Klutch Sports Group announced Sunday that LeBron James had agreed to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, an occasion that once again highlighted the massive disparity between player salaries in the NBA and WNBA.
To put the pay gap into perspective, reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles would have to play over 1,385 seasons, based on her current salary, to match the total from James’ recent deal.
According to High Post Hoops’ salary database, Fowles is earning $111,180 in 2018 and $113,360 in 2019.
Nobody begrudges James for making the most money possible, and he might actually be underpaid based on the value he delivers both financially and in terms of on-court success.
Still, a few WNBA players understandably voiced their frustration with how little they earn compared to their NBA counterparts:
Nobody expects the best WNBA players to start commanding salaries in excess of $30 million, but demanding a share of revenue relative to what NBA players receive is more than reasonable.
Forbes’ David Berri estimated WNBA players received 22.8 percent of the league’s revenue over the 2017 season. NBA players, meanwhile, receive at least 49 percent of the league’s basketball-related income, which was a condition of the last collective bargaining agreement.
Dallas Wings star Skylar Diggins-Smith told the Dallas Morning-News‘ Adam Grosbard those numbers hit at the heart of the players’ arguments:
"I was even surprised hearing that number. That’s information I just found out, being in the league six years. We’re not even talking about $200 million salaries or anything like that. It’s just off the revenue that we bring in. Getting that same percentage [as NBA players], and not even getting half of that is kind of appalling. It’s staggering."
The WNBA and Women’s National Basketball Players Association ratified the current CBA in 2014 with an eight-year term. At the time, WNBPA president Tamika Catchings emphasized the increase of roster sizes from 11 to 12.
It speaks to the growth of the league roster expansion to 13, which had been the limit until the previous CBA starting in 2009, could feasibly be on the table again. The quality of women’s basketball continues to improve, which then raises the level of the talent pool available to WNBA teams.
Based on Diggins-Smith’s comments in particular, players are prepared to dig in for a fight regarding their split of the league revenue as well.