The highest-paid NBA players ever by height

Today, we’re going to do a fun exercise where we present the highest-paid NBA player by every single height, ranging from 5-foot-3 all the way to 7-foot-7

Of course, this list is about to be dominated by various active players considering how high player salaries have gotten, but there are a few old-school legends thrown in there, too.

Below, check out what our research showed us when we looked up the highest-paid NBA players ever by height.

5-foot-3: Muggsy Bogues

5-foot-5: Earl Boykins

Doug Benc/Getty Images
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Career earnings: $16,544,862

The second-shortest player ever to make it in the NBA, Earl Boykins played 13 seasons in the league, earning Most Improved Player votes once and Sixth Man of the Year votes four times in his prime.

For his career, Boykins averaged 8.9 points and 3.2 assists, modest numbers but considering his stature, extremely impressive nonetheless. Boykins’ salary peaked in 2006-07 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks when he earned $3.0 million.

For more Earl Boykins career salary info, click here.

5-foot-7: Spud Webb

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Career earnings: $7,825,600 since 1990-91
Runner-ups: Keith Jennings, Greg Grant

A player who got Rookie of the Year votes and Most Improved Player votes in his career, as well as who led the league in free throw percentage once, 5-foot-7 dynamo Spud Webb played 12 seasons in the NBA from 1985-86 to 1997-98.

He made the playoffs five times in that span, enjoying a career year in 1991-92 when, at his stature in an era of giants down low, he averaged 16.0 points, 7.1 assists and 1.6 steals over 77 games with the Sacramento Kings. He did that while earning just $560,000 that year, too.

For more Spud Webb career salary info, click here.

5-foot-8: Jacob Gilyard

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $147,403

One of just four 5-foot-8 players all-time in the NBA, Richmond product Jacob Gilyard got minutes this very season (2023-24) for the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies, albeit over just 41 games in what was his sophomore NBA campaign. The 25-year-old guard is currently on a two-way contract with the Nets.

For more Jacob Gilyard career salary info, click here.

5-foot-9: Isaiah Thomas

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $32,697,809
Runner-ups: Nate Robinson, Chris Clemons

Arguably the best player under six feet tall in NBA history (we believe that to be the case, at least), Isaiah Thomas peaked in 2016-17 as a 2nd Team All-NBAer for the Boston Celtics after averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists on 46.3 percent shooting. Boston went 53-29 that year, too, so the stats were far from empty. Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting that season, an absolutely unfathomable feat for someone of his stature.

It’s unfortunate that the diminutive guard got injured before hitting free agency, however, which caused him to miss out on what could – and should – have been a huge payday. Thomas made a good amount of money in his career (though just $6.6 million in the season he finished Top 5 in MVP voting) but it could have been a whole lot more if his body just held up a bit longer.

Thomas finished 12th in our Most Underpaid Players ranking.

For more Isaiah Thomas career salary info, click here.

5-foot-10: Damon Stoudamire

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Career earnings: $99,672,198
Runner-ups: Jose Juan Barea, Brevin Knight

1996 Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire peaked early in his career, averaging 18.9 points per game over his first three seasons, two-and-a-half of which came as a member of the Toronto Raptors (on some very bad Toronto teams) before he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. In Portland, Stoudamire played on much better teams, even reaching the Western Conference Finals back-to-back years in 1998-99 and 1999-00.

Stoudemire peaked in salary in 2004-05 in Portland when the current Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach earned $12.5 million to help make him the highest-paid 5-foot-10 player ever.

For more Damon Stoudamire career salary info, click here.

5-foot-11: DJ Augustin

DJ Augustin, Orlando Magic
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $64,386,661
Runner-ups: Terrell Brandon, Ty Lawson

The No. 9 pick in the 2008 draft, Texas product DJ Augustin lasted 14 seasons in the NBA thanks to his great quickness at the point-guard spot, which helped make up for his lack of size. Augustin was never a star – he never averaged 15 points in the NBA – but he did earn Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year votes in his career.

Augustin was fortunate that he was still a solid player at the time of the crazed 2016 free-agent spending bonanza, when he, nearly 30 and coming off a season where he averaged 7.5 points and 3.2 assists, landed the biggest contract of his career, one worth four years and $29 million from the Orlando Magic.

