The 26 Biggest Contracts in NBA History

Anthony Davis smiles while watching the Pelicans play.
Anthony Davis has millions of reasons to smile. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Heading into the last NBA offseason, we knew free agency would be a circus. Not only did plenty of talented players hit the market, but thanks to the increased revenues from various new TV deals, the salary cap for the 2016–17 season ballooned to an obscene $94.1 million. Thanks to this unhealthy cap increase from the year before, even unworthy individuals cashed in big time. While everyone knew this to be true, most were still not fully prepared for the craziness.

As is always the case, some players remained with their current clubs while others bolted, looking to start fresh in a new environment. Although some of the bigger names shocked us with their decisions, the real head-scratching began when we saw how much money teams willingly threw around — the ultimate example of “stupid money.”

To the surprise of no one, this trend continued during the 2017 offseason, as clubs, again, handed out massive contracts to many of the game’s biggest free agents. In fact, we officially witnessed the largest deal in the history of the NBA. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 26 biggest NBA contracts of all time.

26. Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas looks on during a game against the Cavs.
Gilbert Arenas definitely made his money. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  • Contract: Six years, $111 million
  • Team: Washington Wizards
  • Years: 2008–13

Although Gilbert Arenas’ career took a turn for the worse — following a much-publicized locker room incident with teammate, Javaris Crittenton — you can’t fault the Wizards for investing in the former superstar.

During his stint with the organization, Agent Zero averaged 25 points per game, made three All-Star Game appearances, and was a three-time All-NBA selection. He was plenty deserving of the six-year, $111 million deal the Wizards gave him back in 2008. Still, in the end, that didn’t prevent the franchise from shipping him to Orlando in 2010.

24. (tie) Kevin Love

Kevin Love runs back on defense.
The Cavs made a major investment in Kevin Love. | Elsa/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $113.2 million
  • Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Years: 2015–19

After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Kevin Love learned firsthand how difficult it is to occupy the same space as the King. Yet, despite the early growing pains, it wasn’t long before the four-time All-Star proved just how vital he is to the team’s success. This didn’t go unnoticed by the higher-ups, as they showed their appreciation in the form of a new five-year, $113.2 million deal.

24. (tie) Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol celebrates knocking down a three-pointer.
Marc Gasol’s contact is reason to celebrate. | Harry How/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $113.2 million
  • Team: Memphis Grizzlies
  • Years: 2015–19

Marc Gasol might not be the highest-paid player on his team (as you’ll soon see), but he’s definitely not hurting from a financial standpoint. In 2015, the Grizzlies gave the former Defensive Player of the Year a new contract worth $113.2 million over five years. While Gasol has the option to opt out of the deal after four seasons, something tells us the All-Star center has every intention of staying in Memphis.

23. Al Horford

The Boston Celtics need more than just Al Horford.
Al Horford was a big get for the Boston Celtics. | Michael Reaves/Getty Images
  • Contract: Four years, $113.3 million
  • Team: Boston Celtics
  • Years: 2016–19

Al Horford was one of the biggest available free agents during the 2016 offseason and for good reason. Since the Atlanta Hawks selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, the former Florida Gators standout has averaged nearly a double-double, made four All-Star Games, and earned All-NBA honors during the 2010–11 season. As a result, the Boston Celtics made Horford a huge priority, signing him to a four-year, $113.3 million deal.

22. Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh celebrates a bucket.
Chris Bosh knows he has game. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $118.7 million
  • Team: Miami Heat
  • Years: 2014–18

In 2014, following the King’s decision to return to Cleveland, the Miami Heat made re-signing Chris Bosh priority No. 1. Unfortunately, just because Bosh signed on the dotted line of a new five-year, $118.7 million contract doesn’t mean he isn’t expendable. Continued blood clotting has, for all intents and purposes, ended CB4’s time in Miami.

20. (tie) Nicolas Batum

Nicolas Batum claps after the play.
Nicolas Batum likes what he sees. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $120 million
  • Team: Charlotte Hornets
  • Years: 2016–20

After averaging a career-high 14.9 points per game during the 2015–16 season, Nicolas Batum was rewarded with a fat contract to remain with the Charlotte Hornets. The organization signed the two-way talent to a five-year, $120 million deal. Not bad for a guy who’s never played in an All-Star Game.

20. (tie) Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal reacts to a call.
They don’t get more dominant than Shaquille O’Neal. | Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images
  • Contract: Seven years, $120 million
  • Team: Los Angeles Lakers
  • Years: 1996–02

For the first four years of his career, Shaquille O’Neal asserted his dominance as a member of the Orlando Magic, averaging 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game and making four All-Star teams. Then the Los Angeles Lakers swooped in and signed the Diesel to a seven-year, $120 million contract in 1996. We think this move worked out pretty well for them.

19. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan celebrates during the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
Tim Duncan was worth every penny for the Spurs. | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
  • Contract: Seven years, $122 million
  • Team: San Antonio Spurs
  • Years: 2003–09

Considering he is arguably the greatest power forward the game has ever seen, Tim Duncan should rank higher on the list in our opinion. Still, there’s nothing shabby about the seven-year, $122 million contract The Big Fundamental signed with the San Antonio Spurs back in 2003. He most certainly lived up to every cent of the deal.

