation reports. One of West’s selling points to Shaq was that he would play alongside Kobe Bryant, a duo that later earned the Lakers several Championship titles. 

Shaq’s initial demand was $150 million to join the Lakers. However, West sold the idea of a unified force comprising Shaq, Kobe, and other youthful promising talents with the ability to win several championships. 

West made it clear that he could offer only $120 million — a deal Shaq agreed to, leading to the team bagging several NBA titles. Unfortunately, internal warfare and a battle of egos led to the separation of the fantastic duo from the Lakers, which saw Shaq change camps and move to the Miami Heat. 

Related: Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Almost Came to Blows in 2003, and 3 NBA Legends Had ‘To Serve as Potential Muscle, Should It Come to That’