National Basketball Association players who emerge as starters for teams are some of the best overall athletes in the world capable of achieving incredible feats during games. Because of what they're able to offer such clubs, those individuals earn millions upon millions of dollars from league contracts. In many cases, a large majority of those contracts contain sums of guaranteed money, meaning even one deal can include life- and even family-changing cash. While there are, of course, numerous stories of NBA players and other professional athletes going broke because of wasteful spending or other circumstances, the reality is that any player who signs a long-term contract with an NBA team should, theoretically, be set for life as it pertains to finances and being able to provide for family members and other loved ones.
As you could probably guess, there are a wide variety of stories about how famous NBA players rose from poverty and rough upbringings en route to becoming international Superstars worth millions of dollars. In other cases, however, players were lucky enough to come from money and more positive circumstances during their youths, situations that likely helped them achieve so much success over the years. The hope of playing sports professionally often offers an escape for some would-be athletes, but that isn’t necessarily the case for everybody. For some, becoming an NBA star who makes over $1 million each year is nothing short of fulfilling what is seen as a destiny or even an inevitable conclusion of a career path.
15 Grant Hill: From Money
Long before he ever played for the Duke Blue Devils or in the NBA, former player and current television analyst Grant Hill came from money and a privileged position. His father, Calvin, was a National Football League running back who was named to multiple Pro Bowl squads and who won a Super Bowl ring during his career. Meanwhile, his mother Janet, found success as an attorney and later as a consultant.
Hill’s NBA career did not go as he likely envisioned upon making his exit from Duke, as issues with injuries prevented him from ever really flirting with reaching what was likely his ceiling. Despite that disappointment, Hill has gone on to become a television personality seen on programs such as Inside Stuff and others that air on NBA TV.
14 Dwyane Wade: From Poverty
Current Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade has been open about growing up in poverty over the years. Per stories told by the veteran player, Wade’s mother was addicted to both drugs and alcohol during his youth, and he was raised in what he has referred to as a “gang environment.” He moved to a different neighborhood with his father at the age of nine years old, and that proved to be a decision that put him in the right direction.
Wade found success playing multiple sports, but he excelled at basketball and eventually found a home at Marquette en route to becoming an NBA star and future member of the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, his mother, Jolinda, eventually got herself clean and became a minister and also a motivational speaker.
13 Tim Hardaway Jr.: From Money
The famous name likely tells you all you need to know about this portion of the piece. Tim Hardaway Jr. is, of course, the son of Tim Hardaway, a five-time NBA All-Star who played for multiple teams during his career and who currently serves as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons.
Hardaway Jr. is not doing too poorly for himself as of the summer of 2017. He recently put pen to paper on a contract with the New York Knicks that will earn him nearly $71 million over four seasons. Considering he's only 25 years old and probably not yet in his physical prime, it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Hardaway Jr. will be a 100-million-dollar man after he signs his next NBA deal.
12 Carmelo Anthony: From Poverty
Life could’ve gone a lot differently for New York Knicks Superstar Carmelo Anthony. Anthony’s father passed away when he was only two years old, and he eventually ended up in a rough portion of Baltimore with his family. Along with escaping what could have been a life surrounded by violence and drugs, Anthony has also talked about how he struggled with asthma attacks as a youth until his teenage years.
As most know, Anthony eventually proved himself on the basketball court to the point that he earned a spot at Syracuse. From there, Anthony became a prolific scorer in the NBA, not to mention a player who has earned hundreds of millions of dollars, a friendship with LeBron James and a future spot in the Hall of Fame.
11 Pau Gasol: From Money
Sometimes, it just seems as if some people are luckier than others, and that may be the case with Pau Gasol. Gasol was not only born in Barcelona, a city many of the best footballers in the world want to call home. He's a product of a mother who happened to be a doctor of internal medicine and a father who had a basketball background and stood well over six-feet tall. No wonder Gasol became a seven-footer skilled enough on the court to win multiple NBA championships and earn millions of dollars.
Recently, the 37-year-old explained that he still believes he has plenty left in the tank, and it’s possible he could play out the remainder of his career with the San Antonio Spurs.
10 Jimmy Butler: From Poverty
The story of current Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler is fascinating and also downright sad. For starters, Butler’s father abandoned his family when he was only an infant. Then, per his own words, his mother told him the following when he was 13 years old: “I don't like the look of you. You gotta go.” Butler had no money and no home when that occurred, and he stayed with friends whenever possible before finding a long-term home with a close acquaintance.
When he didn’t receive attention from major colleges, Butler enrolled at Tyler Junior College, where he flourished and eventually earned an offer from Marquette. The rest, as the saying goes, is history, as Butler is now one of the best players in the NBA who will eventually sign a contract worth over $200 million.
9 Joakim Noah: From Money
New York Knicks forward Joakim Noah is nothing if not unique, and the same can be said about his upbringing. Noah’s father, Yannick, was a winner of the French Open and a recognized tennis star who eventually developed into a successful musician. His mother, Cecila, was once named Miss Sweden, and his grandfather excelled in soccer. Sure, Noah got himself into some trouble as a teenager, such as when he was booted from the United Nations high school as a sophomore.