18. Chris Webber

Chris Webber is all smiles.
Chris Webber was a force for the Kings. | Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
  • Contract: Seven years, $122.7 million
  • Team: Sacramento Kings
  • Years: 2001–07

Although he didn’t start his career with the Sacramento Kings, Chris Webber became one of the most prominent figures in franchise history. In seven seasons with the organization, C-Webb averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. He made four All-Star teams and earned himself a massive seven-year, $122.7 million contract. Sadly, there’s one thing his time in Sacramento didn’t yield — a championship.

17. Joe Johnson

  • Contract: Six years, $123.7 million
  • Team: Atlanta Hawks
  • Years: 2010–15

The Atlanta Hawks’ decision to sign Joe Johnson to a six-year, $123.7 million deal back in 2010 was one of the great head-scratchers of our time. This isn’t to say that Johnson didn’t have a filthy jumper or hold multiple All-Star Game appearances. On the contrary, he had both of those things on his resume. No, the real issue was the fact that Johson was 29 years old at the time of the deal. Clearly, the Hawks mistook him for LeBron James.

16. Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony brings up the ball.
Carmelo Anthony has earned his money with the Knicks. | Rich Barnes/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $124.1 million
  • Team: New York Knicks
  • Years: 2014–18

Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have any rings, but that certainly hasn’t hurt his bank account. Just ask the New York Knicks, who re-signed the All-Star back in 2014 to the tune of $124.1 million over five years. Melo might not be the ultimate “team player,” but trust us, his overall talent is well worth the money.

13. (tie) Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett prepares to battle.
The game is going to miss Kevin Garnett. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Contract: Six years, $126 million
  • Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Years: 1999–2004

The Minnesota Timberwolves took a chance by selecting Kevin Garnett right out of high school with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. Yet, it only took the organization four years to realize the special talent they had. As a result, the T-Wolves retained KG’s services in 1999 by giving him a six-year, $126 million deal. Garnett earned his money, making the next eight straight All-Star Games for Minnesota (12 in a row, including his stint in Boston) and leading the NBA in rebounding from the 2003–04 season through the 2006–07 season.

13. (tie) Rashard Lewis

  • Contract: Six years, $126 million
  • Team: Orlando Magic
  • Years: 2007–12

After averaging 16.6 points per game in his nine seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics including 22.4 points per contest during the 2006–07 season it wasn’t surprising that forward Rashard Lewis was a coveted free agent come the summer of 2007. The Orlando Magic valued him so much that they worked out a sign-and-trade deal with the Sonics that allowed them to give Lewis a contract worth $126 million over six years.

While the Magic hoped to get a big-time player who could put the ball in the basket, it’s safe to say they ended up on the losing end of this agreement. Lewis never put up more than 18.2 points per contest during his brief time in Orlando.

13. (tie) Jrue Holliday

Jrue Holiday dribbles up the floor.
Jrue Holiday is shown the love. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $126 million
  • Team: New Orleans Pelicans
  • Years: 2017–21

Although Jrue Holiday hasn’t played in an All-Star Game since the 2012–13 season (he was a 76er at the time), the New Orleans Pelicans showed him just how much they value his services. The 27-year-old, who averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game this past season, was handed a five-year deal worth $126 million. The Pelicans might never live up to their potential, but at least we know who’s tasked with making sure Boogie and The Brow each get their touches.

12. Jermaine O’Neal

Jermaine O'Neal celebrates a bucket.
Jermaine O’Neal celebrates hitting a big shot. | Doug Benc/Getty Images
  • Contract: Seven years, $126.6 million
  • Team: Indiana Pacers
  • Years: 2003–09

When Jermaine O’Neal joined the Indiana Pacers in 2000 following a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, the former No. 17 overall pick from the 1996 NBA Draft proved he had the makings of a dominant center. By turning himself into a double-double player, O’Neal earned a massive payday in the summer of 2003 to the tune of seven years, $126.6 million. To this day, it is still considered one of the worst $100 million contracts in sports history.

9. (tie) Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis shoots the rock.
Anthony Davis can do it all. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $127.2 million
  • Team: New Orleans Pelicans
  • Years: 2016–20

At the time of the initial signing, New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis looked at a potential five-year deal worth an estimated $145 million. However, things don’t always work out that way. Due to a 2015–16 campaign in which The Brow failed to start in the All-Star Game or earn All-NBA honors, despite averaging 24.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Davis failed to meet the qualifications needed to start his max contract 30% of the league’s salary cap. Still, $127.2 million over five years is hardly worth complaining about.

9. (tie) Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond reacts to a made basket.
Andre Drummond is getting things done. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $127.2 million
  • Team: Detroit Pistons
  • Years: 2016–20

Following his first All-Star Game appearance and a Third-Team All-NBA selection, center Andre Drummond was handsomely rewarded by the Detroit Pistons with a five-year, $127.2 million max contract. Considering he averaged 16.2 points and a league-leading 14.8 rebounds per game during the 2015–16 season, we’d say the former UConn Husky more than earned this monster payday.

