Cheerleaders are an iconic part of American sports. From college sports all the way to the pros, the vast majority of teams deploy a team of cheerleaders to dazzle the crowds before, during, and after games. 

The NBA isn’t any different – except the league terms its cheerleaders as “dancers.” Every team bar the San Antonio Spurs – who instead have the Spurs Hype Squad – has a dance team. 

Being such a big part of the game day festivities, many would think that cheerleaders are quite high earners for the franchises that deal in the millions and billions of dollars, but how much do NBA cheerleaders make?

Average NBA Dancer Salary

NBA cheerleaders or members of NBA dance teams earn, on average, US$425 per game. With there being 41 home games per season, that comes to around US$17,425 per year. 

At McDonald’s, the average pay per year for cashiers is around US$20,000. Being a part of an NBA dance team is very much a part-time job in its pay, and US$425 is just the average. 

Some franchises pay their performers US$200 per game, equating to $8,200 per year. This is, however, an improvement on figures from just under a decade ago. 

In 2014, it was reported that NBA dancers earned around US$200 per game at the high end. This didn’t come with health insurance and included the pay that “covered” practice sessions.  

More recently, in 2017, a lawsuit from a former cheerleader of the Milwaukee Bucks claimed that, when considering special events, practice, and games that had to be attended, the hourly wage worked out at US$4.50 at best.

Most now report that pay has improved, with the exception of some of the lowest-paying NBA teams, like the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, and Philadelphia 76ers. 

Some teams now pay minimum wage for each hour of practice required for the NBA dancers, some offer a practice bonus, but most end up with around US$16 per hour for these necessary sessions. 

Others offer bonuses based on team progression. So, perhaps the dancers of the Suns will be better compensated if Phoenix makes good on its +600 odds in the basketball betting lines and win the NBA Championship.

Either way, even though several hours per week are needed for practice sessions and dancers are expected to be at the stadium hours prior to tip-off and attend additional events, most NBA dancers need a second job. 

Which NBA Dance Team Makes the Most Money?

It’s widely reported that the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks pay their NBA dance teams the most money, giving their performers US$650 per game and with potential bonuses of up to US$2,000. 

This makes the base salary of a Hawks or Knicks cheerleader US$26,650 per year. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers aren’t far behind with their US$600 per game rates and bonuses of up to US$1,500.

This relative generosity of the Celtics might just help to spur the team to the title next season. Leading the NBA odds as the +450 favourites to take the NBA Championship, Boston seeks to win over punters and dancers alike. 

At the other end of the scale are the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Magic, 76ers, and Suns for both game day pay and potential bonuses, which reach as high as a US$350 salary per game and US$800 in bonuses. 

Can NBA Dancers Make More Money on Social Media?

Technically, yes. Just about any schmuck can make money on social media to complement their part-time or full-time job, but it seems as though the exposure of being an NBA dancer isn’t as strong as one would think. 

You would assume that going out and performing on the NBA stage at least 41 times per year would offer a lot of exposure and even generate a dedicated fan base, but it would seem that teams and the league are rather underwhelming when it comes to the promotion of individual dancers. 

For the most part, engaging with NBA cheerleaders on social media is secluded to team accounts, such as that of the Golden State Warriors Dance Team – which ranks as the most-followed with 101,000 Instagram followers. 

Even for the high-paying Atlanta Hawks, despite the ATL Hawks Dancers being hailed as “the best-known community ambassadors in the Hawks Entertainment umbrella [alongside the mascot],” you’ll only find the first names of the performers on the Meet The Team page, without bios or social media links.

Some NBA dancers have been able to collect a fair following on social media platforms, but very few have been able to cultivate an audience that can then be converted into further earnings. 

You can contrast former dancers Kelly Sherwood (83.5K Instagram) and Anisha Kay (138K Instagram) doing well post-NBA to existing apparent fan-favourites like Sammy Hurst (12K Instagram) of the Lakers, Alyssa Chi (3K Instagram, 3K TikTok) of the Heat, and Alexia (7K Instagram) of the Sacramento Kings. 

Given the demands of the profession, the need for a second job, and the seeming lack of promotion offered by the NBA, it’s easy to see why social media doesn’t lend itself as a platform for bigger and better things. 

Many prospective NBA dancers can hope to make around US$17,425 per year, depending on their local teams, but will be expected to put in hours of work that greatly exceed that pay.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.