Who is the Highest Paid WNBA Player?

A breakdown of the biggest contracts in the league.

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In 2020, the highest paid WNBA players are Sue Bird, DeWanna Bonner, Liz Cambage, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, and Emma Meesseman. These seven players will each earn a base supermax salary of $215,000 for the 2020 WNBA season. The base max salary is $185,000. The salary cap, which is regarded as a hard cap, is $1.3 million. In 2019, the top WNBA base salary was $117,500, and the salary cap was $996,100.

The groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement unveiled by the WNBPA, WNBA Board of Governors, and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert this past January boosts base salaries and provides for extra earning opportunities for WNBA players. Max and supermax players are set to receive an annual 3 percent salary bump, and by 2027, the salary cap will have grown incrementally by nearly $300,000.

Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman

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Coming off a league championship, 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman re-signed with the Washington Mystics in the offseason to well-deserved supermax deals.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delle Donne, a longtime Lyme disease patient, elected to sit out the 2020 season due to her susceptibility to the virus. Her decision came in spite of a panel of league-appointed doctors who would not deem her “medically excused” from play in the WNBA Bubble, which would have allowed the Mystics to withhold her 2020 salary. After Delle Donne went public with her disgust at the situation, the Mystics backtracked and promised to pay her to stay home.

In the meantime, Meesseman is averaging a career-high in minutes played as she and the Mystics attempt to close out an unusual season without their superstar leader.

Liz Cambage

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Unlike Delle Donne, Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage was granted medical exemption from the 2020 season, and she, by default, will receive her full 2020 salary. Cambage was seriously ill in December 2019 from what she believes was coronavirus; she was playing in China at the time. This year, Cambage enjoys a $100,000 jump from her 2019 base earnings.

DeWanna Bonner

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Former Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner was cored by the Mercury the league maximum of four times, so her pursuit of a new team was inevitable. This past February, Bonner was signed-and-traded to the Connecticut Sun, making her eligible for supermax earnings there. Bonner is in the midst of her best scoring season since 2012, though the Sun are underperforming relative to their 2019 successes.

Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner

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Through a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas, for whom she was a designated core player, point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith was able to sign a four-year supermax contract with the Phoenix Mercury. Meanwhile, center Brittney Griner re-signed with and was cored by Phoenix in early 2020, and was able to take advantage of the new supermax rules as well. 

Eighth-year players Griner and Diggins-Smith will both out-earn teammate Diana Taurasi in 2020. In fact, Taurasi stands to be the fourth-highest earner on her team this year behind Sixth Woman of the Year candidate Bria Hartley. Hartley, a recent acquisition from the New York Liberty, signed a three-year max deal with the Mercury this past February. Griner (personal reasons) and Hartley (torn ACL) have since left the Bubble in Bradenton, Florida.

Around the League

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As she continues to break records in her 17th season, the player most deem the “GOAT” remains criminally underpaid. Taurasi’s current contract was signed under the league’s previous collective bargaining agreement, which paid out $119,500 to supermax players; perennial all-stars like Candice Dupree, Candace Parker, and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike fall into this same trap. Luckily, all four of these stars are due new contracts in 2021.

Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird also stands to earn almost $100,000 more than her friend and contemporary Taurasi. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier this year to a supermax contract after missing the entire 2019 season with a knee injury. This season, she is averaging a career-low in minutes played, and points scored as she makes precautionary rest a priority.

Elsewhere around the league, star players are enjoying new lucrative contracts. Courtney Williams is the highest-paid player for the Atlanta Dream; her joyfully compelling 2019 season with the Sun earned her a sparkling new max deal in the offseason. Chicago’s highest-paid players happen to be married: Courtney Vandersloot ($206,000) and Allie Quigley ($200,000), cheekily known as the Vanderquigs, each signed new deals with the Sky earlier this year. In Dallas, Astou Ndour is the second-youngest player (behind Breanna Stewart) enjoying a max deal following a “salary dump” trade from Chicago. 

Renaissance woman Tiffany Mitchell of the Indiana Fever will earn $140,000 this season after signing an offer sheet with Atlanta, which Indiana matched in order to keep her. The LA Sparks re-signed sharpshooter Chelsea Gray in the offseason, and she will earn $195,000 this year, an $80,000 raise. Over in Minnesota, 2017 league MVP Sylvia Fowles signed a contract extension last September and will make $165,627 on what could be the final deal of her career. WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon is the top earner for the New York Liberty at $120,000, where she’s leading the youth movement on a majority-rookie team.

In February, Sue Bird told Howard Megdal, “money has really never been the motivator in the WNBA.” In equal parts, Bird enlightens the privilege of having a spot in such an incredibly competitive league and points out that the CBA’s new salary structure marks a historic turning point for the WNBA.

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