Why WNBA Athletes Play Overseas

There is a big salary gap between WNBA and NBA players. Therefore, WNBA players must go through extensive measures to achieve


Neon Tommy

Cynthia Cooper was drafted by the Houston Comets in 1997. She is currently the head women’s basketball coach at Texas Southern University.

By Eryn Rainer, Staff Writer

In 1997, during the first inaugural season of the WNBA, Cynthia Cooper led the league in scoring and was named MVP of the regular and post season.

Fast foward to 2000, Cynthia Cooper became the highest paid at just  $75,798, as a base salary while Scottie Pippen, who was known as an underpaid player for the Chicago Bulls, made $2,775,000 in the 1997 through 1998 season. 

While numbers may have changed, price gaps between the WNBA and NBA are still an issue.

Take current WNBA superstar Britney Griner for example.

Following a successful college career, Griner went on to play in the WNBA for the Phoenix Mercury. While being a star professional player, the pay has not been easy.

“Just seven WNBA players will make the league’s “supermax” salary of $221,450. “, yet “the top NBA contracts exceed $40 million.”

— Jami Farkas

“Just seven WNBA players will make the league’s “supermax” salary of $221,450. “, yet “the top NBA contracts exceed $40 million”, Jami Farkas of Yahoo.com said. A minimum salary in the NBA “is $898,310.”

As a result, once the WNBA season is done, some players decide to go overseas and to play. Some of these countries include Hungry, France, Belgium, and Russia. Griner was coming to Russia to play overseas for “UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where big-name players can earn more than $1 million a year,” Deon J. Hampton, of NBC News said.

It’s common that due to a low salary in the WNBA, that  even star players such as Griner, who was also a number one pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, go overseas to play during their off-season.

So why is there a big salary gap?

The common reason would be popularity.  In 2019, the average attendance of an NBA game was  “17,760, compared to “the WNBA’s 6,535.” Doug Robinson of Desert News said.

Not only that but “the 2019 NBA Finals averaged a little more than 20 million viewers per game; the 2019 WNBA Finals averaged about 400,000 viewers per game,” Robinson said.

Nevertheless, the NBA is 75 years old while the WNBA just finished it twenty-fifth season.

So yes, ratings, attendance, and popularity all bring in revenue. Unfortunately  WNBA players do not get as much as they deserve. On the upside the WNBA is increasing their pay with some of its top players being able to earn up to $500,000.

But they’ll still get paid more overseas.