NBA 21/22 season: How much does a cheerleader earn?
Cheerleaders add to the pomp and pageantry of the spectacle that is the NBA games. But how much do these women make when they take centerstage?
Cheerleaders have become part and parcel of NBA games, but they are not quite like the cheerleaders who take part in competitions, participating in difficult athletic routines that involve tumbling and complex, dangerous sequences.
NBA cheerleaders are basically attractive dancers in skimpy outfits who provide entertainment and cheer the team on during games or represent the team in events.
While the men on the teams they represent earn millions of dollars a year, the best-paid women on the floor are lucky to earn a few hundreds per appearance.
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The demands on an NBA cheerleader
These cheerleaders need to have dancing skills, and be familiar with contemporary hip hop, Zumba, and belly dancing. They also have to be physically fit to be able to cope with the rigors of rehearsals and performances, and of course, to look good in their revealing uniforms. Reports indicate that some of them have been pressured to lose weight and comply with weight restrictions.
They put in hours of practice to perfect their dance routines, and they also need to have a flexible schedule as they need to be present for events to promote the team.
Cheerleaders' cheerless pay
According to an ESPN report in 2017, NBA cheerleaders earn between $75 to $150 per game. Not bad for a few hours of work, you would think, especially when you compare it to the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Peanuts though, if you compare it to the people they are sharing the court with.
The pay has increased a little since then, maybe as a result of lawsuits filed by former cheerleaders regarding their low salary. The first lawsuit by an NBA cheerleader for low pay was filed in 2015 by Lauren Herrington against the Milwaukee Bucks, which the team settled. There have also been similar cases filed by NFL cheerleaders.
Professional basketball dancers these days get paid between $200 and $650 per game, with bonuses if their team makes it to the playoffs. Some perks include free tickets and free arena parking.
The highest paid NBA dance squads
The best paid cheerleaders work for the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks, with a rate of $650 per match and a bonus of $2,000. This comes out to around $35,000 a year.
Next on the list are the women who dance for the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics. They pocket $600 a game with a $1.500 bonus. The annual rate is approximately $30,000.
Among the lowest-paying squads are the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, and Phoenix Suns, with a payout of $200 per game and a $700 bonus, for a total of some $15,000 per year.
Cheerleaders’ salaries are highly unlikely to go anywhere near the pay of the players that they are cheering on. (After all, Kyrie Irving can apparently afford to miss out on around $200 million for his decision to remain unvaccinated.)
But they can at least continue to use the courts (the ones used for legal matters, that is) to push the bar a little way up and sue for the pay that they believe they deserve.