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NBA Per Diem: Meal Money for Players (2023)

Do NBA players get per diem or meal money?

Yes, they do.

Even though NBA players are already paid extremely well, they also receive a daily per diem, or “meal expense allowance”.

According to the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), players receive $156 per day while “on the road” (or during training camp).

This amount can be less depending on how much travel is involved.

Read on for more interesting details about how the NBA per diem works, and other NBA player perks:

Let’s get started!

How much do NBA players get for per diem?

joel embid eating a burger
Joel Embid bought a burger with his per diem

For the 2023-2024 season, NBA players will receive a daily meal allowance of $156 when they are “on the road”.

For future seasons, this amount will be adjusted for inflation based on the official Consumer Price Index (CPI-U).

Meal Allowance Adjustments

Sometimes, players do not actually get the full amount, depending on how much travel is involved for their “road games”.

If a team is “on the road” for less than a full day, then players only receive a portion of the meal allowance.

Player shall be considered to be “on the road” from the time the Team leaves its home city until the time the Team arrives back at its home city.

Here is the official meal expense rules for partial travel days — from the CBA (Article III, Section 2, b):

(i) Departure after 9:00 a.m. or arrival before 7:00 a.m., no meal expense allowance for breakfast.
(ii) Departure after 1:00 p.m. or arrival before 11:30 a.m., no meal expense allowance for lunch.
(iii) Departure after 7:00 p.m. or arrival before 5:30 p.m., no meal expense allowance for dinner.

For example, if the team departs for its road trip after 9am, plays a game, then arrives back home before 5:30pm, then players would only receive meal allowance for lunch ($44).

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner Amounts

Here is the percentage of meal allowance allocated for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (based on full amount of $156):

  • Breakfast: 18% ($28)
  • Lunch: 28% ($44)
  • Dinner: 54% ($84)

Training Camp Per Diem

Players are also given a meal expense allowance during training camp. There are a couple exceptions when a player will not be paid:

  1. Player is living at home during training camp
  2. Team pays for meals directly

During training camp, meal expenses are paid weekly (instead of daily).

Note: Not sure how they decide if a player is living “at home” or not. What if a player’s home is different during the off-season?

NBA per diem of previous seasons

Steph Curry steals some free popcorn instead of using his per diem

Here is a quick look at the meal allowance amount from previous two CBAs.

When adjusted for inflation, the NBA per diem amount has pretty much stayed the same since 2011. Actually, it has gone down a tiny bit.

NBA per diem 2017

For the 2017-2018 NBA season, meal allowance was set at $129 per day.

Adjusted for inflation, this is equal to about $161 per day in 2023.

NBA per diem 2011

For the 2011-2012 NBA season, meal allowance was set at $120 per day.

Adjusted for inflation, this is equal to about $163 per day in 2023.

NBA per diem 1957

According to this article from the Seattle Pi, the first NBA per diem was $7 in 1957.

Adjusted for inflation, that is about $75 in 2023.

NBA Summer League Per Diem

Summer League players can also get paid a per diem. The meal allowance can not exceed the full amount set out in the CBA (i.e. $156 for 2023).

According to this 2018 article by Sports Illustrated, players were paid $1500 for the 12 day Las Vegas Summer League ($125/day). The payments were distributed daily, bi-daily, or simply as a lump sum when players arrived.

Of course, travel expenses and accommodations are also covered for Summer League players.

Check out some more NBA player benefits below:

Other NBA player benefits / What perks do NBA players get?

NBA teams all stay in swanky hotels (photo via ESPN)

Apart from a healthy meal allowance, NBA players also receive a variety of nice perks. Here are a few:

First Class Hotel Accommodations

According to the official CBA, teams are expected to provide players with first class hotels when on the road.

Each player should have their own individual rooms and have their bags picked up by porters. Most interestingly, they are also supposed to provide players with “extra-long beds”. 😂

Each Team agrees to use its best efforts to make the following arrangements for its players while they are “on the road”: … (iii) to have extra-long beds available to them in each hotel

First Class Travel

When flying, teams are expected to provide players with first-class seats.

Interestingly, coaches are not required to be provided with first-class seats. According to the agreement, if a team’s head coach flies first class in place of a player, the player should be compensated by the difference in seat price between the first class seat and his assigned seat.

Most teams use private charter jets (NBA has agreement with Delta airlines). Some teams with generous owners have their own private jets (e.g. Mark Cuban & Dallas Mavericks).

Moving / Relocation Expenses (i.e. when traded)

When a player is traded, his original team is expected to pay for all moving and relocation expenses.

Expenses need to be “reasonable”, and also includes shipment of one car for the player (or two if he is married).

The team is also expected to pay for a first class hotel room for the player as he searches for a place to live in his new city. The team is required to pay up to 46 days of hotel stays.

If a player was renting or paying a house mortgage in his original team’s city, the team must also provide up to 3 months of payment coverage (up to $6,000 per month).

Pension, Retirement, Health, and Other Benefits

NBA players also get a variety of benefits similar to many company employees:

  • Generous Pension Plan
  • 401(k) plan
  • Health and Welfare Benefits (i.e. life insurance, medical/health insurance, etc.)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Post-Career Annuities

How NBA players spend their per diem

Rookie Giannis was very thrifty

Players can use their “meal” allowance money anyway they choose; not necessarily on food. Often, teams provide meals for free anyways, so players do not need to buy food.

Here are some fun/interesting stories of how various NBA players use their per diem / meal allowance money.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to live solely off his per diem money as a rookie
  • Former NBA center Jamal Sampson ate at Subway often so that he could pocket the remaining money
  • Many players use their allowance as gambling money on plane rides
  • Former Nuggets Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony collected their per diem as an entire lump sum at the end of the season (approx $7,500 at the time)
  • Kenyon Martin gave his collected per diem away to his nieces and nephews
  • Former Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag gave away his meal allowance as tips/gratuities, stating that he “might be the best tipper in the league”.
  • Former Wizard Tomas Satoransky used his allowance to do his grocery shopping at Whole Foods.
  • Thomas Bryant pockets most of the money, and just eats the team food.
  • Marcin Gortat used to give his allowance to one athletic trainer every road trip
  • Shaq gave his weekly per diem money to a stripper, according to John Salley 🤣

FAQ

How much is the G league per diem?

According to this 2018 article in the Washington City Paper, G League players received around $50 per day in per diem.

Adjusted for inflation, that is about $60 in 2023.

That’s less than half the amount of NBA players!

Click here to learn more about G League salaries

Do NBA players pay for travel expenses?

No, the team covers travel expenses including flights, accommodation, and meals (i.e. meal expense allowance).

Do NBA teams pay for housing?

No. NBA teams only pay for accommodation while “on the road”.

While at home, players are expected to pay for their own rent or housing purchase.

Only when players are traded, the team will cover their relocation costs, and accommodation for up to 46 days in the new city.

How much is a 10 day salary in NBA?

10 day contracts are pro-rated based on the player’s minimum NBA salary amount. The minimum salary is based on a player’s NBA experience.

Click here for more info about NBA 10 day contracts / salaries

Do NBA players get weekly paychecks?

Players are typically paid semi-monthly (i.e. 1st and 15th of every month).

Here is the quote from the CBA (Exhibit A, 3. Compensation):

…Compensation shall be paid in twenty-four (24) equal semi-monthly payments beginning with the first of said payments on November 1st of each year covered by this Contract…

Do NBA players get dental insurance?

Yes, players get dental insurance as part of their health and welfare benefits.

NBA per diem amount vs NFL, MLB, NHL, etc.

According to this 2014 AZCentral article, NBA has the highest per diem amount of the four major sports leagues in the USA, while MLB has the lowest. Here were the approximate daily amounts in 2014 for comparison:

  • NBA: $124
  • NHL: $101
  • MLB: $99
  • NFL: $104

Summary

Kobe Bryant (R.I.P.) enjoying his meal allowance.

NBA players get paid a generous per diem (i.e. meal allowance) of $156 per day while on the road.

If you were in the NBA, what would you do with your per diem money?

Spend it? Save it? Give it away?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Larry Lee

Larry Lee

Larry is a basketball addict, and the founder of Hoop Dojo. He started Hoop Dojo to share his love of the game and help the next generation reach their full potential.