The highest-paid NBA players are almost always from the United States. This is because basketball is a US sport and although other countries have taken a liking to the hoops, that doesn’t mean they have the same infrastructure in place to produce high-quality players.
Schools are our main source of talent, and without a basketball team or tournament to help these kids learn how to play hoop, we wouldn’t be able to keep our talent so great. That doesn’t mean European teams aren’t amazing, or that their schools and colleges don’t create basketball spaces, they just don’t prioritize them as we do in America.
That’s why we have so few European players in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean the players we have aren’t top quality. In fact, 5 of our top 100 earners come from a European country.
1. Nikola Jokic – $264 million – Denver Nuggets
LeBron James is the highest-paid basketball player in the NBA, raking in $387,384,119 so far in his career.
You can expect such high pay from someone who can dramatically sway the sports betting lines as James can.
Jokic is just as talented. The Serbian player sealed a deal in 2022 with the Nuggets for $264 million. This was the biggest single deal in NBA history and automatically made him the 9th highest player in NBA history.
The money matches the skill, as Jokic (nicknamed The Joker) won the Most Valuable Player award in 2021 and 2022, was the Serbian Player of the Year in 2018 and 2021, and has been leading the squad ever since his arrival to the Denver Nuggets.
2. Dirk Nowitzki – $251,646,362 – Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki is a German Power Forward who played in the NBA between 1998 and 2019. He finished his career, ranking as the 12th highest-paid player of all time.
In his career, Nowitzki played for DJK Würzburg for 4 years before moving to the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks.
He became an NBA champion in 2011 and won the Finals Most Valuable Player Award in 2007 and 2011. Nowitzki also won the Teammate of the Year award in 2017 and the FIBA Europe Men’s Player of the Year Award twice – once in 2005 and again in 2011.
3. Pau Gasol – $220,990,766 – Milwaukee Bucks
Throughout his career, Gasol has played for many different teams. He finished his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019, but before that, he played for the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, and Memphis Grizzlies.
Gasol’s first professional basketball team was FC Barcelona which he played for between 1998 and 2001, and returned to them in 2021 before retiring.
The Spanish player won the Rookie of the Year award in 2002 and became the NBA Champion twice – once in 2009 and the second time in 2010. He has also been the Spanish King’s Cup winner and the Spanish King’s Cup MVP both in 2001.
Overall, Gasol is the 20th highest NBA player of all-time counting all 19 NBA seasons.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – $146,344,870 – Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo is a Greek player who is currently 73rd on the highest-paid NBA player of all time list.
Antetokounmpo started off his professional career with the Filathlitikos, a Greek team, which he stayed with between 2011 and 2013. He then made the switch to the NBA and joined the Milwaukee Bucks.
He was added to the All-Rookie Second Team in 2014 and achieved the NBA Most Improved Player in 2017. Just one year later, Antetokounmpo received the Euroscar Player of the Year award in 2018 and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.
And most recently, Antetokounmpo was given the NBA Finals MVP award in 2021 after becoming an NBA champion in the same year.
Antetokounmpo’s journey has been a steady stream of successes, growing in talent and fame as the years continue.
5. Steve Nash – $144,655,827 – Los Angeles Lakers
Nash has a mixed nationality. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. South Africa disjoined from the British Empire in 1961, 13 years before Nash was born. However, his parents are Welsh and English. This means that Nash is entitled to a British passport.
At just 18 months old, Nash moved to British Columbia, Canada. This is why he is also entitled to a Canadian passport.
For this list, we are counting Nash as European despite only being part of Britain through Commonwealth countries, and never actually living in Europe.
Nash is the 75th highest-paid NBA player of all time. He started his career with the Phoenix Suns and stayed with them for 2 years. He then moved on to the Dallas Mavericks between 1998 and 2004 before turning to his beginning team. Back with the Suns, he stayed there for 8 years before starting fresh with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Each of these players is a testament to their country and to the NBA itself. They made legendary dunks, and awe-inspiring passes, and have proven that anyone from any country can play basketball.