Sunday 09th May 2021,
The Hoop Doctors

Research: Impact of Household Income on Making it to the NBA

NBA Players household income

They may not wear capes or display any obvious signs of superpowers, but in the real world, professional athletes are the closest thing to a genuine hero for some people. Rather than simply being gifted with opportunity, these players spend as much time practising and playing every week as the average person spends at a full-time job.

But is that really all it takes to succeed? More than the number of hours they’re willing to put in on the court or out on the field, how much do wealth and status influence the opportunity players have (even at a young age) to be successful in professional sports? To help answer this question, commissioned a study focused on NBA players born between 1977 and 1999 to find out to what extent income levels and hometowns factor into success at a professional level. Here’s a closer look at their findings.

A Level Playing Field?

According to the data compiled by, nearly 2 in 3 (64 percent) NBA players born between 1977 and 1999 came from above-average median household income families. Not only were NBA players in the timeframe more likely to come from well-to-do families, the income disparity between professional athletes in the NBA may be growing. While 61 percent of players born between 1977 and 1988 came from above-average income homes, that figure rose to 69 percent among players born between 1989 and 1999.

Players from families earning more than the average household income were more likely to hail from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, while players from below-average household incomes were typically from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Detroit.

As this study revealed, not only are players from below-average income families less likely to make it to the NBA, they also tend to earn less money as pros compared to those from more affluent families. At most, players from New York City from above-average earning families earned $42.3 million in the NBA on average. In contrast, the highest-earning city among players from below-average income families was Philadelphia were players earned roughly $39.7 million on average.

Athletes from families earning less than the average median income may be less likely to make it to the NBA, and they may even earn less when they do get there, but that doesn’t always impact the quality of their play. As the report shows, NBA players born between 1977 and 1999 from below-average income families earned more awards on average (7.8) than those from wealthier beginnings (7.5).

However, despite historically out-performing their peers for these prestigious awards and titles, the gap in awards between players from higher and lower income families has been growing. Including awards such as MVP, All-Star MVP, and Rookie of the Year, players from lesser earning families have been less likely to out-perform those from above-average income families in recent years.

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