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Despite $1 Million Nike Contract, China’s “12 Times More Money” Offer Became Hard to Resist for Brittney Griner

Published 08/29/2022, 4:30 PM EDT

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Brittney Griner couldn’t turn down an offer from China despite a grueling WNBA season because of the stark disparity in payment between the WNBA and the Chinese league. As a matter of fact, the WNBA star’s salary in China amounted to about 12 times her salary in the United States. In addition, Brittney Griner got paid six times more money during her stint in the Asian powerhouse than the highest WNBA contract.

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In 2013, the Phoenix Mercury drafted Brittney Griner as the number one overall pick of the 2013 WNBA draft. After a tremendous college career at Baylor, Griner’s selection as the first pick was far from a surprise. Soon after entering the league, the 6’9″ center started to dominate the women’s circuit.


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In fact, she helped lead the Arizona squad to the Western Conference Finals in her rookie season. However, her salary barely reflected her accomplishments on the hardwood. Therefore, the WNBA sensation couldn’t resist when a lucrative deal came from overseas.

Brittney Griner received 12 times more money in China than her WNBA salary

Brittney Griner played in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) during the 2013-14 season. Her stint with the WCBA team Zhejiang Golden Bulls earned her a $600,000 salary. On the contrary, the Phoenix Mercury center received a paltry $49,440 back home in her rookie year.

In other words, her salary in China totaled more than 12 times her WNBA contract and six times more than the highest WNBA salary. Therefore, the budding star’s tenure in China made ample sense from a financial perspective.


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However, Griner’s stay in China wasn’t always a walk in the park. In fact, she had immense pressure on her shoulders to perform every single game. As one of the rarest talents in the history of women’s basketball, she had to assume full responsibility every single time her team faltered on the big stage.

Any loss is always about what I did wrong,” the 2012 NCAA champion told ESPN The Magazine. “I could score 100 points, but if we lost the game, it’s, ‘Well, you should have scored 200.”

The problem with playing overseas

Markets like China and Russia provide lucrative opportunities for WNBA stars. For example, Brittney Griner’s China deal was an unavoidable financial commitment despite her $1 million Nike contract.


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However, sometimes foreign laws and restrictions and a very different political climate could prove to be dangerous for American nationals. For example, Brittney Griner is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia for drug trafficking charges.

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Earlier this year, airport authorities found vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil in her belongings. Griner’s release is still uncertain amid ongoing negotiations between Moscow and Washington.


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Written by:

Satagni Sikder


One take at a time

Satagni Sikder is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports. He has a Master's degree in English from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and has been following the NBA since 2017. Moreover, he supports the Dallas Mavericks, and unsurprisingly, Luka Doncic is his favorite player.
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Edited by:

Ajinkya Aswale