The Financial Realities Of Overseas Basketball

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How much money do you/can you make playing basketball overseas?

It’s the million dollar (or thousand dollar, or hundred dollar) question about pro basketball that prospective players, fans, friends, family members, and everyone else most wants to know. Most of them won’t come out and say it, but you can tell when they’re thinking it.

I won’t bury the lede — let’s get it right out in the open.

There is no pay scale for overseas basketball. There is no salary cap — and no salary “floor.” There is no average, because to get an average, you’d need all the inputs — and overseas salaries aren’t required to be made public. Any “average” you hear about is the average only of what that person has heardnot of everyone who’s playing.

I know, I know — not as juicy of an answer as you’d want. Well, Overseas Basketball can be a game of shadows in many ways. Know and accept this now if you decide you want to get in the game.

The Overseas Basketball Blueprint Dre Baldwin

If you’re not a player but a curious observer who’s reading this to get some ballpark figures, understand: a basketball player is just as comfortable telling you how much (s)he makes as you would be divulging much you make at your job. When’s the last time you shared your salary with the world?

People — like you — don’t like everyone knowing about their money. I would guess that the average NBA player would rather not have everyone know what he’s making, either, but he doesn’t have a say in the matter. This is one clear advantage many overseas players have over their NBA counterparts.

All that being said, here’s some things a player should know about making money overseas.

What A Player Can Do To Gage Your Value In The Pro Basketball Marketplace

The surest thing you can do is speak to a player who is currently signed and playing, a player who wouldn’t mind sharing his pay rate with you, and gage your own value in comparison to that player.

Some things to consider when making such a comparison:

  • Age
  • Professional playing resume
  • Pedigree (ie, where you played in college, which is a rough gage of your talent level)
  • Power of your representation (aka how much juice does your agent have?)
  • Leverage (read: how many teams are currently vying for your services? How urgently does that team need you?)

Outside of this option, talk to agents.

An Agent knows the market and will be honest with you about what he can make happen for you and/or what you can command in the open market (agents also decide whether or not to take you on as a client based on these factors).

However, please understand that you, not your agent, is ultimately responsible for what you’re worth in the professional basketball world. If you can play, you can play — and if you can’t play, you can’t play. No amount of agent juice can change this fact.

What You Can Do To Improve Your Earning Potential In Overseas Basketball

I would assume that every person in any profession wants to have a higher pay rate ten years into their career than what they start out with. You’d accomplish this in basketball the same way you’d do so in any other industry.

  1. Perform. The better your do your job, the more you can command in the open market.
  2. Get help. Such as an agent or manager who has the juice that you do not have (or maybe, you both have) and leverage that into higher salaries.
  3. Be a professional. When you’re on a team, be on time for all practices and team functions. Stay out of and away from off-court “situations.” Be a likeable teammate. Be appreciated by the hometown fans through your play and spirit. These things do matter, a lot, come negotiation time.
  4. Win. More than what you see in the NBA, in overseas basketball, winning reflects a lot on a player’s perceived value. Many overseas professional basketball clubs operate not as money-making ventures, but as passion projects, owners losing money or breaking even out of pride for their towns and teams — meaning, winning matters more than the financial bottom line. If you put up great stats but don’t win games, you won’t last; I’ve seen players getting released while averaging 30ppg.
  5. Perform. You’re an American playing basketball in a foreign country. You can’t hide on or off the court. If your performance sucks, everyone can see this. No amount of niceness or even team success can mask this uncomfortable truth.

Hopefully this helps you a bit when it comes to your money overseas. If you’re like I was when I began my career at 23, you’re willing to take pretty much any opportunity just to get your feet in the door — but, later on, money begins to matter more.

Make sure to read my other articles on overseas basketball, which will answer ALL your questions.

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