What Is Life In The NBA Like For A Player?

The Truth Of An NBA Life

Life in the NBA looks like a true life of luxury. 

Playing a sport for millions of dollars is a dream come true for many people, but a lot goes into the life of an athlete behind the scenes. 

There are only 450 spots in the NBA every single year, and unless the person is a true superstar, they are fighting for a chance to stay in the league virtually every single year. 

What is life in the NBA like for an average player? Most NBA Players must treat it as a job to have a lasting career.

Below is a look at a typical day for an NBA player, depending on the time of year. 

Not only are there 82 regular-season games, but there are practices, off days, travel days and playoffs to consider as well. 

Once the season is over, there is no true offseason for players trying to improve and stay in the NBA.

NBA Summer League

NBA Summer leagueShortly after the NBA draft, teams don’t waste time on officially starting the new year. It all kicks off in summer league action, as teams allow their young players and fringe prospects to get a taste of NBA action.

The major summer league takes place in Las Vegas every year now

Players receive no pay for action in the NBA summer league, but teams take care of their basic needs.

Players receive a per diem of about $125 per day, plus free travel, room, and board. After adding everything up that goes into the summer league, it is estimated that each player costs around $7000 for a team. 

That is a small price to pay for a team trying to not only get their top prospects some work and hopefully finding a surprising talent or two.

After the summer league, free agency and trades dominate headlines. With shorter contracts in the NBA, players are always on the move. A player might not know exactly where they’re playing until midway through the summer. 

There is a short amount of dead time after that, where players are mostly left on their own to train and better themselves for the upcoming season. This is also a time when players can take a little more opportunity to grow with endorsement obligations.

NBA Preseason

NBA logoJumping to the preseason, the rules for payment are pretty similar.

Players are still not technically getting paid, but they are getting taken care of during the three weeks of games and practices.

The NBA has taken measures to reduce the length of the preseason, mostly because teams don’t feel like it is worth the time and energy.

Teams also want to reduce the wear and tear on the player’s body. This is all negotiated with the Player’s Union(NBPA).

Preseason starts near the end of September or early October, and the NBA season starts earlier than ever in the middle of October. 

This leaves three weeks of preseason action, where NBA players have to make do with getting paid virtually nothing to get ready for the year. 

This is a small sacrifice for those players on guaranteed contracts, but it can be a tough blow for those players who are fighting for a job. It’s not exactly the NBA player life so many people envision, but it does get better for those who make the team.

Don’t forget to check out our article on what it takes to Make it to the NBA.

The NBA Season

Once the NBA season tips off, the daily schedule of a player changes quite a bit. 

Practices become almost non-existent, travel is hectic and there is, of course, all the stress that comes with playing basketball at the highest level. 

It’s a very tough adjustment for younger players to go through their first NBA season, while veterans who might have families find it just as difficult to spend extended periods away from their loved ones.

The entire NBA season lasts approximately 180 days most years, starting in mid-October and ending in mid-April.

There is an extended one-week break in the middle of February for All-Star weekend, but other than that, teams play roughly every other day. With half the games on the road, that means a lot of travel throughout the year.

Here is a look at a typical day in the NBA, depending on what is scheduled for that day.

Home Games

They are 41 home games a year for most NBA teams, and it’s perhaps the easiest part of the regular season schedule. 

Not only do players get a chance to sleep in their own bed, but they don’t have to worry about travel, adjusting to the time and shooting in an unfamiliar arena. It also helps to have support from the home fans.

Teams traditionally have a light shootaround in the morning of a game, unless the schedule has been particularly hectic. Nothing too strenuous, but some basic game plan preparation is covered. 

This is also a time to look over some film because, during a busy NBA season, there might only be a few hours to scout the next opponent.

After the shoot-around, during lunchtime, the players are on their own in many ways to get ready their own way for the night game. 

Some players will eat lunch, take a nap and then head back to the arena a few hours before tip-off. Others might take this time to chill and hang out with family. It’s one of the few times during the regular season to relax, so players do what they can to maximize their time.

Treatment in preparation for the actual game starts about 90 minutes before tip-off.

Just about every NBA player is dealing with some type of injury throughout the regular season, so whether they need ankles taped or a massage, it’s a process of preparation.

Away Games

Playing on the road is a challenge for a lot of players, if for nothing else than it takes a player out of their rhythm. What they might take for granted at home simply does not happen on the road and players like stability just as much as anyone else.

There is still an opportunity for shootaround, but that gap between the morning meetings and game time is tough to deal with for some. 

