Why WNBA and NBA pay scales should not be comparable


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EAST LANSING, MI – SEPTEMBER 27: NBA and WNBA logos in the Tom Izzo ‘Basketball Hall Of History’ inside Gilbert Pavilion, home of the Michigan State Spartans basketball team at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan on September 27, 2019. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The WNBA and NBA are almost identical organizations. The only difference: one is for men and one is for women. They both play regular-season games and have a championship. Players from both leagues play their hearts out, leaving blood, sweat, and tears on the court. A major difference though is that one side gets paid more. This is simply unfair, right? Wrong. 

The highest paid NBA player, Lebron James, made $121 million last year based on salary alone. The highest paid WNBA player, Jewell Loyd, made $230 thousand on her salary. Lebron is making well over five-hundred times more than Loyd. The problem with refuting that this is wrong are the simple economics behind it. The most basic economics is supply and demand, and in this situation, demand would be the viewership. The higher the demand, the more money goes to the supply, that being the players. 

Now, this viewership is what turns money. In 2019, the NBA Finals had roughly twenty million viewers. On the other hand, the WNBA Finals had four hundred thousand. This gap is massive. So, the sheer amount of views the NBA receives allows the league to turn a $2.1 billion profit. The WNBA loses almost ten million annually.

With these facts, it is almost incomprehensible to consider that WNBA players could be paid the same as NBA players. The simple question of where the money would come from destroys the argument. Percentage-wise, the WNBA players take home way more than NBA players.

This issue can be solved, but it lies in the consumers. The consumers will watch what entertains them. The NBA’s dunks, long threes, and large amounts of physical contact entertain more people. The WNBA plays as the NBA did years ago, but it is getting better though. The single, most entertaining thing basketball players do is dunking. There are very few women in the world that can dunk. There are more and more WNBA dunks every year though. This shows that the women’s game is progressing. But, where it is at now is simply not entertaining enough for the majority of consumers. So, maybe in time the WNBA will progress as the NBA did and become more entertaining in the eyes of the consumer.

Unfortunately, there are some things holding back the women from being as entertaining and being paid as much. The reason is simply biological. Men are simply bigger, stronger, and more entertaining. As women catch up, the sport of women’s basketball will be more in demand. In doing this, the WNBA will gain more viewers, eventually increasing the players’ contracts and salaries. But, for now, the progression is simply too slow, and in a fast-paced world, we want entertainment now.