The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a premier professional basketball league in North America, renowned for its high level of competition and star-studded rosters. But have you ever wondered how many players are actually in the NBA? Let's delve into the numbers.
The Basic Calculation
At first glance, the calculation seems straightforward. Each of the 30 NBA teams can sign up to 15 players during a regular season. So, if we multiply 15 players by 30 teams, we get a total of 450 players. However, this is an oversimplified calculation and the actual number of players in any given NBA season always exceeds 450.
Why Does the Total Player Count Vary Each Year?
The reason behind the varying player count each year lies in the structure of NBA contracts and team management strategies. While the majority of NBA teams will have the maximum permitted 15 players under contract, some teams do not. In fact, each team must carry at least 13 players (12 active plus 1 inactive), with the NBA guaranteeing a league-wide average of at least 14 players per team.
Additional Contracts: Two-Way and 10-Day
Since the 2017-18 season, NBA teams have also been signing two-way contracts, which allow G League players to spend part of the year playing in the NBA. These players do not count towards the 15-man official roster limit and are often considered the "16th and 17th men" on a roster.
Additionally, teams can temporarily sign free agents on 10-day contracts to manage unpredictable spikes in injuries or to fill in for permanent players. These signings usually occur after January 5 in a normal league year, unless the NBA grants a team additional hardship exceptions.
The Real Number
Taking into account these factors, every NBA team roster you see online will typically be made up of 16 to 19 players, including two-way players and 10-day contract players signed during the year. Furthermore, in-season movements such as waivers, buyouts, and new signings also contribute to the fluctuating player count. As a result, the total number of NBA players seen in any given league year will normally exceed 500 players.
A Historical Perspective
Since its founding in 1946, the NBA has seen around 4,400 players, a surprisingly low number considering the league's longevity and popularity. This makes NBA players and former NBA players part of the most exclusive club in major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada.