In 2022, the highest paid WNBA players are Breanna Stewart, DeWanna Bonner, Jewell Loyd, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, and Diana Taurasi. These seven players will each earn a base supermax salary of $221,450 for the 2021 WNBA season. The base max salary is $190,550. The league minimum salary is now $58,710. The salary cap, which is regarded as a hard cap, stands at $1,339,000; this amount of money is distributed among 11 or 12 players on each of 12 rosters. In 2020, the top WNBA base salary was $215,000; in 2019, the top WNBA base salary was $117,500.
The groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement unveiled by the WNBPA, WNBA Board of Governors, and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in January 2020 boosted base salaries and continues to provide for extra earning opportunities for WNBA players. Max and supermax players now receive annual 3 percent salary bumps, and by 2027, the salary cap will have grown incrementally by nearly $300,000.
All-star guard Jewell Loyd became the highest paid WNBA player after resigning with the Seattle Storm before last season. She signed a two year $463,030 contract last offseason, giving her an annual salary of $231,515. Loyd was the first overall pick in 2015 after an illustrious career at Notre Dame, going to two national championship games. She has helped the Storm win two championships, with the most recent coming in the 2020 ‘wubble’. Last season Loyd averaged 17.9 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals, earning her All-WNBA First team honors. Although the Storm enjoyed a trip to the semifinals last season, they will have a large gap to fill with the retirement of Sue Bird. It will be interesting to see what the Storm can accomplished with an even larger role carved out for Jewell Loyd.
Former Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner was cored by the Mercury the league maximum of four times, so her pursuit of a new team was inevitable. In February 2020, Bonner was signed and traded to the Connecticut Sun, making her eligible for supermax earnings there. This season, Bonner will earn $221,450. In spite of the Sun’s disappointing loss in the WNBA Finals, Bonner enjoyed an efficient postseason that saw her come up clutch in the semifinals against the Chicago Sky. The Suns have clear championship expectations and Bonner will have to play at an elite level if they want to win their first chip.
In the afterglow of a hard-fought championship, 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne re-signed with the Washington Mystics in the 2020 offseason to a well-deserved supermax deal. In 2021, Delle Donne earned the updated supermax base salary of $221,450.
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. Delle Donne’s highly anticipated return to competition has the W community on the edge of their seats—as the star forward has been sidelined for nearly two years now. Due to injuries and the pandemic, Delle Donne has only registered three games over the last two seasons. Hopefully Elena Delle Donne can return to 100% in the near future.
The Phoenix Mercury boast three supermax players—and yes, one of them, at long last, is Diana Taurasi. To the confusion of CBA novices, eighth-year players Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith both out-earned teammate and resident GOAT Diana Taurasi in 2020 by nearly $100,000.
Through a sign-and-trade deal between Phoenix and Dallas (for whom she was a designated core player), point guard Diggins-Smith was able to sign a four-year supermax contract with the Mercury in February 2020. Meanwhile, center Griner re-signed with and was cored by Phoenix, and was able to take advantage of the new supermax rules as well. To that point, Taurasi’s most recent contract was negotiated under the previous CBA, leaving her criminally underpaid. Taurasi was actually the fourth-highest earner on her team last year, and took home nearly 35% less than sixth woman Bria Hartley did.
Diana Taurasi, now 38, signed a two-year supermax deal on February 1, 2021. She will earn a base salary of $228,094 next season. In celebration, Mercury GM Jim Pitman emphasized the obvious: “[Diana] is the heart of our franchise, the first face on our Mount Rushmore, the best winner and competitor in the women’s game. The trajectory of our organization changed the day we drafted her 17 years ago, and we are excited she will be here into the future.” The deal could be the last of Taurasi’s career, but we can feel relieved that she is reaping some of the benefits she’s worked to sow for the next generation.
The Las Vegas Aces big three of Chelsea Gray, A’ja Wilson, and Kelsey Plum all sit somewhere in the top 30 WNBA players salary list, and for good reason. Chelsea Gray is a hardened veteran, and one of the best shotmakers in the league. She is proficient at getting to her spot and knocking down jumpers at the most crucial moments. Borderline unstoppable in this years playoffs, Gray helped the Aces win their first WNBA title en route to her first WNBA Finals MVP.
The second highest earner on the Aces is two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson. Wilson’s 2022 campaign will go down as arguably the most dominant season in WNBA history. Not only did she win regular season MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, but her team won the Commissioners Cup and the WNBA Finals. A’ja Wilson has a long and illustrious career ahead of her.
The third highest salary on the 2022 championship Las Vegas Aces roster was all-star guard Kelsey Plum. Plum had a spectacular regular season that even saw her claim the all-star game MVP this year. Plum remains a seminal piece for the Aces, as they regularly look at her to break interior defenders and draw fouls on opposing defenses. The Ace’s core remains young and hungry after their first taste of winning, but can they do it again next season?
Elsewhere around the league, star players are enjoying new lucrative contracts.
Tiffany Hayes ($215,000) is the highest-paid player for the Atlanta Dream for the second consecutive year. She has been with the Dream since she first entered the league in 2o12 after being selected 14th overall in the draft.
Two of Chicago’s highest-paid players happen to be married: Courtney Vandersloot ($195,000) and Allie Quigley ($135,000), cheekily known as the Vanderquigs, each signed new deals with the Sky earlier last year. In 2021, they hit the floor with Chicago native Candace Parker, who stands as the second-highest earner on the team at $195,000. 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper sits at the top of the Sky’s salary cap, earning $200,000 annually.
In Dallas, guard Allisha Gray ($164,800) will be the top earner on a youthful Wings team set to be held down by its burgeoning superstars—Arike Ogunbowale ($72,141) and Satou Sabally ($76,297) will have to wait until at least 2023 for the substantial pay rises they deserve.
The LA Sparks, who lost superstars Parker and Gray in the offseason, will pay Kristi Toliver and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike max salaries of $190,550 each this year.
Over in Minnesota, Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers—shocking Lynx acquisitions in a whirlwind period of free agency—will each receive max salaries of $190,550, out-earning new teammate and former MVP Sylvia Fowles ($117,894).
The perpetually rebuilding New York Liberty traded for the three-time champ and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard, whom they will reward with $221,000 this year; the Libs also scored 2020 Wubble breakthrough star Betnijah Laney in free agency, and she, in turn, will take home a max salary of $190,550. The Liberties young star point guard Sabrina Ionescu is slated to make $76,297 this upcoming season.
In February 2020, 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.
The highest paid player this season is, you guessed it—Jewell Loyd. Clocking in roughly $228,094 for the year, Loyd is currently in the midst of bringing the Storm back to the WNBA mountaintop.
Double trouble. The duo of Stewart and Loyd have earned their spots not only as some of the top players in the W, but they are both tied for the number two spot in the list of top WNBA earners at $228,094. Maybe they should play one on one? Winner gets $1 to break the tie.
Surprise! Kidding. True W fans know that Elena Delle Donne has been one of the top earners in the W for a hot minute, and it’s well deserved. She’s a sensational player.
Seems like the top spots are dominated by the Connecticut Suns and Seattle Storm huh? DeWanna Bonner comes fourth at $227,900.