Stephen Curry
Even the NBA stars deal with the stress of travel.

They have to spend time in a hotel, or maybe do laid-back activities around a different city. 

Unless a player brings their family along with them, they can be pretty lonely.

Every arena has mostly the same schedule, but it is still slightly different getting treatment before the game, and of course getting booed from opposing fans. 

Shooters often have a slight adjustment that needs to be made before a game tips off. That’s because there are different site lines in every arena, and it can throw off the player’s shot.

Life on the road doesn’t get any easier after a game, because it almost always means another flight is to follow shortly after. It is either on to the next city for another road game, or back home. 

Players never fully become accustomed to jumping on a plane after a tough NBA game, even if they do fly with plenty of room to spread out.

Off Days During the Regular Season

NBA teams very rarely have traditional, full-length practices during the regular season. There is simply not enough time during the year, and players need to give their bodies proper rest so they can hold up for 82 games.

At the high school and college level, teams have a lot more time to practice in between games. NBA players might spend more time on individual stuff, preparing them for a particular matchup in the near future.

The only players who might practice with high intensity during the regular season are those who are not getting much playing time. These reserve players are trying to keep their stamina up so that they are ready to play if they are needed. 

NBA practices are very individualized, as each player needs vastly different types of training to help out.

Head over to our article on Basketball Supplements to see what basketball players need to keep ahead of the competition.

Most off days are truly not off days because there are practices as well as travel. Depending on where a team is during their part of a schedule, they might fly to a new destination early to practice there, or stay at home until they have to leave the night before.

How NBA Players Are Paid

Players earn their paychecks during the regular season, and they are paid every two weeks in almost all cases. 

Some players have it in their contract to receive payment slightly differently, but this is more of an exception than the rule. There have been some players in NBA history who have actually requested to get one or two checks total per year.

Most players today ask for direct deposit. This is the easiest way for them to have access to their money, and it is probably the safest method available as well. 

It’s not always the safest to have checks floating around that are hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Players still receive a per diem that is usually slightly higher than summer league and preseason money. 

In most cases, it stays below $150 per day while on the road. Since most NBA players don’t technically need the money, a lot of them have fun with the extra money and spend it in creative ways.

Travel Accommodations

Travel accommodations are very high-end in the NBA, as players need to have the ability to rest while they are going from city to city. Teams fly privately, and they usually stay at one of the nicest hotels near an arena. 

Portland Monaco
NBA Players stay in The Hotel Monaco when playing in Portland, OR

This helps to reduce the amount of time it takes to get to the arena for practice and the game.

Every basketball player in the NBA gets their own room, and once again, there are some special circumstances where players get other perks as well. 

It really depends on the caliber of the player, and if they signed anything in their contract that gives them preferential treatment. 

One example is if a player likes to travel with their family, they might request to have a suite at all times.

When a person counts up just the amount of time they see on television, an NBA game takes anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 hours. 

Even if a team has a heavy schedule of five games during a particular week, that still comes up well short of a typical 40-hour workweek. However, everything else also counts when figuring out how much time is spent on their craft. 

From practices to travel time, the average NBA player is officially on the clock for longer than 40 hours. They receive great compensation for that, but the preparation for games can’t be overlooked.

Payment in the NBA Playoffs

There is no stipulation with NBA contracts when it comes to getting paid in full. 

If a player signs a deal for $10 million per season, they get it if their team finishes first in the league or 30th

The incentive to make the playoffs is mostly driven by the willingness to compete and win, but there are some bonuses financially as well.

First, some players do have incentives tied to playoff success. 

They might get a bonus if their team reaches a certain level in the playoffs, or if they perform particularly well. This is more prevalent in other professional sports but still shows up in the NBA from time to time.

The second bonus applies to everyone on the team, and that is the playoff player’s pool. It is around $20 million right now and has a chance to go up every single year. 

The Player’s Union decides on how to divvy up the money, but as one might expect, the champions get the most money paid out. 

Players at most should only expect a little over $200,000 if they win the championship. This can be one of those significant NBA perks for those players who are on a minimum contract.


Life in the NBA

Does life in the NBA match what you thought it would be?

The NBA is still a dream job for millions of people out there, but NBA day to day schedules are not always glamorous. Life in the NBA can be pretty strenuous for top athletes as they try to juggle games, training, and life on the road. 

There are plenty of perks that come with playing in the NBA. Even the bench players are often making millions of dollars.

NBA Players are putting in much more work than just a couple of hours they are on television a few times a week.

We want to know if you dream of playing in the NBA! What are your expectations of an NBA Life? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment!