Overseas Basketball Salaries: 4 Essential Tips to Make Good Money Playing Professional Basketball (Visual Guides) 
Seven hundred dollars.
I guess that would have to be my starting monthly salary as an overseas basketball player.
Now if that wasn’t exactly the big money-maker you were thinking of when searching for overseas basketball salaries, don’t worry because it gets better.
A lot better.
I’ll show you exactly how I - along with hundreds of my peers - have gone on to earn between 4-7k per month while playing basketball in various leagues.
Let’s dive in.
MY monthly Salary progression as a professional basketball player
How much do you make playing basketball overseas?
Let’s get one thing out the way.
Starting salaries in professional basketball suck.
Well, I interviewed:
1000 professional players across the globe
300 agents, coaches GMs and basketball insiders from 100 different professional leagues
And based on their responses I determined the average beginning salary to be somewhere between $400 - $1000USD per month.
While yes, the NBA and the highest levels in each continent can afford the luxurious lifestyles you think when hearing the word pro players.
For 99.9 per cent of aspiring overseas ballers, these expectations simply couldn’t be further from the truth.
But fear not:
Because equally as important is the opportunity to quickly sky rocket your pay upwards.
Depending on the region you are located in, a regular pro season can range anywhere from 3-9 months when including pre-season and playoffs.
That means, in theory, a player could begin at a $700 USD salary - as I did - play well during a three-month campaign, and then receive a promotion come next season.
Of course, this is dependent on a number of factors:
Individual and team performance
Community influence (i.e. are you a fan favourite & bring in revenue?)
…and much more.
If I had to weigh them based off percentages, I’d say…
Factors impacting salary in professional basketball
Rest assured, it is not uncommon to see players doubling or even tripling their beginning salaries over a very short period of time.
In fact, I’ve seen many of my former teammates start in a low pay grade alongside me before going on to command quite large salaries.
I’m talking about 5-10k per month.
But unlike in the NBA where players secure multi-year deals, it is very rare for overseas players outside of the top-tier leagues to sign for more than a single season.
That means the biggest issue then becomes finding a consistent league to play in as contracts are short, non-guaranteed (i.e. if you play poorly they can cut you) and competition remains fierce for the highly-valued import spots throughout the world.
How to earn money playing basketball overseas
Like any profession, you want income to come in regularly.
Playing year-round (or as close to it as possible without burn out) must become a top priority then so that you can improve your stock while opening doors to better-paying leagues/promotions.
Here’s a strategy I’ve seen work countless times for just that.
The League-Hop Strategy
If you are primarily concerned about money, my strong recommendation would be to focus on a specific region - preferably the “money” regions of Asia and the Middle East.
Although these locations are typically looking for a specific type of import (more to follow on that in another blog).
Nonetheless, regardless of the area, by league-hopping your name, brand and performance is well-known within that specific market.
Why is that important?
Well, if you are able to maintain a high-level of play then it is much more likely someone in the surrounding countries will notice you and pick you up for a season that runs opposite to other local leagues.
For example, in my personal case, I’ve noticed in Latin America it has become common practice for imports to “league-hop” within the region as competitions are staggered on the calendar year.
Here’s a rough idea:
El Salvador’s pro league runs from February - April.
Guatemala has some competitions from May - July.
Then Nicaragua’s top division comes in from August - October.
And finally El Salvador starts back up from September - November.
In this way, players are able to:
Maintain relevance in the region by always being in the spotlight
Earn consistent income by playing year-round
Frequently demand a higher pay grade (should they deserve it)
4 reasons Overseas basketball league-hopping strategy works
1. Familiarity: Regions generally share very similar styles of play and competition levels
In Europe it is much more team-oriented while in Central America the game is more 1 v. 1.
That means teams know that if an import is excelling in Denmark, it’s likely they can do the same in Norway since similar demands will be put on an import in both cases.
Teams will pay more for you if they have concrete evidence (i.e. by playing in a similar league) that you can get the job done rather than taking a Hail Mary on an unknown player who has never played in the region.
2. Name relevancy: People will become familiar with your name/brand/reputation
The basketball community is very small - especially when narrowing that down to specific regions. That means word of your outstanding (or poor) play/character/reputation is much more likely to travel to the surrounding area as fans, coaches and players all talk.
If you make a good impression elsewhere it’s highly probable others will have heard of your name and be interested enough to at least check you out - an advantage over a huge portion of unknown players.
3. Local media: Spotlighting players
If word of mouth doesn’t reach to the surrounding areas via fans, coaches and players then a local media outlet will (likely) make your accomplishments known to the general public and increase your visibility to other local leagues.
For instance, in Central America there is a media outlet named CentroBasket News that spotlights the region. And because there is very little media coverage on many of these lower-to-middle tier leagues, every league/coach/player closely follows this outlet.
This will perk the interest of other teams in particular since it is an unbiased perspective being shared by these outlets.
4. Pay Grades: Established salary expectations
Finally, by league-hopping you are able to create an expected benchmark of what your salary will be. You remove all the guesswork of your worth.
For example, I had a close friend who started off with $1500 for his rookie contract.
