NBA In-Season Tournament prize money, explained: Why NBA stars care more about reward than you think

When the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament was announced, there was plenty of skepticism regarding how seriously the players would take it.

It turns out that those worries were largely unfounded. The games have been very entertaining, and players have expressed their desire to win the whole thing.

Part of that is due to the competitive nature of professional athletes. But players have also openly acknowledged how much of a motivating factor the prize money is.
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MORE: NBA In-Season Tournament standings, results, schedule

NBA In-Season Tournament prize money

  • Win championship: $500,000 per player
  • Reach championship game: $200,000 per player
  • Reach semifinal game: $100,000 per player
  • Reach quarterfinal game: $50,000 per player

Each player on the tournament’s winning team will receive $500,000, while the runners-up will get $200,000. The losing players of the semifinals each will earn $100,000, and the losing players of the quarterfinals will receive $50,000.

Those payouts also extend to each coaching staff. The head coaches receive the same amount that the players do, and assistant coaches receive an additional share of the pool money that will equal 75 percent of the head coach’s total payout.

What NBA players have said about In-Season tournament prize money

The average salary in the NBA is around $10 million, with the highest salaries North of $50 million. It turns out that a $500,000 bonus is still extremely appealing, even at that level of wealth. Numerous players have spoken out about the financial incentive to do well in the tournament. Here is a sampling of some of their responses throughout the course of the tournament thus far.

Spencer Dinwiddie, via Erik Slater: “Who don’t like money? Aye listen, half a million dollars, that could pay for my Rolls-Royce.”

Paolo Banchero, via The Hoop Herald: “It has some meaning. Shoot, $500,000 on the line. I don’t know about you, but I’m going hard.”

LeBron James, via Lisa Salters: “$500,000 on the line, so we’re going for that.”

Anthony Davis, via HoopsHype: “$500K sound real good. It’s gonna bring that juice, you know what I mean?”

Gary Payton II, via NBCS Warriors: “We just know when that court’s different, it’s money time.”

Quentin Grimes, via Fred Katz: “Everybody talks about the cup and everything, but I feel like everybody’s really going out there to play for that money.”

What NBA In-Season tournament prize money means for younger players

The $500,000 bonus that players receive may not be that valuable for maximum contract players who earn $40 or $50 million annually. But there are many players on league-minimum deals that start at $1.1 million and go up based on experience. And two-way players, of which there are up to three on every team, make half of that amount.

NBA veterans are aware of how important that money is for rookies. Helping those teammates is also serving as motivation to win.

“I think a few of our guys — and especially our young guys — it’ll help out our young guys and our two-ways,” Payton told NBCS Warriors.

“The guys who are trying to earn their stay—That prize in the end [of the In-Season Tournament] could change their family’s lives,” Damian Lillard told USA Today’s Mike Bohn. “You don’t want to make everything about money but that’s something we can do.”

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