Why are WNBA players paid so much overseas?

Why are WNBA players paid so much overseas?
  • 6 May 2023

Understanding the Salary Gap Between WNBA and Overseas Players

Before diving into the reasons why WNBA players are paid so much overseas, it's important to understand the salary gap between the two leagues. The maximum salary for a WNBA player is around $215,000, while the minimum salary is around $57,000. On the other hand, some overseas players can earn over $1 million per season. This significant salary difference has led many WNBA players to seek opportunities overseas during their offseason. In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

Higher Demand for Female Basketball Players Overseas

One of the main reasons why WNBA players are paid so much overseas is the higher demand for female basketball players in foreign leagues. In countries like China, Russia, and Turkey, women's basketball is much more popular than in the United States. This higher demand leads to increased salaries, as teams are more willing to invest in top talent to attract fans and win championships.

Furthermore, the success of American players in international competitions has also increased the demand for their services abroad. Many foreign teams want to sign WNBA players to improve their chances of success in their local leagues and European competitions.

More Lucrative Sponsorship Deals Overseas

Another factor contributing to the higher salaries of WNBA players overseas is the availability of more lucrative sponsorship deals. In countries where women's basketball is more popular, companies are more willing to invest in female athletes and offer endorsement deals. This provides WNBA players with additional income streams that they might not have access to in the United States.

Moreover, the visibility of these sponsorship deals also helps to raise the profile of the players and their teams, further increasing their earning potential.

Lower Taxes and Living Costs Abroad

When comparing salaries, it's important to consider the cost of living and tax rates in different countries. Many countries offer lower taxes and living costs compared to the United States, which means that WNBA players can take home a larger portion of their salary overseas.

Additionally, some countries, such as Russia, offer tax incentives to foreign athletes, further increasing their net income. This financial benefit is another reason why WNBA players choose to play abroad during the offseason.

Better Treatment and Perks for Female Athletes

In some cases, WNBA players receive better treatment and perks while playing overseas. For example, they may have access to better facilities, more comprehensive medical care, and additional support staff. These benefits can make playing abroad a more attractive option for WNBA players, especially if they feel that they are not receiving the same level of support in the United States.

Offseason Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth

Playing overseas during the WNBA offseason provides players with unique opportunities for personal and professional growth. By experiencing different cultures, languages, and styles of play, players can broaden their horizons and develop new skills that can benefit them both on and off the court.

Additionally, playing in foreign leagues can help WNBA players build their personal brands and increase their marketability, which can lead to better endorsement deals and other income-generating opportunities.

Increased Exposure and Visibility for Women's Basketball

By playing overseas, WNBA players can help increase the exposure and visibility of women's basketball around the world. Their presence in foreign leagues can inspire young girls to pursue the sport, and their success on the court can demonstrate the high level of talent and skill that exists in women's basketball.

Furthermore, this increased visibility can also positively impact the WNBA, as it can attract new fans and generate interest in the league from international audiences.

Strengthening International Relationships and Cooperation

When WNBA players compete overseas, they also contribute to strengthening international relationships and cooperation in the world of basketball. By playing in foreign leagues, they can foster goodwill and camaraderie between different countries and help promote the values of sportsmanship and fair play.

This spirit of cooperation can also extend to off-the-court initiatives, such as community outreach programs and charitable endeavors, which can further enhance the positive impact of WNBA players on the global stage.

The Need for a More Sustainable and Equitable WNBA

While there are several reasons why WNBA players are paid so much overseas, their migration to foreign leagues also highlights the need for a more sustainable and equitable WNBA. Many players have expressed their desire to earn a living wage playing in their home country, but the current state of the league does not allow for this.

By addressing issues such as revenue sharing, salary caps, and marketing efforts, the WNBA can work towards creating a more financially stable environment for its players, allowing them to remain in the United States and continue to grow the sport domestically.


In conclusion, WNBA players are paid so much overseas for a variety of reasons, including higher demand for female basketball players, more lucrative sponsorship deals, lower taxes and living costs, and better treatment and perks. While these factors make playing abroad an attractive option for many players, it is essential for the WNBA to continue working towards creating a more sustainable and equitable league for the future of women's basketball in the United States.