Once he killed on that deal, owners around the league knew they couldn’t logically offer him less if they wanted to retain his services come next season. He earned a raise.
Not only that, but if there are multiple leagues and seasons across the region you can quickly and continuously improve off your “benchmark” salary (assuming you played well).
Here’s a loose idea of how his salary progression went using the League Hop Strategy in Central America:
Central American League Hop-Strategy Example
Notice how in each individual league the salary is steadily increasing with the end amount being much higher than four years ago (Guatemala did not have a season in 2020).
Now be religious in improving your game and do this for year after year, and you’ll have the recipe for massive and steady pay days in overseas basketball.
Ask yourself, in what other profession in the world can you receive consistent quarterly promotions?
Go the other way though, and try to test out a new - and better - region of the world and you will have to start from the bottom of the totem pole again.
You’re an unknown in a new region and must prove yourself all over.
Worst yet, your old clubs may be wondering why you were cut if that ends up being the case.
Did his/her game fall off?
Not a strong leverage point for negotiations.
What is overseas basketball like off the court?
With a few exceptions - most of them coming from European and high-level Asian leagues - the vast majority of countries will provide plenty of free time for players.
Typically, this means one daily team practice in the evening.
Sometimes, coaches will require two-a-days (one individual skill session, one team practice).
Rarely, if ever, weight training will be required alongside those double sessions.
The point is, there is free time - a lot of it.
Use it wisely.
If not filling those middle-of-the-day free hours with more skill work, active recovery or film sessions, then it’s critical they be maximized by looking for a secondary income to support your basketball playing money.
This is especially true when starting out on your journey as your playing salary won’t be enough to live off initially.
Unlike in a traditional work environment where you are under the thumb of your supervisor, pro basketball provides much more freedom outside of its daily 2-4 hour requirements.
You must use it to your advantage as you can essentially create another (almost) full-time income.
Some examples I’ve seen over the years:
Basketball training for local youth team academies
Basketball training for private sessions
Hosting basketball events/demonstrations
Selling personal basketball clothing brand
Tutoring locals in English
Remotely working online as a coder, writer etc.
Creating YouTube basketball channels
This aspect of the overseas life was one of the most interesting features to me as I was already working remotely as a free-lance writer prior to entering the pros.
The true financial potential and power in overseas basketball comes when you are able to create passive or residual income streams (i.e. a business or product).
With so much “paid” free time, this lifestyle is absolutely tailor-made for the player/person with an entrepreneurial spirit.
It’s just a shame that more players don’t see this opportunity.
When it comes to finances and this topic I always recommend a few books to players so that they can truly understand the opportunity of their hands:
In fact, this was how I was able to earn - and take home (more on this below) - 4.5-6k (depending on bonuses) per month while paying.
And if your playing salary is steadily increasing as outlined previously, then you can imagine how quickly this can become profitable even if both pay cheques are only so-so to begin.
MY monthly Salary progression as a professional basketball player
overseas basketball teams paying for all expenses
The ace of spades in this entire equation however is the accommodation.
You must try your absolute best to have the team pay for it all.
Transportation (i.e. free public transportation pass, team driver provided or a car given)
Food (i.e meal money/Pre diem)
Housing (i.e. live rent free with all utilities covered)
Amenities (i.e. Wi-Fi, washing/drying machine, etc.)
All players are not created equal.
So every player can’t realistically expect all of these perks - especially rookies.
But when seeking out a deal it is very important to try and achieve this standard from the get-go.
That way teams know your established expectations should they want to retain your services in the future.
Luckily, even in first-year contracts, it is more rule than exception that many of these costs will be covered by teams.
The most common omission would be transportation (i.e. getting a car) and maybe having only half your meals covered.
But still, just imagine earning a typical 9-5 salary but being able to cut rent, utilities, amenities, transportation and food from the equation.
As you can see in the pie graphs below, even though “the player” is earning less than half of the regular 9-5 person’s net income, the player is actually saving/taking home more money in the end.
This is the power of having teams pay for all expenses.
Monthly expenses in a typical 9-5 Job
Monthly expenses in an overseas Pro player job
This last piece is very important to the economic success of overseas players.
Basically, players are able to “take-home” or save more money than what they would have been able to if they chose a regular 9-5.
Back home everyday expenses need to be accounted. In the overseas scenario, they do not.
In the end, does this lifestyle choice take more effort to get off the ground than the “traditional path”?
Will it be very difficult to stay on course when you see others comfortable in their “secure day jobs”?
But this is a career path that grants many unique opportunities that can be leveraged into surprisingly good money if handled with patience, perseverance and faith.
4 Important strategies to increase your overseas basketball Salary:
Understand what factors overseas teams are basing your salary off of
Use the League-Hop Strategy to sky rocket pay
Use your spare time wisely, create another income
Try your best to get the team to pay for all accommodations
Now I want to hear from you!
What overseas basketball money-making strategy have you used while playing professionally?
Whether playing hoops in Africa, Latin American, Europe or wherever - let me know and comment below!
Jose Colorado is a five-year professional basketball player helping others achieve their goals of pro basketball through a proven, research-based approach.