9. (tie) Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal has game.
Bradley Beal has a lot to think about. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $127.2 million
  • Team: Washington Wizards
  • Years: 2016–20

Injuries may have hampered Bradley Beal over the last few seasons. However, the Washington Wizards were not about to let their shooting guard, whom they drafted No. 3 overall back in 2012, get away. They signed him to a five-year max contract worth a little over $127 million. Here we thought he was called the “Real Deal” because he shoots 39.7% from three-point range. Or perhaps that’s just one reason why he earned a real nice deal.

8. Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward looks on during the game.
Gordon Hayward cashed in big time. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
  • Contract: Four years, $128 million
  • Team: Boston Celtics
  • Years: 2017–20

Gordon Hayward has improved each year since being selected by the Utah Jazz with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft. This summer, following a career season in 2016–17 that saw him average 21.9 points per game and make his first All-Star Game appearance, Hayward reaped the rewards of all that hard work.

The former Butler standout signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Boston Celtics, reuniting with his college coach, Brad Steven, and causing the sort of Twitter storm usually reserved for bona fide stars. If he hadn’t already before, Gordon Hayward has officially arrived.

7. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is all smiles.
Kobe Bryant warms up prior to a game against the Pelicans. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Contract: Seven years, $136.4 million
  • Team: Los Angeles Lakers
  • Years: 2004–10

Back in the summer of 2004, the Los Angeles Lakers had no intention of letting future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant bolt the City of Angels. As a result, the team signed him to the then-biggest NBA contract in history, worth $136.4 million over seven years. After signing this massive contract, the Black Mamba was clearly ecstatic. “I always wanted to be a Laker,” Bryant said. “It’s in my heart. This is what I do, this the team I want to play for and have a chance to finish out my career here.”

Considering the fact that The Mamba retired from the NBA as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, we can safely say he got his wish.

6. DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan dribbles the ball up the floor.
DeMar DeRozan looks to push the ball. | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $139 million
  • Team: Toronto Raptors
  • Years: 2016–20

After making the second All-Star Game appearance of his career in 2015–16, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan was shown just how much the Toronto Raptors valued his services. The franchise signed him to a five-year max contract worth $139 million, making him one of the highest-paid players in NBA history.

5. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is ready to ball.
Don’t mess with Damian Lillard. | Scott Halleran/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $139.9 million
  • Team: Portland Trail Blazers
  • Years: 2016–20

It may seem like point guard Damian Lillard doesn’t get the love he deserves, yet from a financial standpoint, this couldn’t be further from the truth. After averaging 25.3 points and 6.9 assists per game in 2015–16, which resulted in an All-NBA selection (the second of his career), the escalator clause in Dame’s deal kicked in, resulting in a contract worth almost $140 million over five years. Look who has the last laugh now.

4. Mike Conley

Mike Conley hits the three.
Mike Conley makes that mask look good. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $153 million
  • Team: Memphis Grizzlies
  • Years: 2016–20

Despite never playing in an All-Star Game, Mike Conley’s importance to the Memphis Grizzlies is impossible to deny. He is the team’s floor leader, their toughness, and by all accounts, their heart. And they paid him as such, with a whopping five-year, $153 million deal.

3. Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin battles to the bucket.
Blake Griffin is a Clipper through and through. | J Pat Carter/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $173 million
  • Team: Los Angeles Clippers
  • Years: 2017–21

Losing Chris Paul to the Rockets made this a difficult offseason for the Los Angeles Clippers. Silver lining: At least they were able to keep Blake Griffin from leaving town as well. The five-time All-Star signed a new five-year contract worth roughly $173 million.  Here’s to hoping he stays healthy long enough to live up to the paycheck.

2. Stephen Curry

Steph Curry reacts during Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry is finally getting paid like a superstar. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • Contract: Five years, $201 million
  • Team: Golden State Warriors
  • Years: 2017–21

Stephen Curry’s last deal was probably the most team-friendly contract in the National Basketball Association. That all changed in the 2017 offseason, as Curry went from being grossly underpaid to rolling around in Scrooge McDuck money.

The Warriors handed the Baby-Faced Assassin a new five-year, $201 million contract that would pay him an annual average salary of more than $40.2 million. This deal is much more fitting of the two-time MVP’s status. Of course, if you ask the King, Curry deserves to make more.

1. James Harden

James Harden celebrates knocking down a triple.
The Beard is into money. | Harry How/Getty Images
  • Contract: Six years, $228 million (technically, a four-year, $170 million extension on top of existing contract)
  • Team: Houston Rockets
  • Years: 2019–22

Few players in the NBA are as exciting as James Harden. A natural scorer with an affinity for getting the basket at will, The Beard recently established himself as one of the premier passers in the game, averaging a league-leading 11.6 assists per game in 2016–17.

As a result, the Rockets decided to take Harden’s salary to the next level, giving him a four-year, $170 million super-maximum extension. Combined with the two years and $59 million he has remaining on his current deal, Harden is set to make $228 million in guaranteed money through the 2022–23 season. Now that’s a lot of “Beard” money.

Statistics and information courtesy of Basketball-Reference, ESPNForbes, and Spotrac.