For more DJ Augustin career salary info, click here.

6-foot-0: Chris Paul

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $390,177,385
Runner-ups: Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry

The Point God Chris Paul is by far the highest-paid 6-foot-tall player in NBA history, no easy feat considering how much money Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry have earned in their careers.

Paul, a six-time All-Star and four-time 1st Team All-NBAer, has earned over $20 million in a season nine times, over $30 million four times and over $40 million once, all of it well-earned considering he’ll go down as one of the two or three best pure point guards of all time.

Paul’s salary peaked in 2020-21 when he earned $41.4 million as a member of the Phoenix Suns when he helped guide the team to the Finals.

For more Chris Paul career salary info, click here.

6-foot-1: Eric Bledsoe

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $129,340,553
Runner-ups: Rajon Rondo, Terry Rozier

Kentucky product Eric Bledsoe spent 12 seasons in the NBA, averaging 17.6 points, 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals over his seven-year prime, a stretch in which he earned 1st and 2nd Team All-Defense honors. Bledsoe never collected any accolades besides that but he was still very well-compensated in his career based on his elite defense to go with his solid scoring and playmaking.

Bledsoe’s biggest contract came in 2014 when he signed a four-year, $70 million deal with the Phoenix Suns while his highest-paid season was in 2021-22 when he earned $18.1 million. He averaged 9.9 points on 42.1 percent shooting that year.

For more Eric Bledsoe career salary info, click here.

6-foot-2: Stephen Curry

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $357,844,681
Runner-ups: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving

A Top 13 player of all time, according to us, 10-time All-Star Stephen Curry had some stiff competition from two other all-time point guards, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, to be the highest-paid 6-foot-2 player of all time but came out on top anyway with his $357-plus million in career salary earnings.

Curry, who peaked in yearly salary this season when he made $51.9 million,  has another two seasons left on his current contract worth a combined $115.4 million. He’s also still an All-NBA-level player, so his next deal will likewise be a sizable one. All in all, Curry’s spot at the top of the 6-foot-2 rankings should be safe for some time.

For more Stephen Curry career salary info, click here.

6-foot-3: John Wall

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $276,580,866
Runner-ups: CJ McCollum, Eric Gordon

No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Kentucky legend John Wall was well on his way to hitting – if not surpassing – the expectations of even a top overall pick before injuries ended his prime prematurely. Even then, Wall was a five-time All-Star and one-time 3rd Team All-NBAer by his age-27 campaign.

Wall was compensated like a superstar before multiple major injuries got the best of him, as he’s the highest-paid 6-foot-3 player ever, thanks in large part to the four-year, $170 million contract he signed in the 2017 offseason, which, unluckily for the Washington Wizards, was the summer before all of Wall’s injury troubles really began.

Wall’s highest-paid single season came in 2021-22 when he earned $44.3 million as a member of the Houston Rockets. Wall did not play a single game that season.

It won’t matter to him but Wall actually finished No. 1 in our list of Most Overpaid Players in NBA history list we did a few months ago.

For more John Wall career salary info, click here.

6-foot-4: Russell Westbrook

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $342,672,250
Runner-ups: Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday

Triple-double king Russell Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, one-time league MVP and two-time 1st Team All-NBAer, through and through one of the best lead guards basketball has ever seen. Westbrook has been compensated as such throughout his career, making him the highest-paid 6-foot-4 player ever.

Westbrook’s biggest NBA contract, which was the biggest in league history at the time, came during the 2017 offseason when he signed a five-year, $206.8 million contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder using the Designated Veteran Player Extension.

In 2022-23, Westbrook earned $46.3 million, his highest single-season salary total ever, in a campaign that saw him average 15.9 points on 43.6 percent shooting and earn Sixth Man of the Year votes.

For more Russell Westbrook career salary info, click here.

6-foot-5: James Harden

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $340,679,833
Runner-ups: Ray Allen, Zach Lavine

One of the greatest guards ever, 2017-18 league MVP James Harden signed a four-year, $171 million contract in the summer of 2017 with the Houston Rockets through use of the Designated Veteran Player Extension rule, a contract that helped him become the highest-paid 6-foot-5 player in NBA history.