He eventually got himself on the right track, though, and he won multiple championships while at the University of Florida. He then had a pretty successful stint with the Chicago Bulls from 2007 through 2016, but he has largely disappointed since signing for the Knicks before the start of the 2016-17 campaign. For all we know, his tenure with that club may be over.
8 Derrick Rose: From Poverty
Point guard Derrick Rose has played alongside Joakim Noah with both the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, but his upbringing was tougher than that of his former teammate. Rose grew up in poverty while living in Englewood, a dangerous suburb located on the south side of Chicago. Admittedly an introvert during his youth, Rose was largely protected by his older brothers, in part because they and also his mother believed he could become something special and escape the neighborhood.
That, as you know, is exactly what Rose did, as he earned a scholarship to play at the University of Memphis. Rose was then drafted by the Chicago Bulls, which likely would have been a dream come true for the local product if not for the multiple serious knee injuries he suffered throughout his pro career. It’s a shame, in a way, because we’ll never know how good Rose truly could’ve been with the Bulls.
7 Austin Rivers: From Money
Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers is both lucky and unlucky. Doc Rivers, Austin’s father, spent over a decade in the NBA as an active player before beginning what became a successful coaching career, and he paved the way for his son to find fame and fortune in the league.
Austin eventually ended up playing for his father while with the Los Angeles Clippers, and some claimed nepotism was the big reason for why the Clippers traded for him in January 2015. Austin proved he was more than just his father’s son while playing underneath Doc, however, as he did well to quiet critics throughout the 2016-17 campaign. His stint with the Clippers hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, but nobody can doubt he's a proven NBA starter.
6 Allen Iverson: From Poverty
Long before he emerged as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Allen Iverson was the product of a single mother, and he was a young man who grew up in poverty and was surrounded by drugs and violence. Before Iverson was set to begin ninth grade, his best friend was murdered, and his life as he knew it nearly came to an end in 1993 after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his alleged involvement in an altercation that occurred at a bowling alley.
Tom Brokaw — yes, that Tom Brokaw — covered the case, and it’s widely believed Brokaw’s reporting on what was seen as an unfair conviction aided in Iverson being awarded an early release. If not for Brokaw’s work, it’s possible most of us would’ve never known Iverson’s name.
5 Kevin Love: From Money
These days, forward Kevin Love is seen as a one-time NBA champion and a player who is seemingly always being placed on the trade block by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love is the son of Stan Love, a former first-round pick and NBA player who spent only a handful of years in the league but who is remembered for his sweet mustache (look it up to see for yourself). Love’s uncle, Mike, is, in fact, the same Mike Love who co-founded the Beach Boys, one of the most successful and most iconic American bands of the second half of the 20th century.
Love followed in his father’s footsteps rather than trying to make it as a musician, a decision that has worked out rather well for him even if his days with the Cavaliers are numbered.
4 Serge Ibaka: From Poverty
The story of Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka is one that has been told in multiple stories and television segments since he first debuted in the NBA in 2008. Ibaka was born in the Republic of Congo, and he was one of 18 children born into a basketball background that included playing on damaged “courts” and that featured children wearing no shoes during games. His mother passed away when he was only eight years old, and his father was a political/war prisoner for a period of time.
Due to his basketball skills and impressive physical abilities, Ibaka eventually built himself an on-the-court reputation in both France and Spain. The NBA eventually came calling, and Ibaka reportedly signed a contract with Toronto worth $65 million in June 2017.
3 Kobe Bryant: From Money
Yes, there was actually a time when Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player in his own immediate family. Joe Bryant, Kobe’s father, failed to establish himself as a Superstar in the NBA, but he did find success overseas in Italy. Kobe grew up loving both basketball and soccer while living overseas, but he elected to pursue a life on the court rather than on the pitch after his family made a return to the United States.
We cannot say, for sure, what Bryant could or would have become had he tried to feature for a club such as AC Milan or Juventus, but what we know is that he evolved into one of the greatest basketball players of his generation and in NBA history. No disrespect meant to world football, but we’re glad Bryant chose b-ball.
2 LeBron James: From Poverty
Whenever you hear LeBron James talk about being a “kid from Akron,” he isn’t merely using a cliche to discuss his youth. James’s mother, Gloria, was only 16 years old when she gave birth to future NBA royalty, and the 32-year-old has not been shy about the fact that he grew up in poverty and even moved 12 times between the ages of five and eight.
Despite such disadvantages, James’ unquestionable physical gifts coupled with an incredible work ethic propelled him to the NBA right out of high school in 2003. James is now not only one of the greatest players in NBA history who already has a wing in the Hall of Fame waiting for him. It's only a matter of time before he's a billionaire.
1 Stephen Curry: From Money
Like LeBron James, two-time NBA MVP and two-time NBA champion Stephen Curry is also a product of Northeast Ohio. Dell Curry, Steph’s father, was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers when his son was born, and Steph and his brother, Seth, were known to shoot hoops while his father warmed up before NBA games.
Practice makes perfect, it turns out, as Curry grew into a three-point-shooting machine who has set numerous league records as a member of the Golden State Warriors. Curry and the Warriors have also defeated James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals twice over the past three years. It was reported in July 2017 Curry and the Warriors agreed to the richest contract in NBA history, at the time, one worth roughly $201 million.