The highest-paid NBA players by season over the past twelve seasons have received contracts with salaries noted in the twenty-million-dollar range. In this twelve-year span, Kevin Garnett received $28,000,000, which was the highest salary payment of any NBA player, during the 2003–2004 season. Garnett has been the highest-paid NBA player per year in seven of the past twelve NBA seasons. Michael Jordan was the first NBA player to sign a contract worth over thirty million dollars in a season. During the 1997–1998 season, Jordan earned $33,000,000. Kobe Bryant become just the second player to reach this milestone when the 2013-2014 season began.
Beginning in the 1984–85 NBA season, the NBA's first salary cap was introduced. The NBA salary cap is the maximum dollar amount each NBA team can spend on its players for the season. However, the NBA uses a "soft" salary cap, which means that significant "salary exceptions" allow NBA teams to exceed their allotted amount in order to sign players. The salary cap is determined during the offseason, but as stated earlier, it is liable to change.
An exception is necessary to sign a player for a contract that would exceed the salary cap threshold of the "soft cap". The Larry Bird exception, more commonly known as Bird Rights, allows teams to re-sign a current player only if he has played for that particular team for a minimum of three years. Another exception known as the mid-level exception allows for teams that are over the salary cap to sign one or more players as long as they do not exceed the total amount of the average NBA salary. Next, the bi-annual exception can be used by teams every other year to sign a free agent(s) for up to two years at an amount set by the NBA. Finally, the rookie player exception allows any NBA team to sign their first-round draft pick to a contract based upon a scale previously set forth by the NBA. Another option for teams would be to assign players to a league-assigned minimum salary contract for a maximum of two years.
According to the game performance during the 2010–11 NBA season, the league's best players were not its highest-paid players. Each year there are ten players selected to one of the two All-NBA Teams. Out of those ten players chosen that year, Kobe Bryant was the only player that was also among the game's ten highest-paid during the 2010–11 NBA season.
During the 2010–11 NBA season, Kobe Bryant was the highest-paid player in the league. Bryant's net worth was valued at over $140 million as of 2009. Bryant, who has spent his entire 18-year career in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, is under contract with the team until the 2015–2016 NBA season.