Harden would finish first, second and third in the league MVP vote over the following three seasons, so the contract was clearly well worth it for both parties even if Houston didn’t get a championship out of it. However, he wouldn’t finish out the contract with the Rockets, who traded him after Harden demanded a move out of Houston in 2021-22, a deal that saw the bearded star land with the Nets.

Harden earned $44.3 million in 2021-22 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, his team after Brooklyn, a year that saw him earn All-Star honors while averaging over 22 points and 10 assists per contest.

For more James Harden career salary info, click here.

6-foot-6: Kobe Bryant

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Career earnings: $328,237,108
Runner-ups: Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan

The legendary Kobe Bryant firmly established himself as the second-greatest shooting guard of all time, a GOAT of the position with one league MVP award, 18 All-Star appearances and 11 1st Team All-NBAs (to go with nine 1st Team All-Defenses). And to go with his unreal peak, he also had great longevity, earning MVP votes all the way until his age-34 season.

That obviously helped Bryant earn a whole lot of money in his career, as he has a firm hold on being the highest-paid 6-foot-6 player in league history. The biggest contract of Bryant’s career surprisingly came all the way back in 2004 when he signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also signed a hefty three-year, $83.5 million deal with L.A. ahead of the 2010-11 season coming off of back-to-back championships with the Lakers.

Even despite how much money he earned in his career, Bryant’s bank account was still hurt by the era he played in, as his highest single-season salary was worth just $30.5 million (2013-14, the only season he made over $30 million), a number paling in comparison to some of the salaries we see today.

Nevertheless, even if Bryant’s big contracts didn’t age all that well later on in his career, there’s no question he deserved that money considering his peak and loyalty (one trade request aside) to the Lakers.

For more Kobe Bryant career salary info, click here.

6-foot-7: Kawhi Leonard

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $279,265,838
Runner-ups: Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler

Two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is the highest-earning 6-foot-7 player in NBA history, making nearly $280 million in his career from player salaries alone. The biggest contract of his career came in 2021 when Leonard chose the Los Angeles Clippers over a bevy of other suitors, signing with L.A. for four years and $176.3 million.

Leonard’s lead in the 6-foot-7 career earnings department is only going to increase, too, as the six-time All-Star signed a three-year, $149.7 million extension with the Clippers back in January, which will peak in 2024-25 at a whopping $52.4 million

It’s a somewhat risky proposition for Los Angeles considering his injury history but when healthy, Leonard remains an All-NBA-level performer with championship experience, so the team certainly must feel the risk is worth it.

For more Kawhi Leonard career salary info, click here.

6-foot-8: Paul George

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $307,094,937
Runner-ups: Kevin Love, Tobias Harris

Leonard’s teammate Paul George hasn’t been extended by the Clippers to this point, leaving his future career earnings a bit more up in the air. Even so, he’s already the highest-paid 6-foot-8 player in league history with career earnings north of $307 million.

George’s current contract is the richest of his career, as the former Fresno State standout signed a four-year, $176 million contract extension back in 2020, one that has him earning $45.6 million this season. Statistically, George has lived up to the contract but what the Clippers are probably waiting on – and maybe part of the reason they haven’t extended him yet – is to see how the team will do in the playoffs.

A deep playoff run and George probably gets another monster contract in Los Angeles. But another first-round exit will probably lead to changes to the Clippers roster.

Either way, George remains a top two-way high-scoring wing in the league, so whether it’s in Los Angeles or not, he’s likely set to get another huge contract somewhere this summer, one that will only further strengthen his lead in career earnings among 6-foot-8 players.

For more Paul George career salary info, click here.

6-foot-9: LeBron James

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $481,684,815
Runner-ups: Al Horford, Blake Griffin

GOAT candidate LeBron James is a four-time league MVP, four-time NBA champion and 13-time 1st Team All-NBAer. He’s also the highest-paid player in NBA history with career earnings so far of $481.7 million, and the potential to earn a lot more barring an unexpected retirement this summer.

Surprisingly, James has only led the league in salary once in his career, which came back in 2016-17 when he made $31.0 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers. His highest single-season salary actually came this season when he made $47.6 million with the Lakers. The biggest contract of James’ career came in 2018 when he signed with Los Angeles for four years and $153.5 million.

With no signs of slowing down, it’ll be interesting to see what James’ next contract (he can and almost certainly will hit free agency this summer) looks like – and with what team he decides to sign it.

For more LeBron James career salary info, click here.

6-foot-10: Anthony Davis

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $268,301,708
Runner-ups: Dwight Howard, Danilo Gallinari

James’ teammate (right now, at least), big man Anthony Davis is a former No. 1 overall pick and was pretty much an elite player by Year-2 of his career. So naturally, he’s been extremely well-compensated throughout his career, earning over $268 million in player salaries alone since reaching the NBA to make him the highest-paid 6-foot-10 player ever.

What’s more, Davis has a monstrous amount of money – $270.5 million to be exact, $203.7 million if he opts out of the final year of his deal in 2027-28 –  left on his current contract, so depending on how much longer James plays, Davis could make a run at becoming the highest-paid player in league history by the time he hangs up his sneakers. By the time Davis’ current contract expires, even without counting his opt-out year, he’ll be at $472 million in career earnings, roughly $9 million below James’ current career earnings.

Plus, Davis is still merely 31 and just had his healthiest season ever so the idea of him landing another huge multi-year contract after 2026-27 is not out of the question by any means. If the former Kentucky standout opts out of the final year of his contract, his peak salary on his current deal will be $62.2 million in 2026-27, an almost unfathomable amount of money but one that speaks to the size of modern superstar NBA contracts.

For more Anthony Davis career salary info, click here.

6-foot-11: Kevin Durant

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $405,940,020
Runner-ups: Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan

One of the best pure scorers in league history, 2013-14 league MVP Kevin Durant had some stiff competition to become the highest-paid 6-foot-11 player ever (despite his era being less money-crazed, Kevin Garnett earned over $343 million in his career, for example) but was able to do so thanks in large part to his time with the Nets, who originally gave him a four-year deal worth $164.3 million in 2019 before extending him two years later (for four years, $194.2 million).

Durant has three fully guaranteed years left in his contract with the Suns, too, worth $153.5 million, so he’ll only continue to build his lead in the career earnings for 6-foot-11 players department. By the time his current deal expires, Durant will have earned over $40 million in a single season six times in his career.

For more Kevin Durant career salary info, click here.

7-foot-0: Dirk Nowitzki

JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

Career earnings: $255,371,800
Runner-ups: Pau Gasol, Joel Embiid

If we run this exercise in a couple of seasons, 76ers superstar Joel Embiid will have surpassed Dirk Nowitzki for this honor. For now, the big German remains the highest-paid 7-foot player of all time.

Nowitzki came up at a time when player salaries paled in comparison to what they are today. For example, he only made more than $20 million in a single season twice in his entire career, in 2012-13 ($20.9 million) and 2013-14 ($22.7 million). If Nowitzki was in the midst of his prime today, he would be making at least twice that per season.

The biggest contract of Nowitzki’s career came in 2006 when he signed an extension with the Dallas Mavericks for five years and $90.8 million, which looks shocking compared to the superstar contracts players get today.

Even so, thankfully for Nowitzki, he had great longevity and a long peak so he still made over $255 million in his career on player salary alone. It just could have been so much more. Of course, Nowitzki himself is partly to blame for that, as he was fine with taking various pay cuts – even in his prime and reportedly to the tune of a whopping $194 million – in order to allow the Mavericks to sign more players.

We wonder who the next superstar in today’s NBA will be to take pay cuts for their owners. At the rate we’re at, we might not see it for a while.

For more Dirk Nowitzki career salary info, click here.

7-foot-1: Shaquille O'Neal

VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images
VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images

Career earnings: $292,198,327
Runner-ups: Rudy Gobert, Brook Lopez

The highest-paid 7-foot-1 player in NBA history, 2000 league MVP and four-time champion Shaquille O’Neal won’t hold the distinction much longer, as Minnesota Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert is currently at $261.0 million in career earnings with another year left on his contract worth $46.7 million. And even if he opts out of that year, the big Frenchman is still in his prime so he’ll pass O’Neal by next season anyway.

Regardless, O’Neal did it in an era when his seven-year, $120 million contract from the Lakers in 1996 was seen as perhaps an overpay (at least by Orlando Magic fans), despite O’Neal getting that contract in the midst of one of the most dominant primes of any player in league history. In a few years, Anthony Davis will be earning over half of that amount of money in a single season.

For more Shaquille O’Neal career salary info, click here.

7-foot-2: Kristaps Porzingis

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Career earnings: $176,903,094
Runner-ups: Dikembe Mutombo, Roy Hibbert

The highest-paid 7-foot-2 player in NBA history, Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis has earned nearly $177 million in his career thanks to his elite floor-spacing and shot-blocking capabilities to go with his All-Star-level scoring.

The biggest contract of Porzingis’s career came in 2019 when he signed with the Mavericks for five years and $158.3 million. He didn’t really live up to that contract in Dallas but has returned to All-Star form since getting to Boston, fitting perfectly on the team with two other high-level scorers, so no one can say he’s overpaid anymore.

The Celtics have already agreed to an extension with Porzingis for two years and $60 million, which could actually be an underpay for Boston considering how good the big Latvian has been for the Celtics.

For more Kristaps Porzingis career salary info, click here.

7-foot-3: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images
NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images

Career earnings: $125,423,723
Runner-ups: Arvydas Sabonis, Hasheem Thabeet

Fan favorite Big Z Zydrunas Ilgauskas was an All-Star for the Cavaliers and was well-paid for his contributions, earning over $125 million in his career.

Ilgauskas got a pair of big contracts in Cleveland, a six-year, $70.9 million deal (1999) and a five-year, $55 million one afterward in 2005. His highest single-season salary came in 2004-05 when he made $14.7 million, a campaign in which he earned his money, averaging nearly 17 points, over eight rebounds and two blocks per game while helping the Cavs finish with a winning record.

For more Zydrunas Ilgauskas career salary info, click here.

7-foot-4: Rik Smits

Career earnings: $42,950,000
Runner-ups: Boban Marjanovic, Victor Wembanyama

The gargantuan Rik Smits was an underrated big man in his prime, making one All-Star appearance and even earning MVP votes in 1997-98 when he averaged 16.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for a 58-24 Indiana Pacers team that pushed Jordan’s Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals that year.

He was paid relatively well in his career, too, at least for the era, earning nearly $43 million before retirement, peaking in 1999-00 at $12.3 million before he had to call it quits due to nagging injuries.

Budding superstar Victor Wembanyama will overtake Smits for the distinction of being the highest-paid 7-foot-4 player in league history by the time his rookie-scale contract (four years, $55.2 million) is done. And once he signs his inevitable max extension, he’ll probably be earning more annually than Smits earned in his entire career.

But for now, this honor still goes to the Pacers legend.

For more Rik Smits career salary info, click here.

7-foot-5: Pavel Podkolzin

Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Career earnings: $2,803,440
Runner-ups: Tacko Fall, Slavko Vranes

Pavel Podkolzin played six games in the NBA, totaling four points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes of action. For those efforts, he earned $2.8 million thanks to being a first-round pick (21st overall) in 2004. Thought of as a big-time prospect thanks to his size and shot-blocking, Podkolzin didn’t live up to his potential.

For more Pavel Podkolzin career salary info, click here.

7-foot-6: Yao Ming

Yao Ming vs. Shaquille O'Neal
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Career earnings: $93,390,336
Runner-ups: Shawn Bradley

Eight-time All-Star Yao Ming had his career sadly cut short due to injuries but was for a time one of the best centers in the NBA at his peak. After being the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, Ming would go on to make five All-NBA teams (two 2nd Teams, three 3rd Teams) all as a member of the Rockets.

Ming was able to sign one big-time contract before injuries caught up to him, one worth five years and $75 million in 2005. His highest-paid season came in 2010-11 and saw him earn $17.7 million for a campaign in which he played five games and averaged 10.2 points to go with 5.4 rebounds.

For more Yao Ming career salary info, click here.

7-foot-7: Gheorghe Muresan

Doug Pensinger /Allsport
Doug Pensinger /Allsport

Career earnings: $8,848,500

Gheorghe Muresan was a solid big man in the ’90s, winning Most Improved Player in 1995-96 after averaging 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His salary would peak the next campaign when he earned $2.4 million. Muresan also saw injuries unfortunately cut his NBA career short.

For more Gheorghe Muresan career salary info, click here.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype